Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes Complete Collection (Rathbone)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Timothy E, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. Timothy E

    Timothy E Supporting Actor
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    Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, The


    SHERLOCK HOLMES: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Set


    Studio: MPI Home Video

    Year: 1939-1946

    Rated: Unrated

    Film Length: 16 hours, 14 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

    Audio: English LPCM 2.0

    Subtitles: English


    Release Date: March 29, 2011


    The Films


    Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is considered among the best representations of the master sleuth, and Rathbone’s Holmes films remain fondly remembered even today.

    Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed by more actors on film and television than any other fictional character, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, which counts over 75 actors in over 211 films. Beginning in 1939, Basil Rathbone and his costar Nigel Bruce portrayed Holmes and Dr. Watson in 14 theatrical films through the end of 1946. Rathbone and Bruce also played these characters in a multitude of radio dramas during those same years.


    Twentieth Century Fox released The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1939 to great acclaim. The studio quickly reunited Rathbone and Bruce in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for release that same year. Several years passed before Universal Studios resumed the series and transplanted Holmes and Watson from the Victorian era to the (then) modern era of World War II in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror. Universal released 12 films between 1942 and 1946 starring Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson. The films are as follows:


    The Hound of the Baskervilles(1939)

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes(1939)

    Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror(1942)

    Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon(1943)

    Sherlock Holmes in Washington(1943)

    Sherlock Holmes Faces Death(1943)

    The Spider Woman(1944)

    The Scarlet Claw(1944)

    The Pearl of Death(1944)

    The House of Fear(1945)

    The Woman In Green(1945)

    Pursuit To Algiers(1945)

    Terror By Night(1945)

    Dressed To Kill(1946)


    The celluloid originals of the Universal films were not treated any better over the years than any other classics from the Golden Age of film. The original studio logos, titles, and other portions of the Universal films were thoughtlessly discarded by their respective custodians. In 1991, the UCLA Film and Television Archive began a restoration of all 12 Universal films which was completed in 2003. The higher quality DVD versions of these films released over the last few years originated from this restoration process. This complete collection is the first time that any of these films have been released in high definition.


    Video


    The film series is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The UCLA Film and Television Archive has done a terrific job of restoring these films. Some minor scratches and age related damage are still present, however, such blemishes are minimal. Fine detail and shadow detail are noticeably improved over the DVD transfers when seen in 1080p here. The video tends towards graininess and results in a film-like image. Some minor digital noise is evident, which accentuates the graininess of the video, particularly in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon. There is minor gradation of video quality in certain portions, one example being the opening credits for Dressed to Kill, for which only 16 millimeter elements are still in existence. The opening credits are window-boxed on this film in order to maintain the appearance of consistency of video quality.


    Audio


    The audio tracks are excellent, with little to none of the crackle, hiss, or inconsistency of sound volume that can still persist after digital cleanup. Dialogue is always properly audible. One cannot imagine 1940s era B-films sounding any better than they do on this release. The audio improves by small degrees with the later films in the series.


    Special Features


    The special features include all of the following:


    Restoring Sherlock Holmes(4:38): Robert Gitt, Preservation Officer of the UCLA Film and Television Archive provided this brief interview in 2003 following the completion of the Archive’s restoration of the 12 Universal films.


    Theatrical Trailers(7:05): This feature plays back original unrestored trailers for the following films: The Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw, The Pearl of Death, The House of Fear, Terror By Night, and Dressed To Kill.


    Footage of Arthur Conan Doyle(1:16): Holmes’ author speaks briefly on film regarding his creation.


    Picture Gallery: This feature consists of five different parts numbered 1 through 5 for ease of selection.


    MPI has included all of the audio commentaries included previously their earlier DVD release, with one new commentary on Dressed to Kill. The films with commentaries are as follows:

    The Hound of the Baskervilles: Holmes historian and author David Stuart Davies provides commentary.

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Commentary by Holmes historian and author Richard Valley.

    Sherlock Holmes Faces Death: Commentary by David Stuart Davies.

    The Scarlet Claw: Commentary by David Stuart Davies.

    The Woman In Green: Commentary by David Stuart Davies.

    Dressed To Kill: Actress Patricia Morrison joins Richard Valley and David Gregory in a feature length commentary.


    Conclusion


    Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray is a welcome addition to the growing number of films from the 30s and 40s that are appearing finally in high definition. The video and audio presentation are excellent, especially given the efforts required to restore these films. The special features from the DVD set have thankfully been ported over to this release, as well as an audio commentary on Dressed to Kill that is new to this collection. Fans who have the DVD set will be sorely tempted to trade up to this set, given the step up in video quality in these films’ high definition presentation, and anyone who does not have these films in their collection has run out of excuses not to own and enjoy these terrific films.  

     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    My boxset is on the way to me and thanks for the review as I can hardly wait to watch these titles in 1080p.







    Crawdaddy
     
  3. dana martin

    dana martin Cinematographer

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    and thanks to amazon i have next weekend planned out already.
     
  4. Adam Gregorich

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  5. Richard Gallagher

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    Thanks, Tim!
     
  6. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    Wasn't expecting to order this, but I just finished the the first ep of the 2010 BBC re-imagining and loved it so much, I started to think how great it would be to have the Rathbone films around to dip into every couple weeks or so. Even though I have little doubt this set will see even heavier discounting sooner rather than later, the current price at Amazon averages out to a little over $6/ film with tax. While I want to pinch as many pennies as possible right now, that seems a very, very reasonable price to me-especially since I just spent over $10/film for DVD-R's (on sale!) from the Warner archive.
     
