27 October 2008 | The_Void
You can't keep a good detective down!
The Masks of Death is a real coming together of classics. First of all, we have the fact that the film is based on the classic Arthur Conan Doyle character of Sherlock Holmes (albeit it an aging version of the character), then we have the fact that the film is directed by the great Roy Ward Baker; a name that fans of classic British horror will recognise instantly, and perhaps most important of all is the presence of one of the finest British actors ever to grace the silver screen - the great Peter Cushing in a reprisal of the iconic role that he last played in 1968. The story is not a Conan Doyle original, but still focuses on his most famous character. Sherlock Holmes has been called in to investigate three bodies that have mysteriously turned up in the Thames. It's not into the investigation before he is called to investigate another case; that being the investigation of a German prince that mysteriously disappeared. However, shortly into his second case; Holmes begins to suspect that something more sinister may be afoot.
What sets this film apart from almost every other Sherlock Holmes film ever made is the fact that this one shows the character in his twilight years. Holmes is in retirement and he's not quite his usual sharp self and even shows some failings on a number of occasions. One of the main things that is liked about the character is his sharpness and keen eye for detail; but even so, The Masks of death has to be admired for daring to do something a little different. And who better to portray this aging Holmes than the great Peter Cushing? Cushing would have been seventy years old at the time of filming and still manages to inject his usual verve and screen presence into what would turn out to be his penultimate screen role. Roy Ward Baker certainly knows how to direct and does a good job here as the film moves swiftly and the shots of a dingy London are very well done. Cushing receives good support from the likes of John Mills, Anton Diffring and Ray Milland too, which is nice. It does have to be said that this isn't the most interesting Holmes story ever put on the screen; but its well worked and entertaining and the ending is intriguing and imaginative.