Mill Creek Entertainment // 1991 // 194 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // September 30th, 2012
"The mind is not quite as keen as it once was." -- Sherlock Holmes
If you've got two versions of Sherlock Holmes on television, why not buy another on DVD? The two stories in Sherlock Holmes: 2 Complete Mini-series were broadcast in 1991. The double feature arrives just in time to take advantage of the buzz around Sherlock and Elementary. Horror film star Christopher Lee (Hugo) takes up residence at 221B Baker Street.
Each of the stories in Sherlock Holmes: 2 Complete Mini-Series is on its own disc:
Sherlock Holmes & The leading Lady
"The machine is so appalling that only Britain can be trusted not to put it to use." -- Mycroft Holmes
An inventor drops in on a rehearsal of Die Fleidermaus. Not being a bat, he doesn't survive the fall. Mycroft Holmes calls in his brother Sherlock (Christopher Lee) to investigate, since there's an invention -- a bomb detonator -- missing. Sherlock and his friend Watson (Patrick Macnee, The Avengers) drop in on the opera company themselves. They don't break any bones, but an encounter with Irene Adler (Morgan Fairchild, Falcon Crest) could break Sherlock's heart. If that isn't enough, Sherlock gets help in his investigation from Sigmund Freud (John Bennett, The Forsyte Saga) and Eliot Ness.
Sherlock Holmes & The Incident at Victoria Falls
"I'm retiring, once and for all." -- Sherlock Holmes
At his brother's urging, Sherlock takes on one more job, to safely bring the Star of Africa diamond from South Africa back to England. Trouble is, the vault doesn't contain a diamond, but does contain a dead body. The murdered man left a message in his own blood. Holmes asks Teddy Roosevelt (Claude Akins, Rio Bravo) and Giuseppe Marconi for help, while dealing with hindrance from Lillie Langtry (Jenny Seagrove, A Woman of Substance) and fictional thief A.J. Raffles (created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law, E.W. Hornung).
The main problem with these two Sherlock Holmes adventures is hinted at on the DVD's cover: "Includes 1 hour of footage not aired on U.S. TV!" I didn't see these on U.S. TV, so I can't say for certain, but that was probably due to judicious editing. Clocking in at about three hours apiece, these stories are padded and rather slow-paced. They probably could have been told in half the time.
An inconsistent style doesn't help. Leading Lady shows the plotters in action, while Victoria Falls is an actual whodunnit, with an unnecessarily convoluted plot. Both try to provide the sort of cliffhanger thrills -- Sherlock's carriage apparently stuck on a railroad track as the train approaches -- found in the Basil Rathbone stories. However, neither provides enough of those thrills for three hours.
Christopher Lee's Sherlock shoots off his gun in the flat, but doesn't seem all that eccentric. At times, he even seems like a romantic lead. He's polite and chivalrous, but bashful and apparently missing the point, when dealing with the advances of Irene Adler. The interaction between Lee and Morgan Fairchild turns out to be the highlight of Victoria Falls. They're sweet together as Irene teaches Sherlock to dance to a recording of her own singing. While Irene's brassy and blunt, Lee gives away Sherlock's rekindling feelings gently with a smile or gesture here and there. Overall, Lee portrays Holmes with a sense of quiet control over the situation, whether he's misstating deductions on purpose to draw out a suspect or dealing with police who jump to the wrong conclusions.
Patrick Macnee's Watson is mostly there for comic relief, stuff like scoffing at Sigmund Freud's hypnotism of Irene Adler to get at suppressed memories, but falling asleep himself. For all his silliness, he's aware enough to save the day in a couple of key scenes.
Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, the production values are decent, and the picture seems to have held up reasonably well. The stories were shot in Luxembourg rather than the actual locations, and stock footage makes up any differences. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is sufficient for early '90s television, which is dialogue heavy with little in the way of atmospherics. There are no subtitles or bonus features.
Neither of the miniseries in this set is horrible, and fans of the actors -- or absolute Sherlock Holmes completists -- could find it worth a look at the low price (under $10 on Amazon.com) of this double-feature release.
I liked a final plot twist in Victoria Falls that found Holmes pulling a variation on one of Raffles' tricks from an E.W. Hornung story. There was a purpose to putting Raffles in the story, even if I'm not too sure what Teddy Roosevelt and Lillie Langtry were doing there.
I like Christopher Lee's take on Sherlock Holmes, but weak plotting and a runtime that's way too long make for mediocre stories. It's nice to have the complete mini-series, but I'd have preferred to see both the U.S. and international cuts in the release.
Guilty of not living up to potential.
Review content copyright © 2012 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 194 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* IMDb: Sherlock Holmes & The Leading Lady
* IMDb: Sherlock Holmes & The Incident at Victoria Falls