Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: John Barrymore, Roland Young, Carol Dempster, William Powell
Director: Albert Parker
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
From the collection of the George Eastman House Motion Picture Department — When a young prince is accused of a crime that could embroil him in international scandal, debonair super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes comes to his aid, ... more »
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Great To Have On DVD But Wish Movie Was Better.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 07/01/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I have looked forward to having John Barrymore's SHERLOCK HOLMES on DVD for quite some time. I had seen the movie before but only in a wretched public domain VHS which was so dark that most of the film was hard to make out. It's also hard to follow because it's based on the William Gillette play which takes several liberties with Conan Doyle's original source material. Like the play, the film is problematic in many ways. Though atmospherically lit, the camerawork is rather static and the direction is often ponderous. To be fair, this restoration by the George Eastman House is 24 minutes shorter than the original and this could be a case of where the missing footage makes it seem longer. There are obvious gaps and the film just doesn't flow right.
The biggest problem with this release as far as I'm concerned is the use of Ben Model's virtual organ score. Model is a fine musician who has enhanced many a silent film but this is a movie that badly needs an orchestral score to cover its deficiencies. This score, while well played and well recorded, failed to keep my interest. Still the movie is definitely worth having for the performances alone. In addition to Barrymore you get to see early turns by William Powell (his first), Roland Young (as Dr. Watson), Carole Dempster (away from D.W. Griffith), Hedda Hopper before she became a columnist, and Gustav von Seyffertitz as the ideal Moriarty. SHERLOCK HOLMES is part of Kino's new 4 DVD JOHN BARRYMORE COLLECTION but it can be purchased separately."
A different and silent Sherlock
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 07/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of several early, silent film versions of the ever-popular detective, and one that lives up to the original and traditional trademarks and characteristics of Sherlock Holmes. In just under 90 minutes, this fast-moving drama takes us from the beginning of Sherlock's career as a freelance sleuth helping out Scotland Yard, meeting his arch enemy, Professor Moriarty, and finishing with the capture of the infamous evildoer after forty crime cases Holmes had worked on over the years. But rather than the typical murders and crimes we are used to today, the story of this 1922 version revolves only around one particular case of a theft and consequent set-up of a European Prince, as well as letters to his betrothed which are later the object of a blackmail attempt. Even so, Holmes puts into action his famous (and often humorous) astute observations and deductive reasoning with his loyal companion, Doctor Watson, and even disguises himself as Moriarty in order to trap the villain once and for all.
What might seem like a somewhat dull and plodding story to modern audiences is given extra appeal and zest by some of the stars, in particular of course, its famous star, John Barrymore. Although this role as Sherlock Holmes doesn't present many opportunities for Barrymore to shine and show off his usual charisma and talents, he does step into the part of Holmes quite well, even if it takes a little getting used to at first. A good villain is also important in stories like this one, and the sinister Moriarty is perfectly portrayed by the brilliant character actor, Gustav von Seyffertitz, who played an impressive array of varied characters, good and evil, throughout the silent era. Also thrown into the mix to attract a wider audience is Carol Dempster, famous for being D.W. Griffith's leading lady in a number of 1920s films, who plays a small but significant role as Sherlock's love interest, adding a twist not expected in the standard Sherlock Holmes mystery. Other viewers might find it of interest to see William Powell, perhaps best remembered for the Thin Man series of movies in the 1930s and 1940s, in his screen debut in "Sherlock Holmes" as Forman Wells, also playing a small yet important role in assisting Holmes.
The picture quality is overall quite good, though perhaps not as outstanding as many other silent films from the early 1920s issued on Kino, and the music is a very good organ score composed and played by Ben Model, who has performed many fine organ accompaniments to silent films. There are no bonus or special features on this DVD, and it is part of a four-DVD set by Kino of John Barrymore silent films, and as part of such a collection "Sherlock Holmes" is an important addition to highlight Barrymore's earlier and unusual roles. On its own, it would be of special interest for Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts in particular, and some knowledge of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would no doubt help in appreciating this particular silent version.
The Return of a John Barrymore Silent Classic
Robert M. Fells | Centreville, VA USA | 02/10/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with the observations of the previous two reviewers but I think I can clear up a few of the information gaps. I believe that the film lacks a certain amount of suspense because most of the missing footage occurs near the end, roughly from the point of Holmes' meeting with Moriarity at Baker Street. The subsequent scene in the "gas chamber" room and the finale at Dr. Watson's home are cut up quite a bit making the action incomprehensible. This otherwise laudable KINO release would have been aided greatly by some liner notes explaining the critically missing action.
Although I'm no Holmes expert, it is fortunate that the film's story is based on the same William Gillette play that Orson Welles used in his radio adaptation in 1938 (broadcast a month before Welles tackled the Martian invasion). Having listened to the radio broadcast a few times over the years, I was able to figure out what was happening in the film. First, Moriarity blackmails Holmes to let him go in the Baker Street flat because he has kidnapped little Billy, the bellboy. Holmes realizes he has to agree but wants to see Billy safely returned first. The surviving footage shows a bedraggled boy standing Holmes doorway but there's no explanation of who he is or why he's there.
Second, Holmes escapes the trap of the gas chamber room by misdirection - he makes the villains (including a wonderfully surly Louis Wolheim, a Barrymore buddy)think he escaped through one door and they all follow in pursuit. Holmes then suavely walks out another door to freedom. One at least can follow the action at the finale in Watson's flat although the action is choppy. Curiously, left out of the finale is the fate of the Faulkner letters that motivated the whole story in the first place. At least we finally know how William Powell later became such a fine detective as Philo Vance and Nick Charles - he started out working for Sherlock Holmes!
I'm a longtime Barrymore fan so I know I'm biased but I enjoyed every moment of SHERLOCK HOLMES, especially since it gave JB the opportunity to appear with later well-known film actors such as William Powell and Roland Young, with whom he never made sound films. This film did not give Barrymore opportunities to show his comedy abilities or give him a "mad scene" that made most his other silents so memorable. Also, Barrymore had to go up against "the" one and only portrayal of Holmes by William Gillette, who had played the role on stage since the 1890s (and continued through the 1930s!). So he may have believed that he couldn't stray too far from the public's well-entrenched view of Holmes. To be fair, the original reviews of the complete film back in 1922 were rather luke-warm so even with missing footage we should be grateful to KINO for restoring this long missing film (not counting dreadful bootlegs) back to the Barrymore filmography. Viva KINO!"