SHERLOCK HOLMES: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Set
Studio: MPI Home Video
Film Length: 16 hours, 14 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English LPCM 2.0
Release Date: March 29, 2011
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.