Sherlock Holmes (BBC-1964-1965)
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Sherlock Holmes (BBC-1964-1965/DVD)
The 1960s BBC series Sherlock Holmes has all the virtues of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective--shrewd and efficient, with flashes of visual panache but never at the expense of sturdy, straightforward storytelling. The 13 episodes on this DVD set include such favorites as "The Red-Headed League" and "The Six Napoleons," as well as lesser-known stories like "The Beryl Coronet" and "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax." Douglas Wilmer plays Holmes with all the traditional accouterments: the deerstalker cap, the pipe, the aquiline nose, the obsessive and abrasive nature, the mix of haughty superiority and moral compassion. Nigel Stock is a typically affable but dense Watson. The supporting casts feature an abundance of unknown but capable character actors who bring flavor and zest to their roles. Some episodes have a hint of film noir or the pulp surrealism of Fantomas, with good use of shadows and things not quite seen. The best stories traffic in the macabre. In "The Devil's Foot," a woman dies overnight while playing cards with her brothers, who each went mad; they sit at a round table, the woman's hand covered in melted wax from the candle, the men grinning, twitching, and laughing. Holmes, of course, will suss out the truth--but the truth is less likely to stick in the mind than that weird domestic image. Sherlock Holmes walks that fine line between morbid imagination and complete faith in the power of the rational mind. --Bret FetzerSee all Product Description
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1. These were recorded on video tape about 50 years ago (in round numbers). It shows. They have not been digitally remastered. They have the usual low resolution, small amounts of snow, and in one episode, black blobs that stay put during the whole 50 minutes. They usually invisibly blend in with the dark objects and snow, but once in a while a thespian move so that it is on their face. Other episodes have less irritating imperfections. The audio does not have any defects.
2. These are short stories that are stretched out to last 50 minutes. If you consider that a full novel can fit in a 90 minute dramatization, you can guess how much padding is inserted and how many scenes are prolonged. Amateur cultural anthropologists, like myself, will not find this useless. They can enjoy the clothes, furniture, architecture, spoken language, and social interactions.
Anyway, if you are a Holmes fan, you should definitely buy this one.
The Pros: Douglas Wilmer makes a fine Holmes, both in performance and appearance. He looks like a cross between the original drawings from The Strand Magazine and Basil Rathbone in profile. He spends far too much time wearing his cliche deerstalker cap, but he looks like he's having so much fun that I can forgive him. Nigel Stock as Watson is a competent actor giving his all, much as he did as Watson in the Cushing episodes. A fun touch for fans is when Jeremy Brett's first Watson, David Burke, shows up sans moustache as a young playboy gambler in one adventure. The stories hew very close to the Doyle originals, but are occasionally padded for time with fun additional moments that nicely complement the overall tone.
The Cons: The video quality varies from passable to abysmal. The very first episode is one of the worst, with "stair-step" video pixellation and immovable black specks screen center that constantly draw your eyes. Things improve a bit for the next nine episodes, but then the final episode spoils things with some awkward sound edits that clip dialogue. Since the BBC regularly wiped their tapes after transmission to re-record over them and save money, I suppose it's a small miracle we have these episodes in any form--But quite honestly the quality makes them look like the public domain prints of old TV shows you get eight on a disk for $5 at K-mart. In addition, the eleven 50 minute episodes are on four DVD-18 double-sided disks. It is practically impossible not to scratch them and they are much more prone to playback errors than single-sided DVDs.
In fact, I had to have Amazon send me a replacement when one of the episodes decided to freeze and go dead right in the middle of the action. Still, even with the above gripes, I recommend the set.
Douglas Wilmer (who is still alive) is the only Holmes worthy of ranking alongside Jeremy Brett.They were both brilliant in their own way Wilmer plays Holmes as a matter of fact unemotional thinking machine and the late great Jeremy Brett played him as a rather more emotional unraveller of mysteries.Both got as close to the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as is imaginably possible.
Gawd knows why the BBC have released this classic series on dvd in America before the country they were made and financed in the UK no doubt for financial reasons the American market being so vast,but take it from me anybody remotely interested in Sherlock Holmes cannot afford not to see this series. You will never see a better telling of these tales.
Sadly the BBC havent done even the smallest amount of restoration of these recordings that have survived by virtue of it being preserved on telecine film used in the sixties to distribute tv recordings to other countries as it overcame the difficulties of broadcast formats.
Some sharpening of the picture quality and cleaning up of the hissy low volume sound would have made these vintage recordings much more palatable to the younger audience spawned on digital clarity.
Theirs no extras at all, even though the brilliant Douglas Wilmer is still alive and has recently been videoed discussing the series. Some of the missing film footage of "The Bruce Partington Plans" does survive it was used in the ITV long running arts programme The Southbank Show in the late 1980's about the London underground,and if memory serves me right all the sountrack survives.I am not sur if anything survives of the other episode missing from this DVD release "The Abbey Grange".
Strangely the BBC take more trouble over DVD releases of much less important and illustrious tv series than they have over this one which the worlds Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts have been begging them to release for decades.
Anyway because I absolutely adore this series I have awarded it 5 stars though the BBC release team deserve no more than one star for their pitiful effort in finaly making tis series available in its unrestored form.
poetryanimations at youtube where great literary figures are reincarnated from photographs and portraits via computer
I found it great fun - though, as the reviewer above me mentioned, some of the shows seem rather stretched out - (notibly The Red-Headed League) and I do wish the episodes could have been remastered, as the Cushing series was.
I have never seen Wilmer in anything before, but his Holmes grew on me, and Nigel Stock makes a sturdy Watson.
With two notible exceptions, none of the guest actors I saw were at all familiar.... (for appearing in anything else,) but sharp-eyed viewers will catch Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor Who) in "The Devil's Foot" and David Burke (that's right, the first Doctor Watson in the acclaimed Granada series -1984-1995) as Sir George Burnwell in The Beryl Coronet - a story the even the Granada series didn't get to.
All in all, good fun and I feel I got what I paid for.
However...the problems with the dual-sided disks are horrendous! I had to return my first set immediately, and even the replacement set wasn't that much better. But I decided to keep it anyway because there was only one episode that kept freezing instead of two. Well, the more I watch the show, the more freezing problems I have -- even with episodes that weren't freezing up at first. I only bought the set in January. These dual-sided disks are truly awful.
Should the BBC ever decide to release this set on one-sided disks, I will re-purchase it. In the meantime I'm stuck with disks that are deteriorating even as I write this review. So I would give a 1-star rating for the ultimate un-watchability of the disks. But I would give 5 stars to Wilmer and Stock. Since there is no way of splitting ratings, my 3 stars represent the average between the disks and the actors.
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