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MPI HOME VIDEO

MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Rawlins
Cast:
Basil Rathbone , Nigel Bruce, Evelyn Ankers, Reginald Denny, Thomas Gomez, Henry Daniell
Writing Credits:
Arthur Conan Doyle (story, "His Last Bow"), Robert Hardy Andrews (adaptation), Lynn Riggs, John Bright

Synopsis:
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.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 66 min.
Price: $129.98
Release Date: 3/29/2011

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

Bonus:
• Introduction from Film Restorationist Robert Gitt
• Photo Galleries
• Trailers
• Footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
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.

RELATED REVIEWS


Sherlock Holmes And The Voice Of Terror: Sherlock Holmes - The Complete Collection (1942)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 20, 2011)

When Basil Rathbone first took on the role of Sherlock Holmes, the franchise launched at Fox. This produced two films, both in 1939: The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

After that pair of movies, however, the franchise took a three-year break – and hopped studios and eras, as well. When Rathbone and Holmes returned in 1942, the series moved to Universal Studios. It also left the late 19th century and entered modern times, as the Universal Holmes efforts all took place in the 1940s.

For the first of the 12 Universal Holmes movies, we find 1942’s Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror. Set during World War II, a German radio broadcast crows about terrorist acts the Nazis use to disrupt England. This “Voice of Terror” seeks to undermine public support for the war and frighten the public.

The British Intelligence Inner Circle meets to deal with the issue, and they bring in Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) to get to the bottom of the threat. Holmes believes the terrorist rampage to offer a smokescreen for an even bigger threat, so he and Watson dig into the subject to halt this part of the Nazi menace.

Back during World War II, plenty of pop culture incorporated the Allies’ fight against the Axis. You’d see Bugs Bunny battle the Japanese or Superman would go after the Nazis. Those made more sense than Holmes, though; at least Bugs, Supes and the others existed within the world of the 1940s.

I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to take a 19th century character and plop him smack into World War II-era England. Indeed, I find it surprising to realize that Rathbone, viewed as the definitive Holmes, only acted in two films that took place in the character’s original period; the vast majority of Rathbone’s work covered this WWII version of Holmes.

Though that factor makes Holmes a strange addition to the pantheon of WWII-period flicks, at least Voice integrates him in a believable manner. Obviously the use of cartoon or superhero roles to fight the Axis enters the realm of the fantastic, but it’s utterly realistic to see a super-smart detective work to help the cause. Holmes may’ve been in the wrong era, but he fits the circumstances in a tidy manner.

Hopefully subsequent Holmes flicks will work better than Voice. I hope so, as this one comes across more as an attempt to bolster British spirits than to tell a good tale. Not that Voice is a terrible story, but it’s a fairly muddy narrative, as it follows paths that tend to fail to develop well.

The key flaw stems from the strangely uninteresting nature of the mystery itself. Voice announces its potential baddies in a loud fashion and doesn’t develop its threat well. Honestly, it’s never especially clear why the Voice is such a menace. The film doesn’t show us any form of public panic, and it seems to me the biggest problem is with the terrorist actions themselves, not the boasting of some tool on the radio. Shouldn’t the authorities worry more about preventing attacks themselves?

Because of this, the story tends to meander. Even though the film barely runs an hour, it feels padded, and weak production values don’t help. Yes, I know that the war sapped budgets, but even for 1942 standards, various effects like a train wreck look laughable.

What does Voice have going for it? As always, Rathbone and Bruce invest their characters with the requisite passion and/or charm. Perhaps they’ll eventually seem less interesting, and Voice loses points from its relative absence of Watson; he doesn’t have a lot to do in this one. Nonetheless, the pair enjoy good chemistry, and Rathbone displays enough intelligent fervor to carry the movie through its slower/dumber spots.

In addition, Voice looks great. Cinematographer Woody Bredell gives the movie a rich semi-noir appearance that makes most of the film sparkle with a rich black and white image. I suspect you’d be hard-pressed to find a more attractive Holmes film.

The actors and visuals help, but they can’t make Voice surpass its WWII-era propaganda roots. Even with a potentially explosive plot, the film remains lackluster and only occasionally involving.


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

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror 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. It appears that only the Holmes movies produced by Universal got the clean-up, which makes Voice the first of the set’s 14 pictures to boast restoration. Since its two predecessors suffered from a number of problems, I looked forward to improved visuals here.

While the visuals of Voice showed improvements, I couldn’t say it greatly surpassed its predecessors. As in the past, the main concern stemmed from print flaws. Voice suffered from many examples of specks, nicks, blotches and blemishes. These varied in intensity, but they were a nearly constant companion, as very little of the film escaped their touch.

That was too bad, as the rest of the image was fairly strong. Sharpness appeared quite good, as only occasional instances of slight softness materialized. Instead, the majority of the flick exhibited strong accuracy and definition. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes appeared to be absent.

The Blu-ray replicated the black and white imagery well. Dark tones looked quite solid, as they provided deep, rich elements. Shadows were also decent to good, as the low-light shots provided generally nice clarity and visibility. Honestly, without all the source flaws, this would’ve been a fine presentation, but the transfer was too dirty for anything above a “C”.

I also thought the movie’s monaural soundtrack was erratic. On the positive side, the various elements could be reasonably robust and full, and speech was always intelligible; some edginess marred the lines on occasion, but they usually seemed pretty tight.

Effects were adequate but not much better; though they had decent range, they could be moderately distorted. Music showed the same trend, as the score tended to be rather rough at times. The music wasn’t always shrill, but it suffered from more distortion than expected. At least the track lacked source defects and didn’t come with distracting pops or clicks. The good and the bad balanced for another “C”.

Because Voice 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.

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. 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.

From a distance of nearly 70 years, World War II-era semi-propaganda flicks like Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror boast pleasures for the way in which they reflect their times. In this instance, however, it’s tough to find much else to take from the film; it offers excellent cinematography and good acting, but the story is one-dimensional and lackluster. The Blu-ray comes with erratic picture and audio. Voice has its moments but never becomes much better than mediocre.

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