These Sherlock Holmes movies have their place in history and all things considered, I thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. Basil Rathbone is the quintessential British man I’ve always envisioned both polite yet determined while the stories have certain replay value in them.
Genre(s): Crime, Mystery
MPI | Not Rated – 974 min. – $129.98 | March 29, 2011
Directed by: Various
Writer(s): Arthur Conan Doyle (novels)
Cast: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce
Features: Commentaries, Photo Gallery, Trailers
Number of Discs: 5
Audio: English (PCM 2.0)
Video: 1080p/Full Frame (1.33)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
Sherlock Holmes is probably one of the more interesting characters to have graced both the small and big screens over the course of a century and in a variety of interpretations. Most recently you have Hollywood getting into the mix with the big budget, action extravaganza starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Mr. Holmes and his trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson. Some were taken aback by this version but from I read it’s actually more in the spirit of Author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation. The reason people were taken aback was because the character is mostly known for his British politeness and wry humor, mainly from the Twentieth Century Fox, and shortly later, Universal, produced films starring Basil Rathbone as our favorite and world renowned detective.
The 14 movies starring Rathbone, dating from 1939 to 1946, were quick and a few World War II propaganda to give the people hope as the allies – and in the movies Sherlock Holmes – fought Hitler and the Nazis. The plots for each are pretty similar, much like “Monk” which has many homage’s to the character, as Sherlock and his dear friend Dr. Watson (NIGEL BRUCE), an obtuse but loveable man who is fiercely loyal to Mr. Holmes. The cases always center on a murder which often leads to another murder (or murders) for which Holmes and Watson must quickly deduce who the killer before he, or she, strikes again, and that last victim very well may be them.
In three of the movies (The Adventures of Sherlock Homes, Sherlock and Holmes and the Secret Weapon and The Woman in Green), Holmes’ greatest foe for whom he felt was his equal, Professor Moriarty (played by Jared Harris in the upcoming Warner Brothers adaptation and sequel). For each film, the part was played by different actors, often having inconsistencies for how he came back to life after meeting his demise a time or two.
But despite the routine nature, and cheesy dialogue which I know was common for the time, each movie had a certain entertainment value some more so than others. My favorite of the bunch was the first, The Hound of the Baskervilles with The Scarlet Claw coming in a close second. I also enjoyed the WWII propaganda films just for their historical nature, though the final lines in each film were particularly laughable and the plots themselves weren’t as enticing as the murder mystery taking place at some dark, remote location.
Here’s how the set breaks down, disc by disc.
01. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939, 80 min.) ****¼/*****
02. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939, 85 min.) ****/*****
03. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942, 65 min.) ***/*****
04. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943, 68 min.) ***¼/*****
05. Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943, 71 min.) ***½/*****
06. Sherlock Homes Faces Death (1943, 68 min.) ***½/*****
07. The Spider Woman (1944, 63 min.) ***¾/*****
08. The Scarlet Claw (1944, 74 min.) ****¼/*****
09. The Pearl of Death (1944, 69 min.) ***¾/*****
10. The House of Fear (1945, 69 min.) ****/*****
11. The Woman in Green (1945, 68 min.) ***¼/*****
12. Pursuit to Algiers (1945, 65 min.) ***½/*****
13. Terror by Night (1946, 60 min.) ***¾/*****
14. Dressed to Kill (1946, 72 min.) ****/*****
The reason these Sherlock Holmes movies remain timeless is in large part thanks to the casting of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, the two displaying what looks like true friendship on screen. So no matter how mundane, or ridiculous, the plot could get, seeing the two vying against the killer and solving the mystery is always fun.
I enjoyed all of the 14 films included in this collection and as someone who isn’t overly familiar with Arthur Conan Doyle’s works of the World’s Greatest Detective, I can see why people immediately see this version as the definitive one in spite of the numerous adaptations that have been made over the years, including the latest theatrical versions brilliantly starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
Introduction by Robert Gitt (4:38; SD) – Gitt, from the UCLA Film & Television Archive, explains the extensive process that went into restoring the “Sherlock Holmes” movies.
Audio Commentaries are available on The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Homes Faces Death, The Scarlet Claw, The Woman in Green by a combination by Author David Stuart Davies and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Richard Valley. These were on the DVD version. There is a new one, thus a ** Blu-ray Exclusive ** on Dressed to Kill by David Gregory, Richard Valley and actress Patricia Morrison.
The Davies tracks and Valley solo track are OK but really dry, but if you enjoy hearing everything about Sherlock Holmes, then by all means they are worth a listen. The last one on the other hand is a bit better since it’s a group providing a wide range of topics.
Lastly we get 5 Photo Galleries, Theatrical Trailers (7:05; SD) and Footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1:16; SD).
VIDEO – 4.25/5
“The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection” sleuths its way onto Blu-ray high-def with a 1.33 aspect ratio presentation. Having not viewed the DVD, I cannot compare the two, however based on what I see here, the restoration done on these movies is astounding especially when you see what they originally looked like. Obviously you’re going to get the dust or scratch marks but for the most part the picture is crisp and clear and for movies that are 65 years plus old, it’s quite amazing to behold.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
Each movie comes with an uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio track and despite its obvious limitations, sounds pretty good. Outside of the cracks and flatness here and there in every film, the audio was pretty clear with dialogue very easy to understand and music that also sounds decent enough throughout.
OVERALL – 4/5
Overall, these Sherlock Holmes movies have their place in history and all things considered, I thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. Basil Rathbone is the quintessential British man I’ve always envisioned both polite yet determined while the stories have certain replay value in them. As far as the Blu-ray release goes, the audio and picture are both great given their age and the work UCLA Film & Television Archive did is nothing short of amazing. The features are OK with some informative commentaries leading the way.