Written by Bertram Millhauser
Directed by Roy William Neill
The Woman in Green begins with a mystery Scotland Yard cannot solve. Several women have turned up murdered around London, all with a finger severed off. Stumped by who the killer could be, Inspector Gregson (Matthew Boulton) calls on Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) to solve the case. Holmes and Watson soon discover that the deaths are far more than the work of a lone serial killer, but part of a diabolical plot involving hypnotism and the ever-evil Professor Moriarty (Henry Daniell).
Part of a series of 14 Sherlock Holmes films produced between 1939 and 1946 (by 20th Century Fox and then Universal), The Woman in Green plays with hypnotism as a way for Moriarty to gain control. Moriarty’s partner-in-crime is Lydia (Hillary Brooke), a hypnotism enthusiast. Together, they hypnotize wealthy men to believe that they committed the “finger murders,” and blackmail them afterwards. This secret weapon gives Moriarty the upper hand. It also allows the filmmakers to interestingly portray the characters getting hypnotized. Two of the most intriguing scenes are when Lydia hypnotizes men using a bowl of water on her coffee table.
As usual, though, even the use of hypnosis cannot overshadow the real star of this Sherlock Holmes film: the great dialogue. The Woman in Green is dialogue-heavy, with the banter between Sherlock and Moriarty being the highlight of the film. Sherlock and Moriarty meet and discuss the latter’s plans in a civil manner. Moriarty then leaves, but not before he and Sherlock dryly mention their mutual deaths. There is something so wonderful about a film allowing this kind of interaction between characters.
— Karen Bacellar