on July 8, 2004
These are the first 13 episodes in the justly-famous Jeremy Brett series. To my mind, they're the best of the lot. "The Red-Headed League" and "The Blue Carbuncle" are Doyle at his very best. Jeremy Brett seems about the right age, a fit 40ish (though the actor was probably more like 50ish at the time). Brett's Holmes feels exactly right, complete with memorable mannerisms and Victorian grand gestures. It's hard to imagine a future actor ever trying his hands at it. David Burke is a better Watson than Cedric Hardwicke, who replaced him in the later episodes.
Watson is a tough guy to figure out. What kind of man would devote all his free time to following and assisting Sherlock Holmes? It doesn't help that Watson is under-developed in Doyle's stories, a sort of literary device that allows Holmes to verbalize his thoughts in ways comprehensible to us mere mortals, of which Watson is one. There's frequently a condescending tone in Holmes' remarks to Watson, though Holmes is clearly fond of Watson and actually relies on his help. Nigel Bruce made much too much of this condescension in the Rathbone films, in which he played Watson as a buffoon for comic relief. In the 1970s, someone named Rosenberg wrote a book, "Naked is the Best Disguise", in which he looked for signs of latent homosexuality in the Holmes-Watson relationship. I don't think we want to go there, do we? I think that the best way to flesh Watson out in a dramatization is to play him as, among other things, an adventure junkie. He loves the excitement, mental stimulation, and danger. Cedric Hardwicke's pudgy, middle-aged do-gooder doesn't work for me. David Burke's Watson is also a man of decency, a do-gooder (as is Doyle's Watson) who wants to see justice done, but he also seems rugged, physically fit, believeable as a man who saw combat in India and who now thrives on the adventure that his association with Holmes allows him to experience back home in London.
on June 2, 2002
This boxed set of 5 DVDs contains the first outstanding 13 episodes (which aired 1984-85) of the acclaimed Grenada TV series (1984-94) starring Jeremy Brett (3 Nov. 1933-12 Sep. 1995) as Holmes and David Burke (born 25 May 1934) as Watson (Edward Hardwicke, born 7 Aug. 1932, played Watson on the remaining episodes). This series totaled 41 episodes: 36 episodes (ca. 50-55 minutes each) in 6 series plus 5 double-length episodes (The sign of four, The hound of the Baskervilles, and three very deviant episodes: The master blackmailer, The last vampyre, and The eligible bachelor). The boxed set is of the first 2 TV series entitled "Adventures" and does not correspond to the "Adventures" of the published short stories.
The "Adventures" DVD box is a four-part plastic affair and not simply 5 DVD cases that slip into a large cardboard box. The six-page booklet simply lists "chapter selections" and bonus materials. Disappointingly, the booklet lacks the brief plot summaries and episode pictures on the back covers of the individually sold volumes. Volume 1 is a two-sided disk with 4 episodes and corrects the defect of the original volume 1 where Side A was B and Side B was A. The warbling sound on "The dancing men" is inherent with the source material. Volumes 2-5 are one-sided disks (with 3 episodes on volume 5) that bear a curious design in the 3:00 position that looks like a surface defect but isn't. Picture quality is very good, especially considering that the series was filmed in 16mm.
It took MPI one and a half years to release these first 13 episodes. This is only about 28.2% of the total series (not counting two short episodes). One hopes that the remaining 23 single-length and 5 double-length episodes are issued more expeditiously (the complete series has been available in Japan for well over a year). ...
on September 7, 2006
In his foreword to Bantam's "Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories," Loren Estleman called the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson literature's warmest, most symbiotic and most timeless: rightfully so. Not surprisingly, film history is littered with adaptations of Conan Doyle's tales and Holmes pastiches (using the protagonists but otherwise independent storylines). Yet -- and with particular apologies to the fans of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce canon -- none of these prior incarnations can hold a candle to the ITV/Granada TV series produced between 1984 and 1994, starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and first David Burke, then in near-seamless transition Edward Hardwicke as a refreshingly sturdy, pragmatic, unbumbling Dr. Watson.
Jeremy Brett was the only actor who ever managed to perfectly portray Holmes's imperiousness, bitingly ironic sense of humor and apparently indestructible self-control without at the same time neglecting his genuine friendship towards Dr. Watson and the weaknesses hidden below a surface dominated by his overarching intellectual powers. The series takes the titles of its four cycles of shorter episodes -- "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," "The Return of Sherlock Holmes," "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes" -- from four of the five short story collections featuring London's self-appointed only "consulting detective" (published 1892, 1905, 1894 and 1927, respectively). While not all episodes correspond exactly with the original story collections, and the series's premise - Holmes's and Watson's shared tenancy of rooms at 221B Baker Street - was no longer true even at the beginning of the "Adventures," particularly the first two cycles ("Adventures" and "Return") are must-haves for any mystery fan.
