Sherlock Holmes Collection
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Only Five Episodes Of The Bbc S Celebrated 1960S Sherlock Holmes Series Survive. Coincidentally, All Five Star The Inimitable Peter Cushing (Star Wars) As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle S Legendary Detective, With Nigel Stock As Dr. Watson. And, Fortunately For Holmes Fans, They Have Finally Been Made Available On Dvd In North America, Courtesy Of A&E.Having Already Starred As Holmes In The Famous Hammer Film Hound Of The Baskervilles, Cushing Was Uniquely Suited To Craft The Definitive Portrayal For These Five Captivating Televised Mysteries. For His First Outing As The Bbc S Holmes, Cushing Revisits The Moors Of Dartmoor For A Feature-Length Version Of Holmes Most Well-Known Case, The Hound Of The Baskervilles. Subsequent Adventures Pit His Vaunted Intellect Against Murderers, Cannibals And Australian Bushwackers In Faithful Productions Of The Sign Of The Four, The Blue Carbuncle, A Study In Scarlet And The Boscombe Valley Mystery.
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The Hound of the Baskervilles (a two-part episode)
The Sign of the Four
The Blue Carbuncle
A Study in Scarlet
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The main reason to get this set is Peter Cushing. It's great to see him playing one of his favorite characters at the prime of his career. Cushing had already played Holmes in Hammer Films' THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES in 1959. Cushing's TV Holmes is a bit calmer
than his Hammer Holmes. The mannerisms and behaviour of the literary Holmes are still present, though.
Unfortunately the episodes themselves do not live up to the star of the series. It's obvious the BBC did not spend the money necessary to bring Doyle's stories to life properly. Most of the scenes in the episodes are indoors and filled with dialogue. It's sometimes like watching a play. The action and atmosphere of Doyle seem to be avoided due to budgetary reasons. A prime example is The Sign of Four. This is one of Doyle's best works, but here it is condensed down to a Cliff Notes version. The Sign of Four should have been a two-parter as well.
Nigel Stock does a decent job as Watson, but the supporting players in the episodes tend to overact badly. In later interveiws, Peter Cushing would express his disappointment with how the series turned out. The BBC made a total of sixteen episodes, but only these six survive, because in those days the BBC would erase or re-use their tapes!
Overall, the picture and sound quality are fine (the episodes are in color). Even though these are not the best presentations of Doyle's detective, this series is a must for Peter Cushing fans and for Sherlock Holmes lovers.
Picture quality is very good, and sound is likewise better than expected, with five tales told in Victorian times, and with enough suspense and humor to please any Holmes fan.
The biggest surprise here is a complete verison of "A Study in Scarlet", which one book claimed only had a few scenes that still existed. The changes in the story were minor, a minus being in not keeping the first meeting of Holmes and Watson, a big plus being the deletion of the dull flashback from the book.
"The Hound of the Baskervilles" is a bit disappointing, it suffers from the two part telling and, being fairly faithful to the novel, has far too little Holmes. Two other flaws, a cave floor creaks badly and the story ends abruptly.
"The Boscombe Valley Mystery" wasn't one of Doyle's best and is probably the weakest in the collection here, due in part to the poor supporting cast.
"The Sign of Four" stuck fairly close to the novel, except for the end. Only the Arthur Wontner verison actually had the nerve to allow watson to marry.
"The Blue Carbuncle" has the most padding to fill the time, but does feature a good scene where Watson gets a laugh at Holmes' expense after a faulty deduction.
Those who think Cushing was too short to play Holmes should reread "The Three Students" and "The Abbey Grange", where Holmes gives himself gives his height at six feet, the same as Cushing. (Arthur Wontner was an inch shorter by the way.)
Even with the flaws this is easily the best television Holmes collection out there and is second only to the better Rathbone films.
One should take note, however, that THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES of this BBC TV set IS NOT the one of the 1959 movie also starring Christopher Lee. All features within this 3 disc set are from BBC TV. While interesting to see they can be a bit ragged in places and some of the sets leave a bit also to be wished for.
Overall if one enjoys Holmes and the Holmes' stories there cannot be any disappointment in these discs. It's unfortunate that only these handful of stories survive from those years.
Though I yet prefer the Jeremy Brett series as being more professionally done, these discs are good and enjoyable to watch. Unfair perhaps, but forty-plus years of improvement in film does make a difference. But Peter Cushing has left us with a capital performance where Sherlock Holmes is concerned, while the role of Dr. Watson is more than ably performed as well.
This is from an old 1960s BBC TV series, shot the same way and with the same budget as Dr. Who and everything else done by them, these are NOT 'movies'. This means, they were by necessity shot in the studio, on stage, with TV cameras like an American Soap Opera is done to this day. They were recorded therefore, on one inch video tape and switched live, which is done to save tons of money on editing, and uses really good, professional, stage actors who can learn the entire script in one go, and just do it. When exteriors and locations are required they use a film camera, probably 16 mm, to film those scenes, again, like on Dr. Who and everything else the BBC TV networks need to do. If it were not for this technique you would not have had any of this sort of television in England at all. They could NOT afford to film all there TV series like we have always done here in commercial America. The British taxpayers and the TV set licensing system they use actually pays for the main costs of production. See what I mean? So don't compare these types of shows with full budget feature motion pictures, or even American commercial TV series, which are shot on 35mm film and edited for air. This is theatre in the true sense.
I encourage you to get this series because they have added a bonus feature which is VERY expensive to buy on its own direct from A&E Biography, the 1995 documentary on Holmes produced on the death of Jeremy Brett that year. It is really good, and we show it at our annual Holmes Society meeting each January 6th, Holmes' birthday. A&E charges upwards of $30 for this doc (if you can find it); it's about 16 years old now.
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