Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes tells the story of the relationship between the young Arthur Conan Doyle (Charles Edwards, Batman Begins) and his real-life mentor and a noted forensics scientist, Dr. J... more »oseph Bell (Ian Richardson, From Hell), as they unite to solve the most baffling murder cases in Edinburgh in the late 1800s. The 2-disc set includes four episodes: The Patient?s Eyes ? A beautiful young woman is haunted by a masked cyclist who pursues her through the woods. To Doyle?s surprise, the pursuer is real. And so are the hideous murders connected to a gruesome incident in the Boer War. The Photographer?s Chair ? Doyle and Bell investigate a serial killer?s victims, all of whom bare unusual markings. Doyle looks to a spiritualist for answers and is cautioned about his investigation from beyond the grave. Little does he know about the murderer?s plans for his victims in the afterlife. The Kingdom of Bones ? When an ancient Egyptian mummy is unwrapped in public, a recently murdered Englishman is found, involving Doyle and Bell in a bombing conspiracy. The White Knight Strategem ? Two men with knowledge of a woman?s suicide are murdered, setting off a heated disagreement between Bell and an old police rival. At the risk of alienating Bell, Doyle sides with the policeman, but both men prove only partly correct.« less
For mystery buffs, the most significant DVD release this yea
jammer | Laramie, Wyoming United States | 05/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Murder Rooms" consists of five episodes, starring Ian Richardson as Dr. Joseph Bell, the historical personage on whom Arthur Conan Doyle allegedly based Sherlock Holmes; with Dr. Watson based on Doyle himself. The 116-minute first episode ("Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle, The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes") was a BBC series pilot released in January 2000. In "Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle...," Robin Laing starred as the young Doyle in medical school. This pilot has been available in NTSC for two years (see Amazon's listing) and IS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS PACKAGE. In the remaining four 90-minute episodes comprising this set (on BBC in September-October 2001), episode chronology begins three years later, Charles Edwards assuming Laing's role as the young, idealistic but adult Doyle with his own medical practice. Information on source books, author David Pirie, screen credits, histories, plot synopses and cast are available at murder-rooms.com
FOR BEST APPRECIATION, ONE MUST TREAT THIS SERIES AS AN INTEGRATED FIVE-PART, EIGHT-HOUR MINISERIES, beginning with the pilot "Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle..." setting the backdrop against which the other four, described IN ORDER below, play out. Missing "Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle...," this reviewer STRONGLY RECOMMENDS you purchase this set now and set it aside until that pilot can be seen. In "The Patient's Eyes," a black-shrouded cyclist repeatedly stalks a lady patient cycling to Dr. Doyle eye appointments through eerie wooded terrain, leading to a mysterious abandoned house, love-interest conflicts, betrayal, and murder. (There are striking scene similarities to "The Solitary Cyclist.") In "The Photographer's Chair," a series of murder victim corpses bearing strange marks lead to mesmerism, spiritualism, séances, apparitions, erotic mutilation, daguerreotype photography, and genuinely chilling moments. In "The Kingdom of Bones," the publicized spectacle of unwrapping an apparent Egyptian mummy for scientific study yields highly unexpected results leading to suicide, dinosaur bones, gypsies, kidnapping, attempted murder, multiple murders, and political terrorism. And in "The White Knight Stratagem," Doyle and Bell come to a near falling-out involving a Dickensian business climate leading to suicide and murder; with a curious chess enigma hovering over everything. This last episode concludes the miniseries and should be viewed last.
These adaptations get this reviewer's highest commendation, being at least the equal (or better?) of the David Suchet / Jeremy Brett adaptations in their prime. The general tone is exceedingly dark, uncompromising, and far more menacing than the light-hearted Poirot-Holmes adaptations. (The atmospherics remind this reviewer of that excellent film "From Hell.") Excepting as discussed below, nothing in these episodes is short of first-class: plots, incredible principal and supporting cast, direction, cinematography depicting 1880s Victorian Edinburgh, hauntingly mysterious musical score, period mood, and the appallingly brutal times with modern medicine in infancy. Sound is fine; extraneous background noise is nil; diction is clear with no accent barriers.
So superior is MPI's production that current PAL DVD owners may want to buy the NTSC release anyway! The widescreen 16x9 anamorphic picture is excellent, with night scenes sharp yet still mysterious. This reviewer doesn't know how the original episodes were recorded, but suspects that the widescreen image seen here was likely achieved by slicing off top and/or bottom portions of an original 4x3 TV image: some close-up shots have head-tops suspiciously out of range, a typical symptom. But such trimming is a small price for what one sees on an HDTV system as contrasted to the original PAL release. Unlike that release, MPI also provides both running time display and chapter breaks; and the periodic PAL scene blackout interruptions (presumably omitting advertisements) are gone, greatly enhancing the narrative flow. There are two DVDs contained in one keep-case with an inner leaf. Each DVD has two episodes on the same side with full menu accessibility."
