Young Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray Review

2 Stars Recycled 20 year-old transfer
Young Sherlock Holmes Screenshot

Although Young Sherlock Holmes is finally available on Blu-ray, Paramount’s decision to recycle the already rather poor transfer created for the movie’s 2003 DVD release is a bad one.

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Released: 04 Dec 1985
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 109 min
Director: Barry Levinson
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery
Cast: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward
Writer(s): Arthur Conan Doyle, Chris Columbus
Plot: When assorted people start having inexplicable delusions that lead to their deaths, a teenage Sherlock Holmes decides to investigate.
IMDB rating: 6.8
MetaScore: 65

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 2.0 DD, French 2.0 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 1 Hr. 48 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Blu-ray Steelbook
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: ABC
Release Date: 01/31/2023
MSRP: $19.99

The Production: 4/5

What if a young John Watson met a young Sherlock Holmes at a boys boarding school in 1870? That’s the idea behind director Barry Levinson’s 1985 venture into the Young Adult fantasy genre, Young Sherlock Holmes. Someone is causing a group of wealthy gentlemen to hallucinate, leading to an untimely death. When Sherlock’s (Nicholas Rowe) favorite retired professor Rupert Waxflatter (Nigel Stock), uncle to his lady love Elizabeth (Sophie Ward), dies suddenly of the same mysterious circumstances, the young sleuth and Watson (Alan Cox) begin following the clues, much to the chagrin of Scotland Yard’s Detective Sergeant Lestrade (Roger Ashton-Griffiths). Their investigation leads them to a secret society that sacrifices young girls as part of an Egyptian ceremony in a pyramid constructed inside an old abandoned warehouse, reminiscent of a movie that was released just 18 months prior (and directed by this film’s Executive Producer Steven Spielberg), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That was one of the complaints some critics had about Young Sherlock Holmes, in addition to Levinson’s rather flat direction (this has been his one solo effort in this genre). Despite all that, I have always found this movie rather enjoyable, especially the visual effects (which received an Oscar nomination that year), including the very first use of a computer generated character created by Pixar (which was still a division of ILM at the time), and I always found Watson’s pastry hallucinations rather hilarious.

Video: 1.5/5

3D Rating: NA

It seems to be hit and miss with Paramount these days on catalog releases, both Blu-ray and 4K. Young Sherlock Holmes is yet another major disappointment of a long-awaited Blu-ray debut of a catalog title. The first two title cards that appear after the Paramount logo as the movie begins are a clue that this is NOT a recent transfer, as there is very noticeable back and forth weave. The viewing experience goes all downhill from there. While the 1080p image does show a slight increase in color fidelity (moving from Rec. 601 to Rec. 709), the overall transfer is nearly unwatchable with the rather obvious use of DNR (digital noise reduction) and edge enhancement that may have been baked in to the older transfer being used here. Faces often smear across the screen as they move, backgrounds lose all detail, and even heavy snow disappears in the far background of extremely wide shots. Film grain is also a smeary mess, causing the image to appear overly soft as well. Black levels yield very poor shadow detail, with darker sequences (such as the exploration of the warehouse) a murky mess. The transfer has also been opened up to 1.78:1 rather than the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Why a new transfer could not have been commissioned for this release, considering how many fans (especially here on HTF) have been requesting this title on Blu-ray for over fifteen years – when HTF visited Paramount during their Hollywood meets in 2008, 2012, and 2015 Young Sherlock Holmes was always one of the top requested titles members wanted to see on Blu-ray. That makes this release even more of a letdown.

I should note that this disc was viewed on a Sony UBP-X800M2 UHD Blu-ray disc player and a 55″ LG C1 OLED display in Filmmaker Mode.

Audio: 4/5

This is essentially the same 5.1 mix used on the 2003 DVD release, upgraded to lossless Dolby TrueHD. It is a pretty solid affair, a good representation of the 70mm multi-channel mix created for its theatrical release in 1985. The front is relatively wide, with good stereo separation. Surrounds are used sparingly, mostly as ambience and to extend Bruce Boughton’s wonderful score, but some discrete effects are used where needed. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout. The film’s original stereo matrixed surround track, which was included on the 2003 DVD release, has not been ported over (which is odd, considering there was plenty of room left on the BD50 disc).