  7. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Thanks, Tim!

    In general,most of the reviews on this set are quite positive. MPI appears to have done right by these films on BD (the DVDs were very well done also). I'm very much looking forward to watching these in HD. I've watched these films since the 1970s and, absent a 35mm theatrical reissue, this will be the closest I've ever been to experiencing what audiences in the 1940s saw.
     
  8. dana martin

    dana martin Cinematographer

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    this is such an enjoyable treat, really need for Fox/MGM to step up and do the Chan's, in order,
     
  9. ScottHM

    ScottHM Second Unit

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    This set is very tempting, but I do have one question. I've always hated the very loud music and dialog present in the menus of the DVDs. Have the Blu-rays done away with such annoyances?


    ---------------
     
  10. JoeDoakes

    JoeDoakes Cinematographer
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    Personally, I like the menu music and dialog.
     
  11. Will Krupp

    Will Krupp Screenwriter

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    Well I just got this as a great surprise for my birthday! I don't know that I would have spent the money to upgrade, but I'm kind of excited that I have it and I can't wait to dive in!
     
  12. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I haven't spent the money to upgrade yet. I keep hoping it'll show up in the Amazon Gold Box!


    Please let us know your impressions after you've watched some of them.
     
  13. Will Krupp

    Will Krupp Screenwriter

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  14. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    Wow glad to hear that MPI did these right. Another set I have to add to my list! And wow thats a lot of classic films in HD for $59! Thanks for the review. Doug
     
  15. Will Krupp

    Will Krupp Screenwriter

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    Well I have to say I'm enjoying the HELL out of these so far. To be clear, I don't own the complete MPI collection on DVD, but I have quite a few of the single MPI releases, including HOUND, ADVENTURES, VOICE OF TERROR, FACES DEATH, SPIDER WOMAN, SCARLET CLAW, PEARL OF DEATH, HOUSE OF FEAR and TERROR BY NIGHT (I never finished buying the collection I guess since I didn't LOVE the others.)


    I will say I do miss the nice liner notes that appeared with HOUND and ADVENTURES (which included production history and descriptions of deleted scenes, etc which, to be fair, are repeated in the commentaries) so I will transfer those into the new set. Although portions of HOUND and ADVENTURES certainly look rougher than I remember the DVDs looking, I can attribute that to the increased resolution and the scratches etc are certainly not unpleasant and don't detract from the overall presentation (as the rest of these two look stunning.) As a whole, the Universal films that I've peeked at look great, far better than I remember. I know DVDBeaver spoke positively of the increased brightness of the blu-rays, but I find that the first two films (at least) are just a touch TOO bright (blacks are somewhat lacking on occasion) but I can happily live with it.


    Now, to my troubling news. I intended to compare the new blus to my older DVD's but, strangely, was UNABLE to! For some reason, my Samsung does NOT like the MPI DVDs. I tried HOUND, ADVENTURES, and FACES DEATH and, in each case, the screen stayed frozen on the menu page after I pressed play. I can hear the soundtrack okay, but the picture never moves. I thought the player may be going wonky so I tried a succession of OTHER DVDs and it played them all with no trouble. I have no idea why this happened and I plan to try them in my old Oppo but haven't as yet. Puzzling and I have no explanation...oh well.


    Anyway, I'm loving this. It can currently be had for about 60 dollars on Amazon (a far cheaper per movie price than I paid for the single DVDs ten years ago!) and I'm THRILLED to have it. With a few minor caveats, I think the set looks great!
     
  16. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Thanks so much, Will. My absolute favorites of the Universal series are The House of Fear and The Scarlet Claw, so I am praying the word on them is positive. I've been rewatching my DVDs over the past few weeks when I could catch an hour here and there (the running times of these are VERY convenient for squeezing them into a small time frame), and the DVDs do look excellent upconverted. (I bought the original issues in the disc packs for a pretty penny when they were first released which is why I'm trying to wait for an excellent Gold Box price on the complete set.)


    Thanks again for your report!
     
  17. Will Krupp

    Will Krupp Screenwriter

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  18. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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  19. Will Krupp

    Will Krupp Screenwriter

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    Okay Matt, the good news is that both SCARLET CLAW and HOUSE OF FEAR look really great!


    The restoration doc mentions that CLAW was one of their problem titles but it looks really fine on blu-ray, IMO. FACES DEATH does not fare as well and has a lot of what Timothy refers to in his review as grain accentuating noise, mostly in the dark scenes. I was able to pop the DVDs into my old Oppo to try and compare (which isn't ideal but I as I said my blu-ray player hates the MPI DVDs for some reason) and FACES DEATH "appears" pleasing on the DVD. If you look closely, the physical anomalies ARE present on the DVD transfers, but are less visible for two reasons. I think the issue with some of these rough patches is BOTH the increased resolution AND the fact that they are transfered birghter/lighter on blu-ray. The lower resolution and the darker (and I have come to believe more appropriately so) transfer is able to hide a lot of those imperfections.

    So take it for what its worth. I think the blu-rays (altho not perfect) are a great deal and the good far outweighs the less than good so I call these keepers in my book (and my DVDs will go to worthy charity cases like my upstairs neighbor!
     
  20. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I really appreciate your taking the time to watch these and offer another opinion. Very much appreciated. And the news sounds very encouraging so I'll look forward to any kind of special deal I can find on the set.


    Sounds like I need to start airing out the old tux or something. . . .
     

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