Dr. Bell and Dr. Doyle, and the beginnings of Sherlock Holme
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 02/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When we last saw the great forensic professor of medicine, Dr. Joseph Bell (Ian Richardson), from the University of Edinburgh, it was 1873. He and his callow young medical student, Arthur Conan Doyle, had just solved a horrendous series of murders, but at great cost. The young woman Doyle had loved was the last victim and the murderer had escaped. It's now a few years later. Doyle has his degree and is trying to establish his own practice. Bell has chosen to become friends with Doyle, drawn by Doyle's eagerness to learn, his intelligence and his concern for the sick and weak. Bell also is touched by the knowledge of Doyle's great loss. He is sensitive enough not to comment on Doyle's physical change. Instead of a callow youth, Doyle, while still tentative in manner, now looks something like a Hollywood hunk. Where earlier Doyle had been played by Robin Laing, a fine actor but no matinee idol, now he is played by the handsome actor Charles Edwards. Bell and Doyle have become friends, something on the order of mentor and student, and Bell continues to help Doyle when mysteries arise. In Murder Rooms, four do.
This series of four 90-minute episodes has some of the greatest production values I've ever come across in British period dramas and mysteries. It must have cost a bundle to mount them and may account for Murder Rooms not being renewed for further episodes. We don't simply have dark, wet cobblestone streets, foggy nights and horse-drawn carriages. There are great dining rooms and entrance halls, a lavish banquet, Victorian velvet settees and well-groomed riding horses, lecture halls sided by carved, polished dark oak with seats filled by prosperous elderly gentlemen in evening clothes. There are cold autopsy rooms occupied by grey-green corpses with all sorts of scalpels and saws, jars and liquids, trays, tables, weights and drains. The costumes are detailed and look bespoke; even the beggars' rags look authentic.
But what of the stories? Are they good mysteries? I'm not as enthusiastic as I am about the sets and costumes. The proposition of the series is that Conan Doyle's great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, was patterned after Joseph bell. Bell is a clever, shrewd doctor who observes and thinks. He notices things. He'll use his eyes, his nose, his finger tips, not just his scalpel, to pry out secrets from a corpse. Much of this was evident in Dr. Bell and Mr. Holmes: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes. This was the first program, available on a separate DVD. Dr. Bell led the way there, demonstrating and teaching the science of deduction to Doyle as he developed answers to murder. In the four episodes of Murder Rooms, two significant changes have crept in. First, the focus has shifted a good deal to Conan Doyle. He is the one who finds himself dealing with mysteries, and Bell is the one who shows up to demonstrate a solution. Because Doyle is now a handsome young man with a strong profile, the programs center as much or more on him and his situation as they do on the much older Ian Richardson. Second, the mysteries seem to me not to be so much clever puzzles as to be somewhat exotic events. We wind up dealing with mummies, Irish terrorists with an iconic sword, seances and dead loves, a fascination for capturing souls as a person dies, and a deus ex machina that depends on madness, tunnels and caves. I suppose the writers didn't have the time or the inclination to develop the sort of complex plot lines which would have taxed Sherlock Holmes...I mean, Dr. Bell...and so settled for next best; that, and the need to put forward Doyle as a more traditional, handsome leading character. Still, the production values and Ian Richardson save the series. Murder Rooms is fascinating to look at and Richardson provides enough dry energy to keep us interested.
There are four stories for us: The Kingdom of Bones, The Patient's Eyes, The Photographer's Chair and The White Knight Stratagem. For the most part, the acting features that solid, assured British manner which is such a pleasure to see. Some old friends we noticed include Ian McNeice, John Sessions, Crispin Bonham Carter, Warwick Davis, Annette Crosbie and Henry Goodman. The DVD transfer is very good."
Martin Vogt | Cambridge, MA | 08/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a keen reader of the Holmes stories and a admirer of Ian Richardson, whose acting I thoroughly enjoyed watching the "House of Cards" triology. The stories on this DVD are much darker then the Holmes stories and one shouldn't watch them when feeling depressed. However, there are some really funny scenes, for example, when Doyle's pompous former anatomy professor is reading the riot act to a journalist in "The Kingdom of Bones." The atmosphere, the writing and the superb acting make this one of the favourite DVDs in my collection."
Elementary my dear Doyle
C. A. Luster | Burke, VA USA | 08/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a brilliant method to give us another Sherlock Holmes series. While Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was at medical school and first starting his medical practice he met a real-life surgeon named Dr. Bell that was a living Sherlock Holmes. What an inspiration he would be for books would he not? So the first two hour movie, "Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle", introduces us to this excellent Murder Rooms series of four movies. During the first movie, "Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle", we find Doyle in medical school working with the forensics expert Dr. Bell that assists the police from time to time with their investigations. All five movies are a must see for fans of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series a few years ago. The stories are slightly different takes on some of the books Doyle wrote. All four movies in this set are 90 minutes each and very interesting. This set picks-up with Doyle after he gets out of medical school and starts his practice. In the first movie Dr. Bell comes to visit Doyle after hearing about a hooded cyclist following a lady. The acting, directing, costumes, sets, scenery, and music are all first rate in all four movies. The DVD quality is very good. Sound and clarity was excellent. I highly recommend this series for the whole family."
Doyle before Holmes
John Bliss | Arizona | 05/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ian Richardson has played Holmes previously. The same characterization, with a bit more warmth, shows up in his Dr. Joseph Bell. For anyone who enjoys Victorian mysteries, this should provide delight."