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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

Basil Rathbone , Nigel Bruce , Alfred L. Werker  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Ida Lupino, Alan Marshal, Terry Kilburn
  • Directors: Alfred L. Werker
  • Writers: Arthur Conan Doyle, Edwin Blum, William A. Drake, William Gillette
  • Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck, Gene Markey
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Unknown)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Mpi Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: April 27, 2004
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001DCYB4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,793 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Set in the Victorian Age and regarded by many as the finest of the fourteen films in the Sherlock Holmes/Basil Rathbone series, ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ was originally released in 1939 by Twentieth Century-Fox.

Professor Moriarty (George Zucco) has at long last been brought to trial for murder, but the ‘Napoleon of Crime’ is acquitted after the court finds a lack of sufficient evidence. Moriarty wastes no time in plotting his next crime, but in order to be successful he must divert the attention of the Great Detective.

Intimidating, anonymous letters sent to young socialite Ann Brandon (Ida Lupino) ; the murder of Miss Brandon’s brother; and threats to the security of a priceless gem consume the attention of Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and his companion Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce).

Are these mysterious occurrences simply erroneous distractions? Are they clues to a case irrelevant to the exploits of the evil Professor Moriarty? Or, are these portents of disaster inexorably linked to the master criminal’s plan to commit a crime that will shake the very foundation of the British Empire? It is for Holmes and Watson to sort out these mysteries and, hopefully, eliminate the menace of Professor Moriarty.

One of the most engaging features from 20th Century Fox's Holmes series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is also of historical interest as it based on a hugely popular, early 20th century stage play written by and starring William Gillette. Basil Rathbone cuts a fine figure as the lean, hawkish Great Detective, drawn into a complicated conspiracy by fiendish Dr. Moriarty (George Zucco) to distract Holmes while quietly preparing to steal the Crown Jewels. Nigel Bruce is on board as a buffoonish Dr. Watson, and British-born Ida Lupino is very good, and quite gorgeous, as a young woman who may be the target of a family curse. True-blue Sherlockians know that very little of Gillette's tale, and next to nothing about Zucco's or Bruce's performances, have anything to do with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's sacred canon. Still, this is a handsome production to enjoy on its own terms. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
OK. What was in the water back in 1939? Was there a conspiracy to make, like, a HUNDRED movies that would last for all time?

Gone With The Wind, Gunga Din, Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington...there's like two dozen more that you'd know by name...

...and THIS was made then TOO?


Anyways, this film is a great place to get to know Sherlock Holmes by way of Basil Rathbone. I can't imagine anyone else in the role (although others honestly have done a fine job) and when I read the novels, I 'see' him.

I love the interplay between Holmes and Nigel Bruce's Dr. Watson...they simply have the parts nailed. Nailed, nailed, nailed.

The breathless story involves, among other things, Professor Moriarty (of course), a diabolical nefarious "crime of the century", a mysterious woman, men of dubious intentions, a smattering of murders, and trying to find a fiddle note that irritates houseflies.

This is one of those movies that will have you saying, after it's over, "they sure don't make 'em like they used to!"

After seeing this, I went out and bought ALL of the remaining, lovingly remastered Rathbone/Bruce films, and plan on spending a few lazy Sunday afternoons with Mr. Holmes.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sherlock Holmes Never Looked Better on DVD January 22, 2005
Fans of the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce "Sherlock Holmes" series have a particular fondness for this 1939 Fox release - the last period adventure before Holmes and Dr. Watson re-emerged in a World War II setting at Universal Studios. Fox's high production values make this particular Holmes caper a standout, with classic performances from Rathbone, Bruce and George Zucco (as Professor Moriarty). A definite keeper for devotees of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventures of Sherlock Holmes October 20, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Adapted from a stage play based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" stands on its own as classic entertainment for detective fans of all ages, and may well represent the peak of the vintage 14-film series from the 1930's and 40's featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

As the legendary sleuth, Basil Rathbone further illustrates his mastery of the role with a dominating performance, which even includes a vaudeville song & dance turn in disguise. Nigel Bruce offers ample support as the ever-loyal Dr. Watson, who doesn't appear as the bumbling sidekick he would later become in the series. Ida Lupino portrays Holmes' latest client, Ann Brandon, while George Zucco appears as this film's devious Professor Moriarty.

Set authentically in the Victorian era, the story begins with Moriarty managing to elude justice (in the form of a hangman's noose) once again on a legal technicality, despite Holmes' best efforts. Afterwards, two separate plots (one of murder, one of theft) are soon rapidly afoot, but only Holmes realizes that Moriarty is somehow manipulating these diabolical events from behind the scenes.

Amidst the sinister fog of London's nights, Holmes is subsequently pushed to his limits attempting to keep his lovely client out of harm's way from a ruthless assassin, while trying to locate Moriarty in time in order to thwart his arch-nemesis' greatest scheme yet.

