Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror

Thinking and writing about Family History and World War II time over the past week makes it appropriate to begin with a Sherlock Holmes, the first to be set outside of Victorian Baker Street and no I do not mean the recent incarnations, but Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror 1942 when in the midst of World War II the UK was at its lowest point, a General Winter of discontent and there icy winds from the artic East blew hard over Europe.

There were Nazi sympathisers in place throughout the UK to take over the running of the country once the planned invasion was successful. It was generally believed that had the invasions taken place before the second front against Russia had commenced then it would have been touch and go that the resources then available to us. The enemy would have been difficult to have withstood. There was also the voice of Lord Haw Haw, the name for the English speaking German propagandists who broadcast to the UK and Empire from 1939 to 1945 although the most regular and prominent was William Joyce a senior member of the British Union of Fascists who was captured and hanged. There was also Tokyo Rose who performed same role in the Far East and Pacific.

In the film there are a number of broadcasts which describe acts of Terror and sabotage shortly before they occur. Holmes is brought in by Members of a kind of coordinating and managing War Council to try and stop the horrors. One of Holmes contacts is murdered but before he dies he mentions the word “Christopher“. Holmes Basil Rathbone and Watson Nigel Bruce go to Limehouse to see the wife of the murdered helper where they are challenged by working class locals who resent the intrusion of someone one like Holmes with undertones of the uneducated working man who had espoused Fascism in the East End before the War against the rational middle class although there was just as strong support within the middle and upper classes and it is nom secret that the British press still reflects a right wing bread and circus fascism barely veneered in its editorials, enthusiasm for page three girls and dangerous hypocritical morality. The bastards are still at it.

Holmes appeals to the patriotism often the device of unscrupulous politicians in inappropriate circumstances but here he was calling to wider audience of cinema goers of the day to respond to the national emergency and make whatever individual contribution was within their means. The national lack individuals of the necessary calibre at the present time in a situation where the general education, understanding and communications systems are such to render the average politician in effective outside of Westminster. In this instance the catalyst for participation is not the outsider Holmes but Kitty, the local wife of the Murdered man who rallies the majority from hostility and apathy into action.

Through the help of these supporters and Kitty “Christopher” is tracked down as an ancient no longer used dock to the Thames but Homes Watson and head of nationals security appears to be captured by a leading British Nazi and one of henchmen but in fact Homes has prepared for this and the table are turned with the help of the locals. However using Kitty posing as thief she ingratiates herself into the home of the man. Meade who had temporarily captured Holmes and allowed to escape to try and find out information which will lead to the identification and capture of the individual inside the Council who is the traitor and also the location of where the German invasion is to take place.

The location is communicated and under direct orders from Downing Street the hostile resentful and sceptical Council members accompany Holmes to a location on the South Coast where the Meade, the would be British Nazi Party leader has assembled his other associates all in uniforms ready to take command of supporters in various parts of the UK once the invasion force lands.

It is at this point that the inside man is revealed as a leading Member of the Council who is unmasked as an impostor who replaced the original individual 24 years before. He had been in charge of defence movements and had arranged for the force to be deployed north to await the invasion force. However his instructions have not been put into effect arising from the direct communication between Holmes and Downing Street. The film portrays British planes returning from successfully attacking the German invasion fleet and aircraft and the conspirators arrested. Unfortunate Kitty is shot and killed by Meade who is himself gunned down by troops.

Earlier Homes had worked out that the broadcasts were being pre-recorded in the UK and then flown to Germany with the intelligence information for the next terrorist activity. The recoding was then played as a Live Broadcast from within Germany just before the terrorist attack took place. On intelligence that he life of another member of the Council was under threat Holmes goes to the home of a Council Member deep in the countryside who for some extra ordinary reason then goes out on an air raid warning job although there appears to be no one else about

For him to assist should circumstances dictate. Holmes approaches him as Meade who is also in thee area is making his way to an aircraft which is landing nearby. Holmes had worked out that shortly before each broadcast and horror attacking there had been raid of a few planes which had attracted the attention of the RAF. He had surmised this was a distraction for a separate plane to fly to the prearranged destination, land to collect the latest intelligence on target with the broadcast. In this instance the Council member feigns surprise and shoots towards Meade and the Plane which immediate takes off and Meade disappears into the gloom. The film concludes there is an East Wind coming Watson. Such a wind never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter. But its Gods own wind none the less and a greener, better, stronger land will be in the sunshine when the wind is cleared. Amen to that.

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