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Case Number 21170: Small Claims Court

Buy Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection at Amazon

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection

The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes
1939 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
The Hound Of The Baskervilles
1939 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Sherlock Holmes And The Voice Of Terror
1942 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon
1943 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
1943 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Sherlock Holmes In Washington
1943 // 71 Minutes // Not Rated
The Pearl Of Death
1944 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
The Scarlet Claw
1944 // 74 Minutes // Not Rated
The Spider Woman
1944 // 62 Minutes // Not Rated
The House Of Fear
1945 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Pursuit To Algiers
1945 // 65 Minutes // Not Rated
The Woman In Green
1945 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Dressed To Kill
1946 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
Terror By Night
1946 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by MPI
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // April 20th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge William Lee is a master of elementary observation only between recess and lunch.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (published June 30th, 2004), Dressed to Kill (1980) (Blu-ray) (published September 15th, 2011), The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939) (published July 1st, 2004), The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1958) (published September 10th, 2002), The Sherlock Holmes Collection: Volume One (published March 19th, 2004), Sherlock Holmes In Washington / Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (published September 22nd, 2010), Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection (Blu-Ray) (published March 29th, 2011), The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1983) (published November 18th, 2010), and Terror By Night (published October 7th, 2005) are also available.

The Charge

"No one in the world is safe, Watson. Least of all us."

-- Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone)

The Case

Let's get this out of the way right now: I've never read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, I've always known the character having seen him in countless movies, television shows, spoofs, animated reinventions and so forth. Surely, Holmes is the most famous detective in all of fiction. Though I was watching the 14 movies on The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection for the first time, an unconscious sense of familiarity quickly influenced my viewing experience. After a while, it was like the critical part of my mind simply relaxed and I felt comforted by the way each story unfolded. Holmes will definitely make things clear and catch the villain; Watson, despite his bumbling, will undoubtedly remain loyal, safe and perhaps even prove his worth. The consistently enjoyable quality of these films, made between 1939 and 1946, must be largely attributed to the lead actors. Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Robin Hood) as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce (She) as Dr. Watson are among the great duos in movie history. Even though these characterizations may differ from their literary depictions, Rathbone and Bruce embody the roles with such confidence, grace, and charm that they always feel like the characters we've always known.

The world's greatest detective is treated like a celebrity in these movies. Everyone knows his name and reputation. People stop in their tracks to ask, "Are you the Sherlock Holmes?" Rathbone has a cool, arrogant confidence about him that makes it entirely convincing that he warrants the adulation but he's also completely unfazed by it. When he rattles off observations that put everyone else in the room in their place, we don't think he's being a jerk, we marvel at his superior intellect. A liberally reinterpreted Dr. Watson functions as a comic sidekick through much of these movies. Though he dominates a major portion of screen time in the first film, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Watson comes off as a loyal but slow-witted companion. He always has his gun at the ready, however, so he is useful to the master sleuth who sends him out as a decoy most of the time. In a sense, Watson is the viewer's surrogate since we are likewise always catching up to Holmes. The detective observes things we don't notice, understands people in a way we can't fathom and he does much of his research and planning off screen. These mysteries aren't whodunits that invite the audience to solve the crime—in many of the stories it's made plainly obvious who the bad guy is. The joy is in watching Holmes at work. Like Watson, we must simply have faith in Holmes and allow him to get the job done.

The first two movies of this collection, made by Twentieth Century Fox in 1939, are faithful to the Victorian setting of the original stories. When Universal Pictures took over the brand three years later, the stories were updated to the period of the Second World War. This creative decision gave us three films pitting Holmes against the Nazis. While the movies are competent thrillers, it is a little odd to see the iconic character in such deliberately politicized stories. The subsequent movies remained in their modern period but dropped the direct references to WWII for dark crime stories such as The House of Fear and The Woman in Green. The sleuthing pair still logged plenty of miles with entries like Pursuit to Algiers, which is an enjoyable lightweight entry though it's generally regarded as the weakest in the series. After seeing a few films, it does feel like the series settles into a comfortable pattern. The atmospheric Scottish moors of The Hound of the Baskervilles is memorable, but I'm hard pressed to recall another set piece moment or instance of filmic inventiveness that stands out. The makers of these movies found a style that worked well for the world of its subject and they cranked out consistently satisfying results.

The UCLA Film and Television Archive completed a restoration of the 12 Universal movies in 2003. The films look quite good but their picture quality varies from film to film and also from reel to reel within the same film. The black and white tones are clean and cool—the later films are really gorgeous in some scenes. Image sharpness is good but at times the edges aren't smooth. There may be some compromise for compression since three movies are packed onto each of the first four discs. Every movie has a few scenes where blemishes like scratches, dust and various pops are noticeable but not enough to distract from the movie. The first two films made under the Twentieth Century Fox banner were not given the restoration treatment. It is obvious that they were mastered from elements more worn than the other 12 but, again, not to the point of distraction. Considering the age and history of these films (they entered the public domain after the studios didn't renew the rights) they look better than should be expected. MPI released each movie on single discs after their restoration in collected volumes. Then followed their release of the complete set. This five-disc set, originally released in 2006, is reissued at the same time as the Blu-ray debut of the set. At the time of writing this review, both format options are offered at the same price point so, if you're equipped, the Blu-ray is probably the better choice. The set of 14 movies, on either format is great value for Sherlock Holmes fans and just about anyone who enjoys classic mysteries and thrillers. The strength of this collection of films is enough to inspire me to read some of the original stories.

Commentaries by Holmes experts accompany six of the movies. Dressed to Kill has a panel commentary that includes actress Patricia Morison. The first disc includes an introduction about the restoration. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is seen and heard in a short archival film on the fifth disc. All the photo galleries and trailers are found on the fifth disc.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1939
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

• Commentary

Scales of Justice, The Hound Of The Baskervilles

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, The Hound Of The Baskervilles

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1939
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Hound Of The Baskervilles

• Commentary

Scales of Justice, Sherlock Holmes And The Voice Of Terror

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Sherlock Holmes And The Voice Of Terror

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1942
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Sherlock Holmes And The Voice Of Terror

• None

Scales of Justice, Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon

• Commentary

Scales of Justice, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

• Commentary

Scales of Justice, Sherlock Holmes In Washington

Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Sherlock Holmes In Washington

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Sherlock Holmes In Washington

• None

Scales of Justice, The Pearl Of Death

Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, The Pearl Of Death

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 1944
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Pearl Of Death

• Trailer

Scales of Justice, The Scarlet Claw

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, The Scarlet Claw

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Release Year: 1944
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Scarlet Claw

• Commentary
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, The Spider Woman

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, The Spider Woman

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 62 Minutes
Release Year: 1944
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Spider Woman

• Trailer

Scales of Justice, The House Of Fear

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, The House Of Fear

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 1945
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The House Of Fear

• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Pursuit To Algiers

Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Pursuit To Algiers

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 65 Minutes
Release Year: 1945
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Pursuit To Algiers

• None

Scales of Justice, The Woman In Green

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, The Woman In Green

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1945
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Woman In Green

• Commentary

Scales of Justice, Dressed To Kill

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Dressed To Kill

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 1946
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Dressed To Kill

• Commentary
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Terror By Night

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile, Terror By Night

Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 1946
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Terror By Night

• Trailer








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