The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Blu-ray Review

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Reviewed by Chris McEneany, 2nd April 2011.
One of the longest and most consistently entertaining film-franchises in Hollywood’s history, the complete Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes collection is entirely desirable and endlessly entertaining. The character has appeared numerous times since, with a variety of faces and mannerisms, but this series, which marked the transition from the Golden Age to the Silver Age of Cinema, remains remarkable in its energetic, witty and intriguing adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal creation. Without Rathbone leading the way with his clipped heroism, arch incisiveness and undiluted vigour, it is doubtful that the super-sleuth would ever have entered the mass public consciousness with such long-lasting appeal. Bumbling, harrumphing Bruce becomes an indelible part of the set-up, too. And the sets, the mood, the supporting cast and the sheer style of the show works in perfect tandem with the convoluted (yet happily spelled-out) plots. This is a series that you can dip into without any loss of theme or character – the starting and ending point quite agreeably removed from any overarching story, which comes as a refreshing ingredient when compared to today’s long-running mystery/character serials like Cracker, 24, Lost and even BSG which need constant tweaking and modifying to keep on-track.

The black and white photography is not particularly audacious, nor is the direction from stalwart Roy William Neil, but the tone is marvellously consistent and atmospheric, whether the plot places Holmes and Watson in the moors and mansions of Victorian menace, drops them on epic train trips or ship voyages that involve them in a cocktail of skulduggery, or pits them against the nefarious might of the Nazis. There is a great Saturday Night double-bill vogue about them – they feel both cosy and thrilling at the same time. The formula is played out, to be sure, but there are still plenty of curve-balls pitched in to this winning pattern that list the momentum from side to side, maintaining the intrigue and the excitement.

MPI haven't added anything significant to the package that fans haven't already seen or heard before, which is something of a shame, but the big thing, here, is the transfers themselves. Hailing from troubled source material, these 1080p transfers really do reveal the extent of all that painstaking restoration work. Age-related issues may still flare up, but they only add to the charm, and the picture quality, overall, is wonderfully satisfying.

Even if it could have done with more special features, this is an awesome boxset that I recommend wholeheartedly.


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Mark Botwright

Distinguished Member
Excellent review Chris, quick question though, does the HD treatment do any favours for the abomination that was Holmes updated Nero-esque hairstyle in the first Universal pictures? It still grates with me. ;)

Oh and i completely agree about Bruce - not an authentic adaptation but he added a real affable charm and warmth, the perfect comedy sidekick.
 
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