Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Even for a movie from 1933, this image seemed problematic.
Sharpness seemed up and down. Most of the movie felt rather soft and it rarely displayed appealing delineation.
I saw no signs of jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain abounded and tended to seem overly heavy. I also saw occasional specks, streaks and lines, though these didn’t abound.
The image did tend to wobble a little, though, and I saw a fair amount of flickering. The frame seemed slightly cropped at the top, so we lost parts of heads at times.
Blacks tended to be inky and wan, and low-light shots usually looked too bright. This wound up as an unattractive presentation.
The movie’s Dolby monaural soundtrack didn’t fare much better. Speech tended to seem shrill and harsh.
Music played a small role, as movies from 1931 usually lacked much use of score. When music did appear, though, these elements came across as trebly and tinny.
Effects fell into the same range, as these sounded rough and distorted. Some background pops occurred, but the obvious use of noise reduction removed hiss. Like the visuals, the audio felt sub-par even for a 90-year-old movie.
We find a mix of extras here, and these start with an audio commentary from film historian Jennifer Churchill. She offers a running, screen-specific look at the source and its adaptation, cast and crew, genre domains and related topics.
Though Churchill gives us a passable overview of subjects connected to Hour, she provides a pretty lackluster chat as a whole. Even with a short movie to cover, she goes silent too often, and she occasionally digresses into dull tangents. This never becomes a poor commentary, but it fails to tell us a lot of value.
Another audio-only piece, we find a radio broadcast recreation entitled Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle. It runs 39 minutes, 47 seconds and attempts to emulate a period radio dramatization. This offers mild entertainment value but feels somewhat campy and unconvincing.
A featurette entitled The Adventures of Sam Sherman Part One spans seven minutes, 40 seconds. It brings notes from filmmaker Sherman as he gives us some production notes as well as his experiences with Hour and the other Holmes movies of its era.
While Sherman offers some decent notes, this feels like an odd program because it lacks much focus. Also, the package never identifies Sherman’s role in the proceedings.
This seems really strange, as we normally get “film historian” or whatever to let us know why we should listen to a commentator. Maybe it’s not formally necessary to slap some title on Sherman, but it remains perplexing, as the package leaves the impression we should know who Sherman is without any introduction.
Some silent shorts follow: A Black Sherlock Holmes (1918) and Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900). The first time Holmes appeared in a film, Baffled runs a whopping 38 seconds.
Baffled uses trick photography to show a criminal who magically disappears in front of Holmes and leaves him…baffled. It’s utterly useless as entertainment 121 years after its creation, but it’s great to see as a piece of history.
We also get A Black Sherlock Holmes, which appears in both “Cut” (14:38) and “Uncut” (13:24) versions. The “Cut” one claims to edit the film to make it “family friendly”, though it seems strange that the “Cut” film runs longer than “Uncut”.
After I watched both, I also couldn’t figure out what “Cut” did to make “Uncut” supposedly “family friendly”. I assumed “Uncut” would come with some crass racial elements, but if it did, I couldn’t find these.
That said, “Uncut” looks so terrible that it becomes literally unwatchable. Only occasionally can the viewer actually discern the action, as the print suffers from such severe damage that it usually seems impossible to figure out the story or scenes. Maybe something racist occurs and I can’t see it due to the miserable nature of the source.
“Cut” looks awful as well, but it provides a more watchable experience. While it suffers from plenty of damage too, at least the viewer can probably tell what’s going on most of the time.
I appreciate the inclusion of the short for historical reasons. However, it offers no entertainment value simply because it looks so awful.
The package also includes a booklet. It gives us an essay called “Arthur Wontner: True Brit Part 1”, and it adds some value.
As one of the earliest of the character’s feature films, Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour possesses some curiosity value. Unfortunately, it fizzles as a movie, for it brings no suspense or drama. The Blu-ray suffers from weak picture and audio along with a mix of bonus features. Leave this dud for Holmes completists.
Note that this release of Fatal Hour appears only as part of a four-movie “Sherlock Holmes Vault Collection”. It also includes 1933’s A Study in Scarlet, 1935’s The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes and 1937’s Silver Blaze.