Sherlock Holmes Faces Death appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though the film received restoration at UCLA, the results seemed inconsistent and messy.
Print flaws offered the major distraction. From start to finish, quite a few defects became apparent. I saw examples of specks, lines, tears, nicks, scratches, blotches and blemishes across the movie’s 68 minutes. These varied in intensity but rarely vanished, so expect many of them.
Otherwise, this was a decent to good presentation. Sharpness was also somewhat inconsistent, as occasional shots looked a bit soft. Nonetheless, those were minor, and the majority of the movie demonstrated pretty nice delineation. It lacks edge haloes, jaggies or shimmering, and blacks looked good; they seemed dark and tight. Shadows were fairly solid, as they demonstrated generally nice smoothness, with only a few murky images. Without the print flaws, this would’ve been a fine presentation, but all the defects made it a “C-“.
I felt the movie’s monaural audio seemed perfectly fine for its era. Some lines appeared a bit brittle, but they were always intelligible and usually reasonably natural; while they could lean toward a tinny feel, that wasn’t a substantial issue.
Music wasn’t a major factor in the movie, but the score showed reasonable reproduction. While the music lacked much range, it wasn’t shrill or problematic. Effects seemed the same, as they appeared thin but acceptably accurate given their age. No problems with source flaws materialized, so don’t worry about noise or pops. All of this was good enough for a “C+” based on the movie’s age.
Because Death 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.
We do find an audio commentary for Death. Author David Stuart Davies provides a running, screen-specific look at the ongoing series and the film’s place in it, story/script/adaptation issues, cast, characters and performances, sets, music, and props, and some period elements.
Like Davies’ commentary for Hound of the Baskervilles, this one occasionally sags. However, the slow moments occur less frequently, and Davies continues to deliver quite a lot of good information. He ensures an interesting and enjoyable chat.
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.
With a spooky setting and a concise mystery plot, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death turns into a winning tale. It comes with the usual fine performances from its leads and a particularly brisk, involving story to keep us with it. The Blu-ray offers flawed visuals and acceptable audio as well as a useful audio commentary. I wish the presentation impressed me more, but at least I like the movie a lot.