Acorn Media // 1971 // 654 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // August 28th, 2009
The other detectives of late Victorian England
It turns out that there were other detectives other than Sherlock Holmes wandering around Victorian England. Unfortunately for them, they were eclipsed by Mr. Holmes and faded into the background over time. Now they have their chance to shine on the small screen, as numerous detectives strut their stuff as played by a wide variety of English actors.
The downside here is that there is a reason why most of these detectives haven't managed to steal the spotlight from Holmes. One of them basically is Holmes: Doctor Thorndyke, who is cold and arrogant, making brilliant deductions while mocking the police for being morons. The only difference is he lacks Holmes' charisma, so he's substantially more unlikeable. While other detectives might be more interesting, they lack interesting cases. Horrace Dorrington (Peter Vaughan) is a cad, who is just as likely to swindle his clients as he is to protect them. Unfortunately, his first mystery is uncovering who's behind a mysterious bicycle company. While a corrupt businessman swindling investors is certainly topical, it's not exactly the most riveting of mysteries. There's also Carnacki (Donald Pleasance, Halloween), a detective who specializes in ghosts and haunting. He comes up against a deadly ghost...horse. There's a reason why Doyle didn't write The Horse of the Baskervilles, and it's because ghost horses register low on the scare-o-meter. The twist ending ramps up the campiness factor even more and turns a tepid mystery into a ludicrously ridiculous mystery. It doesn't matter how great a detective is, if the mystery itself just inspires boredom or fits of laughter.
There's also the issue of the budget, which looks to rank somewhere just above the original Doctor Who. It's all shot on video, giving it that soap opera feel. There's also some truly heinous use of blue screen. While this wouldn't have been entirely detrimental if the stories were good, the low production values make this even harder to watch. At the very least, Acorn Media has done a good job in the packaging of the show. They've given a biography for every author and their creation, even letting you know the names of the works where you can find these detectives.
When all is said and done, none of these characters, some of whom were extremely popular in their day, managed to hit the magic combination of compelling cases and interesting characters like a certain Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did. At best, this is a rental for those interested in the era and hoping to get a fix to quell their Holmes jonesing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 654 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Author Profiles