Olaf Hytten as Sheerluck Jones in “Lost in Limehouse or Lady Esmerelda’s Predicament” (1933) – reviewed by George

This week we’re back to short subjects, or at least one short subject. This 21 minute film was shot in New York by The Masquers Club, a club founded by and for actors in Hollywood, providing a place to socialize. They also made short films from 1931 to 1933; this one was released by Radio Pictures, and is cited as A Masquers Presentation. It is introduced by Dell Anderson as The Masque, a face that resembles the Masquers’ trademark and completely fills a prompter’s box. The Story is by Walter Weems and Harrington Reynolds, and Otto Brower directed.
The big star here is Laura LaPlante who plays Lady Esmerelda. She is the younger daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Dunkwell (Ivan Simpson and Helen Bolton), and her older sister Diana is played by Nola Luxford. Sir Marmaduke Rakes (John Sheehan) comforts and supports the Duke and Duchess, but is actually the kidnapper. He plans to hold Esmerelda until she agrees to marry him. Because he has her locked up in Limehouse, the general assumption is that she has been kidnapped by a Tong, and the Half-Faced Dragon is the main suspect – for a very good reason: She is hidden away in their building, since Sir Marmaduke is in cahoots with Hoo Flung (Maurice Black) the leader of the Half-Faced Dragon.
Harold Heartright (Walter Byron), who apparently works somewhere close to the estate since both he and Esmerelda, when alone, express love for each other, saw a carriage and through the windows a villainous Chinese and a beautiful face and “this packet was dropped at my feet.” The note on the packet says, “Whoever finds this lock of hair take it to my father….” Harold advises the Duke and Duchess, “Do not despair. I, a poor apprentice, though lowly-born, can save her.”
Meanwhile Sheerluck (Olaf Hytten) and his friend Hotson (Charles McNaughton) are spoofing Holmes’s keen eye, deductive reasoning, and use of the word “elementary”, when Harold arrives to seek their help in the rescue.
There are more great lines: “Better to die a thousand deaths than to become the bride of such a foul fiend as you, Sir Marmaduke Rakes.” And “Sir, although your title places you above me on the social scale, I am your superior mentally and morally.”
And there are great sight gags: carolers singing in a snowstorm, Sir Marmaduke’s troubles with suits of armor, a fight between Harold and Marmaduke, and perhaps best of all Sheerluck’s use of the secret sign of the Half-Faced Dragon, not because he knows it, but because he has a cold.
This is a really good parody, and though obviously a melodrama, it is still a lot of fun. I laughed out loud twice, loudest at the ending, but I smiled almost continually. The DVD is contained in “The Sherlock Holmes Archive” from Synergy Entertainment.

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