A Study in Scarlet (1933)

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German title A study in red
Original title A Study in Scarlet
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1933
length 71 minutes
Director Edwin L. Marin
script Robert Florey , Reginald Owen (additional dialogues)
production KBS Productions Inc.
camera Arthur Edeson
cut Martin G. Cohn , Rose Loewinger

A Study in Scarlet is an American crime film directed by Edwin L. Marin from 1933, which is very loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle 's novel of the same name (Eng .: A Study in Scarlet ). In German-speaking countries, the film was only released in the original version with German subtitles.


London in the present. James Murphy is found strangled in a train compartment. The dead was a member of the Scarlet Ring, a secret association that will turn out to be a gang of crooks who have come together to steal jewels, the financial result of which they are now waiting for. Since the loot is to be divided into equal parts, the payment amount increases with the death - as with each further death - for each of the accomplices.

After Murphy's death, the ring's chairman - attorney Thaddheus Merrydew - calls a general meeting. The young Eileen Forrester also takes part in the meeting, which takes place in London's Chinatown , the seedy Limehouse District . Eileen is the daughter of Mr. Forrester, a ring member who also recently passed away. Forrester had expected a substantial sum of money from his membership in the Scarlet Ring and had advised his daughter in the event of his premature death to contact Merrydew, who would help her gain possession of her inheritance. Merrydew falls in love with the attractive young woman and accepts her into the association as her father's successor, but keeps her ignorant of the criminal nature of the Scarlet Ring.

Meanwhile, private detective Sherlock Holmes receives a visit from the dead man's widow from the train compartment. Mrs. Murphy finds herself in financial distress because her husband disinherited her shortly before his death and left all of his funds to the Scarlet Ring. She instructs Holmes to contact Merrydew to represent her interests.

The next member of the Scarlet Ring is unexpectedly killed: Captain Pyke is shot in front of Eileen's eyes. The body disappears, however, and is later found in the Thames . Since the dead man's face can no longer be made out, the widow, Mrs. Pyke, a Chinese woman, identifies him by means of an unusual ring that he wears on his finger.

Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade is perplexed by the murders and asks Sherlock Holmes for help with the investigation. He soon got another opportunity to do so, because Malcolm Dearing, another Ring member, was shot dead in his apartment. Meanwhile, John Stanford, Eileen's fiancé, worries about his bride because an unknown man is chasing her; Stanford suspects Eileen is involved in strange matters. Holmes assigns him to shadow his bride.

In disguise, Holmes visits the country castle of the murdered Captain Pyke, where he discovers secret passages that the murderer obviously uses as a refuge. On his return to London, Stanford, who has been secretly after his fiancée, calls him to the Limehouse District, where the Scarlet Ring has another meeting. When Eileen does not leave the building after the end of the meeting, the two men break into the house and find the young woman, who was obviously supposed to be kidnapped, tied up. Clues to the background of the murders increase when Jabez Wilson, also a member of the Ring, narrowly escapes an assassination attempt and seeks refuge with Sherlock Holmes. During his visit, William Baker's body is placed in front of the entrance to Holmes' house.

When Wilson reports that Mrs. Pyke has invited him to her country estate, it is clear to Holmes that a deadly trap is to be set up for Wilson there. Eileen is also lured to the castle by Mrs. Pyke. When the killer takes on them again there, Holmes and Stanford can save and free them in time. Holmes can also prevent an assassination attempt on Wilson at the last minute by shooting the assailant Ah Yet - a Chinese man who is blindly obedient to Mrs. Pyke. Afterwards, the identity of the murderer can finally be revealed: it was Captain Pyke who had only faked his death. Pyke and his mistress - it also turns out that the alleged Mrs. Pyke is not the legitimate wife of the captain - 'are arrested - as is the arriving Merrydew, in whom Sherlock Holmes recognized the mastermind of all crimes.

Production and theatrical release

Filming for A Study in Scarlet took place at California Tiffany Studios, Hollywood . For the 34-year-old Edwin L. Marin, whose best-known film was the Dickens film adaptation of A Christmas Carol in 1938 , it was only the second directorial work. Holmes actor Reginald Owen, a British, had previously appeared in a film starring Conan Doyle's world-famous detective (in William K. Howard's Sherlock Holmes , 1932): in the role of Dr. Watson. In another famous film of 1933 - Queen Christina with Greta Garbo - he was seen in a supporting role.

The companies Sono Art-World Wide Pictures Inc. and Fox Film Corporation took over the distribution of the film. The world premiere took place on May 14, 1933. With the rediscovery of Anna May Wong at the beginning of the 21st century, the film gained new attention. Evaluation as video and DVD began in 2004.

Since 2017, the film has been released several times in the original sound with German subtitles on DVD and Blu-ray (SD on Blu-ray), each in combination with other Holmes films.


A Study in Scarlet is a classic crime film , a Whodunit , in which Sherlock Holmes, as usual, exposes the perpetrators through observation and precise conclusions, after he repeatedly challenged them to reveal themselves and to make mistakes, including through targeted small provocations ultimately betray them. While the film as a whole is designed for suspense , individual scenes in which character types like the drunkard Will Swallow or the clumsy maid of the Pykes appear also have a comedic character. The cinematic most interesting scene is the meeting of Merrydew and the allegedly dead Captain Pyke in Merrydew's office. The problem that the viewer shouldn't find out at this point that Pyke is the murderer is circumvented by the means of the subjective camera : the camera takes Pyke's position. When Merrydew turns to Pyke, he looks straight into the camera, and since Merrydew has the "conversation" alone in this scene, Pyke not only remains invisible to the audience, but also inaudible.

The film has only a few points of contact with Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name. The Chinese theme, which largely shapes the plot of the film, is not present in the original book and is mainly due to the fact that the Chinese-born actress Anna May Wong, after her impressive appearances in Daughter of the Dragon (1931) and Shanghai Express (1932) should be made big again. In A Study in Scarlet , she once again plays a Dragon Lady - a type of woman whom the narrative conventions of Hollywood cinema had relentlessly set her since her screen debut. In order to bring the victims chosen by him to the murderous Captain Pyke (English pike = pike), "Mrs. Pyke ”of all means of lying and seduction. Despite their distinguished appearance, cruelty is in no way terrifying to them - a trait that American racism has repeatedly ascribed to the Chinese. The fact that she appears as an elegant European in her first appearances, but in the final sequence in rooms furnished with Asian furnishings and in a dress inspired by the Far East, seems like an unmasking against this background.

Further film adaptations of the novel of the same name

  • A Study in Scarlet (UK 1914, directed by George Pearson)
  • A Study in Scarlet (short film; USA 1914, Francis Ford)
  • Sherlock Holmes and a Study in Scarlet (cartoon; USA 1983, Ian Mackenzie, Alex Nicholas)


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