And it's about time, too
Gandalf T. Grey | Hernando, Florida United States | 08/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You must realize that these 14 films represent the most successful "B" film series ever made, and running as they did at the same time 240 radio shows ran every Monday night at 8:30, mostly for Petri wines from California, it's really long over due that someone of the stature of ULCA would restore them and bring them "home" to AmericaBeing a Basil and Bruce purest, I was terribly upset when Jeremy Brett received all the acolades for his impersonal portrayal of the great detective....Brett had the one missing ingredient that Basil didn't have....the original mysteries as written by the Master......instead he was subjected to Hollywierd rewrites and screen plays that could never hold a candle to Doyle.....That aside, now the world will once again understand why Basil and Bruce's images are still the quintessential images of the Dr. and his friend, and once again America will get to see the ultimate performace of the the Great detective in immacualte form: restored 35mmm on DVD......Now and forever: Basil Rathbone in the role he was born to play."
The game's afoot...
Andrew McCaffrey | Satellite of Love, Maryland | 11/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have a real affection for these Sherlock Holmes films. I'm a fan of Sherlock Holmes in general, but I think this pairing of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce is my favorite screen combination. Yes, I realize that such offerings may horrify the average Holmes scholar, but I can't help my tastes. What they lose in deviation from the original source, they more than make up for in style.
The first thing to be mentioned is how clear the picture and sound are on these restorations. Films of this age can be hit or miss when released on DVD, but these prints are in remarkably good shape.
I'll now quickly offer an opinion on each of the four movies. Note that these are the first four films in the series. When Universal bought the rights to Holmes, they decided to update the great detective. They not only brought him to the then-current time, they also decided that he should face what was the greatest threat of the day. So, for the first three movies, Holmes is aiding the Allies during WWII, a setting that he seems (at least to me) to fit into comfortably.
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR is the first "spy catcher" that Holmes is involved in. It works. However, it attempts to be a triumph of style over substance and that's fine until one starts looking at the plot too closely. Still, it's a fiendishly stylish production with the fine lighting and careful choreography that would be a hallmark of the series.
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON is based upon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" and the code-breaking aspect of the original fits very comfortably into the WWII setting. This was one of my favorites as a child and I am happy to see that its just as much fun now.
SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON features Holmes and Watson being driven around back-projected images of Washington, DC stock footage. Notable more for Watson's attempts at going native than for actual plot. It's fun if nothing else.
SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH is the first one which places Holmes and Watson back into their familiar roles of detectives rather than spy-catchers. I enjoyed the first three movies, but it's nice to get back to basics. The story and its resolution are rather clever.
The front of the DVD case proclaims that it is "Loaded with DVD extras", which is stretching the definition of "loaded" quite a bit. Photo galleries don't really confer "must-own" status, and the only additional DVD extra is a commentary track which is only available on one of the four movies. "Loaded"? That's a bit strong.
That said, the commentary track for SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH is really excellent. Given by David Stuart Davies (according to the cover, a renowned British author), this offers a lot of trivial insight and critical observation. Realizing perhaps that listeners would not be viewing this commentary in isolation, Davies also makes comments particular to other films in this same box set. He offers a lot of comparisons between the original stories/characters and how they ended up being presented on film. He goes into a lot of detail concerning the history of this film series, as well as pointing out the actors who had appeared in others of this series. I found this a hugely enjoyable and informative commentary. (Beware that the commentary track does contain spoilers, so make sure you watch the films first.)
I'm very happy that these films have finally been cleaned up and released on DVD. I'm also thrilled to see that I can enjoy them as an adult as much as I did as a child. I'm definitely confident enough to order the next two box sets."
Sherlock Holmes Faces Restoration
"A" is for... | Yorba Linda, CA United States | 11/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Noted Sherlock Holmes Scholar, Andrew Kemp, was not kidding when he said that these are the best reproductions of these films since their original theatrical release. Digitally restored in 35MM from the UCLA Film Archives prints, they are a joy to behold for those of us who have had to make do with ratty and incomplete public domain copies. MPI has again done Holmes fans a great service by making this fine and popular film series available once more. I say "again," because they have also released the much respected Granada TV series featuring Jeremy Brett.Previous reviewers have already commented on how Universal moved Holmes ahead into the WWII era, and had him chasing down Nazi's, spys, and assorted modern "evil-doers." Never-the-less, the series appeal lies not in the historical context, but in the charisma of Rathbone and Bruce as the series' Holmes and Watson.These films are not great cinematic milestones, but they are great fun - pure entertainment, and as each new generation discovers Holmes, they always key in on this series as the all-time favorite. If you haven't seen these films before, or even if it's been awhile since you saw them on TV as a kid, do yourself a favor and pick this set up - you won't regret it."
Excellent set of Holmes stories...
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 11/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After 20th Century Fox produced "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", they abandoned their Holmes film series. Picking up where Fox left off, Universal brought back Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, while at the same time placing them in wartime London. Although this may have seemed a bit weird, the then-modern setting for the characters is handled with enough intelligence to almost make it work. The set could easily have been called "The Wartime Collection," as the fist three films in the set touch on espionage and Nazi plots, while the fourth concerns a convalescent home for returning soldiers. Holmes was one of the few exports Britain had that could affect American sentiment on World War II. By shifting the story to the current crisis, Holmes (and by association, the war effort), became relevant for a whole new audience and in a whole new way. "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror" is a stunning exercise in cinematography. The first entry in the Universal series has a noir-ish lighting scheme that adds to the crackling suspense of wartime intrigue.The much maligned "Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon", long abused as public domain fodder, has never looked better."Sherlock Holmes in Washington", another film long-condemned by followers of the canon, is a surprisingly good mystery with Hitchcockian overtones. "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" lifts the plot of "The Musgrave Ritual" for incorporation into a new mystery, which is effectively gothic and atmospheric.Excellent support is offered by a myriad of bad guys, each chilling in their own way (Lionel Atwill is excellent as the evil Moriarty in "Secret Weapon"). The sets are a wonderful mixture of Victorian and WWII London, which is effective most of the time (one surprising anachronism is the "VR" in bullet holes in the Baker Street flat). All four films end with Holmes offering a coda on the war and/or mankind.After screening the four films, it becomes apparent that the condemnation Rathbone and Bruce suffer at the hands of hard-core Sherlockians is not entirely deserved. While Jeremy Brett is perhaps the most accurate portrayal of the famous detective (and Hardwicke and Burke of Watson), Rathbone is definitive as Sherlock in an entirely different, and still entertaining way. Nigel Bruce, long despised by Serlockians for his portrayal of Watson as a bumbling buffoon, nevertheless offers us a lovable and warm-spirited version of Holmes' friend and companion. Much of the criticism leveled at Bruce is, I think, rather unfair in the final analysis. Always seen as competent when medical duties are needed, and always on hand to save Sherlock's bacon when required, a little absent-mindedness and comic capers by the character are easily forgiven (if not outright enjoyed). Although the back of the box proclaims the set to be chock full of extras, that isn't exactly true. The extras on the set are limited to a short booklet with very good, comprehensive production notes, some audio commentaries, and a two-minute montage of posters and stills.UCLA has done right by these films with stellar restorations. A must-have for any fan of Rathbone's Holmes."