"A Scandal in Bohemia" ... or, Holmes and "The Woman," a/k/a Irene Adler. Can she be moved not to reveal her scandalous secret relationship with a European potentate?
"The Dancing Men" (actually from "Return"): Primitive stick figure drawings on sheets of paper pasted to the door of her new English home greatly worry a young, newly-wed American. Then a murder occurs, and she finds herself the chief suspect ...
"The Naval Treaty" (from "Memoirs"): Holmes comes to the aid of a distinguished civil servant in trouble over a vanished international treaty.
" The Solitary Cyclist" (from "Return"): On her way through a wood near her home, a young woman repeatedly finds herself pursued by a mysterious man riding a bycicle. Who is he, and what are his intentions?
"The Crooked Man" (from "Memoirs"): A classic "locked room" mystery, whose solution is linked to the secrets a crook-backed stranger knows about the victim's and his wife's past.
"The Speckled Band": Also a "locked room" mystery, in which Holmes is called to solve the murder of a young woman who inexplicably died the night before her wedding ... and save her now soon-to-be-married sister from a similar fate!
"The Blue Carbuncle": A gem with a darkly colorful history involving murder and blackmail goes missing, and Holmes and Watson find themselves pondering ethical and legal questions galore as they set out to hunt for the jewel in wintry London.
"The Copper Beeches": Holmes to the rescue of a young woman yet again - this time, helping her determine whether or not to accept a lucrative position as a governess that comes with a series of strange demands on the part of her prospective employer.
"The Greek Interpreter" (from "Memoirs"): The first one of the select number of cases where Holmes's investigation is initiated by his equally intelligent, mysterious brother Mycroft (Charles Gray), now in the British government's service in a position of his own creation. The brothers' challenge is to find an abducted young Greek who tried to communicate his distress to the interpreter secretly brought in to interrogate him.
"The Norwood Builder" (from "Return"): Attorney gets to draw up rich self-made-man's will, and inherits the lot when the client dies. Obvious whodunnit, right? Well, so, of course, thinks Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade (Colin Jeavons) - but Holmes disagrees.
"The Resident Patient" (from "Memoirs"): Another rich benefactor meets his untimely end, this time after having enabled a young doctor to establish his practice and live in his very own house. Again, Holmes rushes to the beleagured chief suspect's aid.
"The Red-Headed League": Speaking of leagues, this is a strange one indeed, consisting only of red-headed men. But what is their purpose - and why would they hire a man only to sit in their office and copy pages from a dictionary?
"The Final Problem" (from "Memoirs"): Holmes's seemingly deadly dive into Reichenbach Falls in what Conan Doyle originally conceived as his final clash with evil mastermind Professor Moriarty ... except that it wasn't so deadly after all!
Stories from "Adventures" used in other cycles:
"The Man With the Twisted Lip"
"The Boscombe Valley Mystery"
Adapted as a stand-alone movie-length feature entitled "The Eligible Bachelor":
"The Noble Bachelor."
on January 14, 2003
Sherlockians everywhere: Jeremy Brett is the Master. If you haven't seen these episodes, or any of the others featuring the late Mr. Brett, you're missing a treat. I was a great fan of Basil Rathbone until I stumbled upon the Brett/Burke duo some dozen years ago. Now I can't imagine anyone else bringing Sherlock Holmes to life.
This collection features thirteen great episodes actually based on what Conan Doyle wrote. This is Holmes in all his moody eccenticity, from the mouse coloured dressing gown to the seven percent solution. This is also a Watson I was relieved to see, not the bumbling idiot that Nigel Bruce made him, but a solid reliable citizen with his own sort of intelligence: the perfect foil for a Holmes who pointedly ignores social convention. (Edward Hardwicke took up the role of Watson after this season, but I really prefer David Burke's portrayal.) The translation from page to screen is not exact -- e.g., bits of conversation from "The Sign of Four" appear in "Scandal in Bohemia" -- but there's nothing that came out of the blue.
AS far as a DVD collection goes, this is an odd one. The special features are nothing to write home about and the 13 episodes are formatted weirdly onto five discs where 3 or 4 certainly would have done. In some of the early episodes the sound is quite distorted, as if the DVDs were copied from well worn video tapes without the copy being cleaned up in any way. But all of that made no difference to me, because I'm so pleased to have these episodes and be able to watch them any time I want.
NOw if only they'd release the rest of the series in DVD sets!
on July 4, 2002
Jeremy Brett was The Sherlock Holmes. For those of us who love the cerebral and quirky detective of 223B Baker Street, this series was absolutely delicious. Sadly, Brett died in 1995 and there are no more of these to be made.
