Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
This short film was made from one of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, first published in 1892. After her sister Violet died suddenly by mysterious circumstances, her last words being "band, speckled." It is very dark and atmospheric, like many horror movies of the 30s.
Helen Stoner fears her life is in danger and asks Sherlock Holmes to help her. He and Dr. Watson wait in her bedroom at night where they discover that Helen's stepfather Dr. Roylcott, who spent years living in India and has an Indian servant, uses the servant to play his snake flute and lure a venomous snake out of its basked. Then he picks up the snake and drops it out of a ventilation shaft between his den and her bedroom to make it crawl down a rope and kill whoever is sleeping in the bed. When the snake emerges, Holmes whacks it with a cane forcing it to retreat into Dr. Roylcott's den where it bites and kills him instead. Holmes finds Roylcott's dead body and calls the snake a "speckled band" then says that it's a "...viper - the deadliest snake in India. He would have died within ten seconds of being bitten." Then he barks something in a foreign language to Roylcott's Indian servant, who starts playing his snake charmer's flute, apparently to call the snake back into its basket.
This story is riddled with snake myths and misconceptions. First, when Holmes and Watson search Roylcott's den, they find some milk, though there is no cat in the house. It's a myth that snakes like to drink milk. Roylcott's Indian servant plays a snake charmer's flute to call the snake out of a basket. That's another myth, that snakes respond to music. The idea that he could also play the flute to call the snake back into the basket is ridiculous. The idea that you could kill someone just by putting a venomous snake in the same room with them is also utterly absurd. Snakes will only strike at food or in defense and they can't be used as a weapon in most situations. And even the deadliest snake in India probably would not kill a large man like Roylcott in as fast as ten seconds. Another problem I have with the snake involves a snake noose that Holmes finds. Roylcott puts it around the neck of the snake, then carries it only a few feet up to the hole, where he removes the noose. Why bother to use a noose at all? It would have made more sense to leave the noose on the snake so he could pull it up after it bites the girl.
The snakes we see in the movie are a fake one coming out of the basket and then some type of python. Wickipedia mentions a story about the man who played Roylcott on stage in the play that Arthur Conan Doyle adapted from the story. He used a live snake, a "rock boa," in the play and even liked to make a curtain call with it draped around his neck, but he was disgusted by a critic who wrote that he used a bad fake snake.