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Alfred L. Werker
Basil Rathbone , Nigel Bruce, George Zucco, Ida Lupino
Writing Credits:
Edwin Blum, William A. Drake (and play, "Sherlock Holmes"), Arthur Conan Doyle (characters)

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection stars Basil Rathbone as the legendary Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as the venerable Dr. John H. Watson. Comprised of all 14 films on 5 discs in high definition.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $129.98
Release Date: 3/29/2011

Available Only as Part of the 14-Film “Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection”

• Audio Commentary With Scarlet Street Magazine Editor Richard Valley
• Introduction from Film Restorationist Robert Gitt
• Photo Galleries
• Trailers
• Footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes - The Complete Collection (1939)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 4, 2011)

For the second of Basil Rathbone’s 14 movies in the lead role, we head to 1939’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Set in 1894, criminal genius Professor Moriarty (George Zucco) literally gets away with murder. Though he committed a capital crime, he manages a worthwhile defense, and Sherlock Holmes (Rathbone) arrives at court a little too late to provide definitive evidence of Moriarty’s guilt.

After the trial, the pair spar verbally as they take a cab away from court. Moriarty states that he plans to break Holmes via the crime of the century: he’ll stage an act so diabolical that Holmes can’t solve it, and this will send the super-sleuth over the top. Moriarty plans to steal the Crown Jewels, so we follow his maneuvering and Holmes’ attempts to foil his nemesis.

While I went into the initial Holmes flick – 1939’s The Hound of the Baskervilles - with high hopes, I left with moderate disappointment. Although I wouldn’t call it a bad movie, it suffered from flaws such as its protagonist’s extended absence. The movie sagged too much and offered only sporadic pleasures.

Since I have many more Holmes films to watch, I feel relieved to see that Adventures provides a substantially more satisfying endeavor. On the slightly negative side, it might spell out its story a little too much. Early scenes focus on Moriarty’s desire to “break” Holmes, and he tips his hand a bit more than I might like.

But only a smidgen, as Moriarty really doesn’t say a ton about how he plans to pull off his crime; he sets up a couple of cogs but doesn’t explain the whole machine. This means that we’re briefly ahead of Holmes but not for long, so most of the movie follows his exploits and forces us to figure out the potential crime along with him.

That’s where the movie derives most of its fun. Even when Adventures follows potentially dull subplots, they tend to serve the overall arch. For instance, while Hound bored us with its romantic sequences, the segments here that focus on terrified potential victim Ann Brandon (Ida Lupino) serve the story. They lack the sappy sentiment of the similar sequences in Hound and help push along the plot, so they don’t feel gratuitous.

In addition, unlike its predecessor, Adventures tries much harder to keep the focus on Holmes. We don’t ever leave him for long, while he vanished for substantial portions of Hound. We get a good sense of his character and delight in his attempts to stay ahead of Moriarty.

By this second entry, Rathbone had the character down pat, so he offers another great performance. He shows fine chemistry with Nigel Bruce’s Dr. Watson, and Zucco delivers a very nice turn as Moriarty. Rather than follow the moustache-twirling hammy route, Zucco plays the professor in an understated way that makes him more chilling. He adds flair and class to the affair.

I don’t know how the Holmes buffs feel, but I think Adventures tops Hound in virtually every way. It lives up to its title with a fast-paced mystery, and it keeps us involved each step of the way. This turns into a fun, lively tale.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C/ Bonus NA

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Part of a 14-film package, the Blu-ray’s press materials indicate that 12 of those flicks received restoration via the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The info doesn’t state which two lacked restoration, but a little research makes it apparent; since two of the movies were originally released by Fox, it seems very likely that those were the ones that didn’t get the full clean-up.

Adventures is one of those pair. Like the other one – Hound of the Baskervilles - I thought the image was watchable but flawed.

Print flaws became a substantial concern. From start to finish, the movie suffered from numerous examples of specks, marks, nicks, scratches, blotches and other defects. Hound got cleaner as it progressed, but that didn’t happen here; the movie stayed messy at each point.

Sharpness was also erratic. Actually, much of the movie demonstrated decent to good delineation, but exceptions occurred, especially during the third act. Definition turned softer toward the film’s end, so expect some of that during the climax. Still, overall clarity was acceptable to positive, and I noticed no jaggies, shimmering or edge haloes. The movie did come with a somewhat flat look and detail could be lacking, though.

Blacks seemed good. The movie exhibited some dense dark tones, but shadows tended to be erratic. Some low-lights shots offered nice delineation, but others appeared somewhat muddy and dense. At no point did I find it tough to view the movie, but it still was a problematic presentation.

I wasn’t a lot more impressed by the monaural audio of Adventures. This seemed like a fairly typical mix from the era, though. Speech could be somewhat reedy, but I thought the lines lacked notable edginess, and they were intelligible.

Unlike Hound, Adventures came with a lot of score. The music lacked great dimensionality, but the score appeared acceptably clear and concise; I noticed only a bit of distortion. The same thoughts greeted the effects; they showed reasonable reproduction of the original elements. Though I noticed some hiss, clicks and pops, the track wasn’t terribly noisy given its age. All of this meant a “C” grade for the audio.

Because Adventures came as part of a 14-film, five-disc set, I didn’t give it a grade for bonus materials. The package spreads these across all of those platters, and only a few are film-specific, so I didn’t think it was fair to issue individual marks for extras.

Adventures does come with one specific component: an audio commentary from Scarlet Street Magazine editor Richard Valley. In this running, screen-specific track, Valley covers cast, characters and performances, story and script, deleted/altered scenes, music, historical background, the movie’s place in the Holmes series, and other production areas.

From start to finish, Valley offers a delightful look at the film. He gives us a good range of notes related to it and isn’t afraid to point out its various flaws and inconsistencies. The commentary entertains and informs in equal measures.

Also found on Disc One of this package, we get an Introduction by Robert Gitt. In this four-minute, 38-second piece, Gitt discusses the efforts that went into the restoration of the Universal Holmes flicks. Since Adventures came from Fox, it may seem odd that I mention this extra in this review, but the “Introduction” is generic enough that I’ll refer to it in all of my Holmes discussions. Gitt gives us a good look at some of the challenges he and his team encountered.

Disc Five offers a few more bonus materials, and we find five Photo Galleries. Each one shows a running montage of stills accompanied by music; they run two minutes, 35 seconds apiece. We see posters and photos from the flicks. These are mildly interesting but not particularly memorable.

Next we discover a compilation of trailers. We locate promos for The Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw, The Pearl of Death, House of Fear, Terror By Night and Dressed to Kill. They’re in awful shape, but they’re still fun to see.

Footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle comes from a newsreel that appeared at the time of his death. This one-minute, 16-second clip gives us a little of Doyle as he talks about his work on the series. He doesn’t tell us much, but it’s nice to have a look at the man behind the legend.

While not without plot issues, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes compensates with its lively performances and sheer sense of fun. The movie moves briskly and entertains at all times. The Blu-ray comes with flaws visuals and average audio. Though this never becomes an excellent transfer of the film, it’s a very enjoyable effort.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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