This DVD has the first 13 episodes, some of the finest stories extracted from the entire Holmes volumes. They are:
A Scandal in Bohemia
The Dancing Men,
The Naval Treaty
The Solitary Cyclist
The Crooked Man
The Speckled Band
The Blue Carbuncle
The Copper Beeches,
The Greek Interpreter
The Norwood Builder
The Resident Patient
The Red Headed League
The Final Problem
As is usual with DVD's you get extras, like info on Holmsian societies and photos.
Brett was SO right as Holmes. Even his little movements, that quick turn were right out of Doyle's descriptions. The scenes have that murky, foggy English air, the sets are exquisite. I am captivated every time I watch these and I don't think any set of written stories has been better translated to the small screen. In fact, stories I didn't particularly like are better in this series, such as The Solitary Cyclist, which I never did appreciate in print. The first 13 epsisodes are the best of the best Holmes tales, at least, they have most of my favorites.
on August 22, 2003
The series is great. a must but for all, but only if you do not intend to turn on the subtitles. they are absolutely pathetic.
The people who did it had no idea what they were up to and have ruined such a beautiful dvd. They have not even bothered to read the stories before sub titling it. example Mr. Jabez Wilson is typed as Jay Beards Wilson and game of whist is shown as whiskey. and hundreds of such other errors which really need to be rectified in future editions.
on March 16, 2004
I have been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since I read the first story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I watched these DVDs and found that this was the Holmes I had read of. Jeremy Brett does a magnificent job portraying the detective even down to his addiction to the 5% cocaine. David Burke is an excellent Watson as he tries to use Holmes' methods but draws the wrong conclusions. The stories follow very closely to those written by the author although there were times when they had to extend the story to fill up the episode's time. The villians were, shall I say, villianous. I cannot have a favorite episode as they are all above the highest rating I can give. It shows us the phrase, "Elementary, my dear Holmes." It was Watson who actually said that phrase. The acting is so powerful that I almost wept as I watched The Final Problem. If you want to see the character Holmes come to life before your eyes then I suggest that you watch these DVDs. They are the best and Jeremy Brett is THE Sherlock Holmes. God Bless them all.
on June 2, 2002
Grenada's Sherlock Holmes series are, for my money, the finest adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories ever filmed, or likely to be. The casting, locations, scripting, direction and atmosphere are beyond reproach. Grenada's aim was to create the definitive Sherlock Holmes, and so they did. Sadly, Jeremy Brett passed away with some twenty of the stories remaining to film, and in the last several shows his illness made him almost painful to watch.... but in this first series of Adventures, he's at the top of his game, as is David Burke, who is the perfect Watson to go with Brett's perfect Holmes.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about MPI's treatment of the series on disc. The extras are all fine, but Disc One has some distressingly bad sound quality, and the video transfer quality on all the discs is uniformly poor. It makes one wish very strongly that A&E had gotten the DVD rights, as their treatment of such classics as MONTY PYTHON and THE AVENGERS is top-notch. It is the quality control problems on these discs that keep me from awarding the full five stars.
That having been said: for the Sherlock Holmes fan, this series is worth having on disc whatever the shortcomings.
on May 27, 2004
It is very gratifying to see so many younger people carrying on the Sherlock Holmes legacy. These period pieces are quite up to the task. My first viewing of these episodes on PBS were a bit of a disappointment as I thought Jeremy Brett's choices were too feminine too often. After three episodes, my opinion changed quite dramatically. Playing off an intelligent Watson...well, not intelligent so much as not the buffoon, Brett does major justice to the character. For all you "Rathbone is the only Holmes" types: Relax...Brett is a worthy Holmes. Costumes; Locations; and dialogue strictly Victorian. Enjoy
on December 26, 2003
You won't find a better adaptation of Sherlock Holmes than this original Grenada series "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." There are other good adaptations out there, but this is the best.
Jeremy Brett masters the difficult character of Sherlock Holmes perfectly. He might have sprung whole from "The Strand." The arrogance, the brilliance, the sharpness and even the appearance, every aspect of Holmes is alive in Jeremy Brett. Of equal effect is David Burke as Watson. Although not quite "as brown as a nut," he is still a rugged, useful Boswell for Holmes.
The selected stories for this first series are all winners as well, with "the damn woman" in "Scandal in Bohemia" and the outstanding "The Blue Carbuncle." Not every story is adapted faithfully, as is shown with the inclusion of Moriarty in "The Red-Headed League," but there is respect and quality. Every episode is great.
The detail of the stories is amazing as well, taking more from the books than the familiar film-adaptations. Gone is the Calabash pipe and the superhero costume of Deerstalker cap and matching cloak. Instead, Holmes smokes the straight wooden pipe of the stories, and changes his outfits accordingly.
No fan can possibly be dissapointed by this series, or this DVD set.