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Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (B? C?)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: MPI Home Video
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 29, 2011
  • List Price: $129.98

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BestBuy.com:
Sherlock Holmes: Complete Collection (5 Disc) -

Purchase Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film(s)
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film(s)

[Rating:3.5/5]

Few fictional detectives have captured the public’s  imagination like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  MPI has gathered the 14 original films on 5 Blu-ray discs which run just over 16 hours and feature suave South African actor, Basil Rathbone as the crime solver extraordinaire, and Nigel Bruce, a popular English character actor, as his somewhat inept and stuffy sidekick, Dr. John Watson.

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection was filmed between 1939 and 1946. The first two in the series were produced by 20th Century Fox and the remaining dozen by Universal Studios. Only the initial offering, The Hound of the Baskervilles, is based on the Conan Doyle story of the same name. The second film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, adapts an 1899 play by William Gillette.  From this point forward, Holmes’ purists may bristle,  as the other films are set in modern times and take selected snippets from some of the original stories. The next three movies, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, and Sherlock Holmes in Washington, are unvarnished World War II propaganda, with Holmes aiding the cause of the allies.  These are the least effective of the set,  as major departures from the essential Holmesian spirit.

Six more war-time titles appeared between 1943 and 1945, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, The Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw, The Pearl of Death, The House of Fear, and The Woman in Green. Fortunately, these films return to the genre of standard mysteries as Sherlock Holmes assumes his more familiar role as civilian crime-solver. Three post-war movies, Pursuit to Algiers, Terror by Night, and Dressed to Kill,  round out this collection. Taken as a whole, The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection runs smoothly as Holmes, the ace detective, solves  crime after crime, while Watson, his foil, adds timely and welcome comic relief.  There are some interesting supporting performances such as a young Ida Lupino (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Gale Sondergaard (The Spider Woman), Rondo Hatton (The Pearl of Death), and Broadway star Patricia Morison (Dressed to Kill).

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

The picture quality varies considerably throughout the series,  likely due to the condition of the original prints.  Given the obvious age of the originals, most of these restorations are nothing short of miraculous.  The graininess lessens and the sharpness increases in the most recent releases.  While the first three films used different directors with varying success, Roy William Neill  directed the last eleven in a consistent style that works quite well for these hour-long  dramas.  There is nice balance between close camera work for the principals and more distant atmospheric shots like the moors in Hound of the Baskervilles or the Tower of London scene in  The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Most of the outdoor scenes occur at night, with occasional atmospheric fog or rain. I would have preferred an original period setting for most of these films but their modernization does not harm the essential interaction of the two principals or diminish the suspense of the plots.

Audio Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

The PCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack is typical of this era: boxy mono sound with compressed dynamics and a touch of distortion at the climaxes.  No amount of post-processing wizardry can overcome these limitations of the original recordings.  On the other hand, dialogue is quite clear and comprehensible, an important consideration for films which feature a lot of talk and rather limited action. The accompanying scores are a generally undistinguished lot, with the exception of Hollywood legend Robert Russell Bennett’s contribution to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

There is a smattering of additional material including a  description of the restoration process by Robert Gitt from the UCLA Film and Television Archives.  Vintage footage of Conan Doyle and the original theatrical trailers of the films are also included. Six audio commentaries are provided but add little to the appreciation of these films. Holmes enthusiasts will be disappointed since an opportunity to include commentary on the original stories and its author would have been quite welcome.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3/5]

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection will be well received by those who consider Basil Rathbone to be the paradigmatic Sherlock Holmes. Considering all of the actors, including Englishmen Jeremy Brett and Ronald Howard, who have subsequently taken on Holmes,  this assessment remains valid. The Holmes-Watson relationship is the essence of this series and has never been surpassed, let alone equaled on the screen.  In spite of painstaking restoration efforts, the films have unavoidable graininess and some loss of clarity. The soundtracks are somewhat constricted but dialogue is clear as a bell.  Taken as a whole, like most long running series, the Holmes collection is a mixed bag with the first two period pieces being the most true to the original spirit of Conan Doyle’s detective.  Of the remainder, updated to the 20th century, the WW II “propaganda” films are largely dispensable while each of the last nine offers over an hour of pleasant escapism.   Charter members of the “Baker Street Irregulars” may flinch at some of the liberties taken with the plots and characters of the original stories.  But those who enjoy films of this era can partake of this set like a cinematic buffet whose dishes can be sampled in any order, particularly on dark and stormy nights. Elementary, my dear viewers. 

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004GSVXDA[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Sherlock Holmes: Complete Collection (5 Disc) -

Purchase Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film(s)
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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