Lovingly restored by UCLA, this film is greatly entertaining and highly recommended!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Most say that the Rathbone/Bruce "Hound of the Baskervilles" is their best effort, but I beg to differ. This movie is, in my opinion, much better. There is just the right amount of intrigue and adventure. On another level, it's a pity that this is the last high-quality Holmes film Rathbone and Bruce made. The others were all grade B. One wonders why they didn't utilize the writers of their radio show in order to come up with better movie scripts after the film series switched hands from 20th Century Fox to Universal. It was partly because of this that they "updated" Holmes and Watson's adventures, making them take place in the 1940s. These were also the people who contributed to making Bruce's Watson such an idiot (even though he does have some terribly funny moments). This started the public viewing of Watson as an empty-headed bungler, which was NOT the Watson of Doyle's invention. Although this film is of higher quality, it still does have its share of flaws, though they're sparse. There is a rather large one that involves the cryptic drawing that Moriarty sends to Holmes via Ann Brandon. The drawing is so obvious that Holmes should have been able to deduce something instantly from it; but he is baffled enough by it that he has to go do some research at the British Museum. Another, rather irritating, flaw was that (and this is prevalent in the radio shows too) the script seems to make Holmes into a superhero at times. For instance, how would he have really known young Billy swept the dust under the rug on the landing outside the door of 221B? The door was closed and he was playing around with his violin at the time. He must have had x-ray vision for a few seconds. The rest of the film is generally good, except for a few melodramatic performances. Overall, the movie makes for fine, entertaining viewing; but generally I recommend seeking out the old radio show broadcasts.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great transfer for good film July 18, 2004
By A Customer
Most people either love or hate the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce series of Sherlock Holmes adventures. Critics always point out that the films bear little resemblance to Doyle's original stories, and this is true of the 12 "modernized" movies that Universal made between 1942-46. But the two 20th Century Fox movies (this one and Hound of the Baskervilles) are different. They were quality productions set during the Victorian era and, even when they altered characters or plots, remained true to the flavor of Doyle's creations. Best of all, Bruce's Watson was not the buffoon that he later became in the Universal pictures.
In my opinion, however, most objections are now irrelevant, thanks to the excellent and faithful adaptations that Britain's Granada television made with Jeremy Brett as Holmes. We can finally approach the Rathbone-Bruce films as typical Hollywood literary adaptations of their era, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is grand entertainment. The atmospheric photography, the eye for period detail, and the charming performances are things that film lovers should not deprive themselves of simply because of the film's lack of faithfulness to Doyle's stories. (Critics should keep in mind that Doyle licensed out his characters to other writers -- and even incorporated their inventions into his own stories!) I won't give away the plot, but suffice it to say that Adventures is one of the best of the Rathbone-Bruce series. (I also like Fox's Hound and Universal's Scarlet Claw.)
MPI has really surprised me with the quality of this transfer. Up until now, they've specialized in documentaries and TV shows, so their work here is very promising. (They own distribution rights to Beckett, and I'd love to see them transfer that to DVD.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the adventures.
A lot of adventures of Sherlock.
Published 2 months ago by Jan
5.0 out of 5 stars "Elementary Watson"
What makes this movie so great, is that Moriarty in the beginning of the movie. Tells Holmes what he's going to do, and dares Holmes to stop him. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ben Milton
4.0 out of 5 stars The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
It's a great story but they switched costumes from being 1930's style to going back to the 1800's. I found that rather unnecessary and not really believable but the acting kind of... Read more
Published 7 months ago by A. C. Wagner
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie
One of the best period Sherlock Holmes. Only Jeremy Brett makes a better Sherlock. This movie is far superior to any modern re-make or version.
Published 8 months ago by Elliott
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie
Going to tell you the same thing for every Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce "Sherlock Holmes" movie I purchased! They're all GREAT! Read more
Published 11 months ago by R. Mauler
5.0 out of 5 stars The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Interesting to see Ida Lupino in one of her earlier roles. Entertaining story. Rathbone is one of the best portrayers of Holmes.
Published 13 months ago by Charlene
5.0 out of 5 stars What's not to love!
We are fans of the older Sherlock Homes movies and have just about every one, it's just elementary Watson! Read more
Published 14 months ago by USKiwi
5.0 out of 5 stars Basil and Nigel are a team
This episode of the Classic series is well wirth the modest price. The Black and White tone of the production is marvelous. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Edward Gronet
4.0 out of 5 stars Rainy day
I love the old black nd white Sherlock Holmes, best for me when I'm at home and cen't get out because of the rain
Published 20 months ago by Leslie Ford
5.0 out of 5 stars Elementary!
If you are a lover of a good British Mystery you cant beat Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes portrayed by Basil Rathbone and his sidekick John Watson, MD (Nigel Bruce). Read more
Published 20 months ago by James T. Engle, Jr.
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Hound of the Baskervilles: Inca Death Dirge?
Did you get a reply? I have been curious for years.
Dec 31, 2009 by Veronica A. Goodloe |  See all 2 posts
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