Special Features: 0.5/5

Other than an attractive steelbook case that replicates the original theatrical poster and a digital copy (redeemable on either Apple TV or Vudu), this is yet another barebones release. Not even a trailer has been included.

Overall: 2/5

The Blu-ray debut of Young Sherlock Holmes is a major disappointment in the video department, one of the worst-looking catalog releases on Blu-ray by a major studio in some time. Buyer beware.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

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Neil Middlemiss

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Thanks for the review, Todd! This inconsistency of quality is unacceptable from Paramount. Fans are waiting years for some of these titles to debut on Blu, or make their way to 4k, and are being met with a crapshoot as to whether they’ll be taken for a ride. This film is one that I really enjoy and would have purchased, but there is no way with results like this. And Paramount can expect a reduction in sales as smart consumers take a “let me wait to see what the reviews say” approach because they keep breaking the consumer’s trust!
 
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raphdude

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Todd, thanks for the review! Last week my gut feeling was to cancel my pre order. Very glad I did!
On a more positive note, I did enjoy Paramount’s 4K UHD/BD of Double Jeopardy, an improvement over the Imprint BD. I just hope that Flashdance doesn’t get mucked up/DNR’d to death!
 
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Malcolm R

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After posting this review, I have cancelled my preorder of Dragonslayer.
I'd agree Paramount doesn't earn any goodwill with regard to pre-orders, but in the case of Dragonslayer I believe it's supposed to be a new transfer supervised by the director. So a recycled 20-year-old DVD master shouldn't be an issue.

But I suppose that's not to say Paramount can't screw it up between the time he locks down the master and the files are sent to the manufacturer. Or they send the wrong file.
 

Lee Sandersen

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Good transfer, bad transfer, either way Sophie Ward always looks good to my eyes. Seems to me I streamed a HD version of this on one of the services. It looked better than my old DVD, but not that much better.
 

Robert Harris

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Good transfer, bad transfer, either way Sophie Ward always looks good to my eyes. Seems to me I streamed a HD version of this on one of the services. It looked better than my old DVD, but not that much better.
It should look spectacular.
 

Kent K H

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Disappointing. Been interested in seeing this again for the first time since a mostly-forgotten Sunday afternoon television airing sometime in high school. I know it wasn't a big hit for the studio, but it doesn't excuse this kind of treatment, especially given its important place in SFX history.
 

Malcolm R

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I think I have the DVD. I guess I'll just stick with that.

Thanks, Paramount, for saving me money that could have been yours.
 

Wayne Klein

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Mar 9, 2005
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It wasn’t as bad as YSH is described here but the Blu-Ray for ‘Gallipoli” is also an older transfer. Looks better than how this is described but why not just do a new scan? Seems like Paramount is kind of willy billy about these releases.
 
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Robert Saccone

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Really disappointing. If I find it on a really good sale at some point I might pick it up just for the lossless audio upgrade over the DVD.
 

Malcolm Bmoor

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I've never seen this film but during its making I had a now forgotten reason to be at MGM Borehamwood and saw a river bank set. Utterly vast and very very impressive.
 

Wayne Klein

Supporting Actor
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Mar 9, 2005
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Really disappointing. If I find it on a really good sale at some point I might pick it up just for the lossless audio upgrade over the DVD.
Honestly, it’s not worth it. It looks bad. I preordered it and cancelled. My brother didn’t so I watched it with him. The audio does sound good. Glad I cancelled.
 

Rick Thompson

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Despite the shortcomings, I still enjoyed it, and thought it an improvement on the DVD. If course, I had to cut down the DVD cover to make a blu-ray case insert. The steelbook case is in the landfill.
 

Wayne Klein

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Despite the shortcomings, I still enjoyed it, and thought it an improvement on the DVD. If course, I had to cut down the DVD cover to make a blu-ray case insert. The steelbook case is in the landfill.
Someone might be interested in buying the Steelbook.
 
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