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.
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