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Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes - Dr. Bell & Mr. Doyle (2000)

Ian Richardson , Charles Dance , Paul Seed  |  NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes - Dr. Bell & Mr. Doyle + Murder Rooms - The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes + Murder by Decree
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Product Details

  • Actors: Ian Richardson, Charles Dance, Robin Laing, Dolly Wells
  • Directors: Paul Seed
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • 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: BFS Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 14, 2011
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,277 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Outside of the refined halls of Edinburgh University, a young Arthur Conan Doyle is learning his first lesso... in murder.

In 1878, when Mr. Doyle (Robin Laing) meets the brilliant Dr. Bell (Ian Richardson), he is drawn away from his medical studies into a new world of crime investigation. As the pair assist local police in solving their most gruesome cases, Doyle becomes fascinated with Bell's uncanny talent for outthinking seasoned detectives and outwitting the most clever criminals.

However, one particularly vicious cat-and-mouse game has a different outcome. Doyle finds his life completely changed and even Dr. Bell's agile mind cannot predict how this story will end!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
As I learned from a little research after viewing this new 2011 DVD release, the 117 minute film was produced by the BBC in 2000 as the pilot for TV series titled Murder Rooms. There were four subsequent hour-long episodes that were released on DVD (but not this pilot). This film - like most "pilots" stands on its own, though I might want to seek out the others - based on the high production values of the film.

The subject here is how author Arthur Conan Doyle created his character, Sherlock Holmes. Because of a restriction on Doyle's personal papers, there is not a lot of evidence of Doyle's early life. So the script is based on an "idea", rather than fact. But as a "mystery" this film is highly recommended. Ian Richardson, as Dr. Bell - for whom Doyle (allegedly) was a clerk while in medical college - is superb. And the much lesser known Robin Laing (as Doyle) is nearly as good. The cleverness of Bell's deductions which help find the serial killer are what keep you interested. And, since this is a "period piece", the film - at least in this transfer - doesn't appear dated.

There is the requisite "romantic angle" to the story but this is carried out without destroying the mystery.

The BFS release adds a few "special features" including "text on screen" Production Notes, Actor bios and - as a DVD-ROM bonus, the full text of the novel The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I enjoyed this and any Holmes fan - or lover of high quality BBC-TV dramas - should as well.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good BBC Mystery Series.. May 14, 2011
This is a BBC series supposedly based on the real history of how Doyle created SHERLOCK HOLMES. The series follows Doyle as a medical student when he meets one of his instructors, Dr. Bell. This leads to a series of mysteries and murders that Doyle and Bell solve. I liked this series and gave it 5 stars. The stories are well written and on par with other "Sherlock" mysteries.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Judge James A. Stewart, DVD Verdict--It begins with Doyle (Robin Laing, Band of Brothers) telling a story while hiding out from enraged readers after bumping off Sherlock Holmes. He recalls his early meeting with Bell, whom he initially thought was rather, well, nuts. Bell's doing tests with whips and bullets on a dead body, and his reading of someone's life history from observations has the air of psychic parlor games. There's enough oddity and theatricality in the performance by Ian Richardson (Brazil) as Bell to make that initial underestimation believable, and enough passion and determination to make Doyle's later admiration believable as well. Doyle's impression of Bell changes when he sees the body of a beggar and realizes that the police aren't really looking too hard at the facts. Laing's Doyle is a fairly typical student, skeptical but willing to learn and genuinely caring about people.

From there, Doyle becomes Bell's clerk, and they head off in search of a serial killer with a mystery involving a bloody room, some possible poisonings, and severed ears. There's a solution, but Bell doesn't believe it, and that will make an impact on Doyle's life.

The picture and sound are quietly well-done, with no noticeable problems. Extras include a text biography of Doyle and production notes, both of which will help viewers to piece together what was real and what was fiction in Dark Beginnings. Cast bios and a DVD-ROM edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are also included. It's a decent DVD package, although viewers might be distressed to learn it only contains the initial movie, and not the follow-up series.

I don't believe Doyle was really out there playing Watson to Bell's Holmes, but the performances make the unlikely into something entertaining to contemplate.
-Full review at
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect addition to my Sherlock Holmes DVDs October 2, 2011
Verified Purchase
I own all the Jeremy Brett "Sherlock Holmes" dvd's. They are the best representation of Conan Doyle's stories. This series is even darker but it also is very realistic. It is a prequel to all the other stories from Conan Doyle's perspective. It is very insightful into Doyle's background for his stories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark story, bright Brit storytelling October 18, 2011
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This is an intriguing and entertaining story inspired by the original Holmes tales colored with the more modern sensibilities of maybe "Silence of the Lambs" and "From Hell." The production looks much less teevee-like than most British teevee shows. And, by the way, it's not really 1.33:1; it's a decently letterboxed, non-anamorphic 1.66.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Excellent BBC Mystery August 30, 2013
Unfortunately this is a very limited series consisting of this almost two hour feature and a handful of additional episodes. It is based upon an imaginative reconstruction of the teacher-student relationship that did not in reality exist between medical student Conan Doyle and one of his Professors Dr. Bell. We know from Doyle that he was a student of Bell and based some aspects of Holmes upon him. The nature of their interaction with each other and between them and others on this mini-series is purely fiction as are the 'cases' to which Bell, with Doyle's assistance, was involved.
As was true of the excellent Sherlock Holmes series BBC put out some decades ago, Bell and Doyle is interesting but not exciting, there are no truly explosive incidents, no raw sex, no shoot-outs, no cussin', just solid character development, realistic scenic design, and interactions on a plain human level.
Those who crave fast action and contemporary ethos will not be satisfied. Those who liked Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, and others of the staid school of law enforcement should find it nourishing fare.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great!!!! I loved it. Thank you
Published 21 days ago by Wendy Yates
4.0 out of 5 stars good story
not quite sherlock but after all it was only the beginning. it kept my interest, perhaps i will catch more detail the 2nd time i view.
Published 7 months ago by staupin
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Ian Richardson in this (even though he's not Jeremy Brett!!!)
Jeremy Brett IS Sherlock Holmes, bar none! Even so, Ian Richardson is excellent as Dr. Bell in this one-episode beginning tale of a young Arthur Conan Doyle and how he met Dr. Read more
Published 10 months ago by The Lilac Poet
5.0 out of 5 stars Holmes vs. Bell - a comparison!
One time Sherlock Holmes, Ian Richardson, does a splendid job portraying the character upon which Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is based. The basic story line is quite imaginative.
Published 11 months ago by Charles L. Davidson
4.0 out of 5 stars Before Sherlock Holmes
This is an interesting tale of a friendship between Arthur Conan Doyle and his medical professor, Dr. Bell. Read more
Published 12 months ago by steven gourley
4.0 out of 5 stars Background for Holmes Bands
Puts historical perspective on Arthur Conan Doyle to help explain the influences former teachers had on his literary works of Sherlock Holmes. Read more
Published 13 months ago by BlackCoffee
5.0 out of 5 stars Older TV movies
Great mysteries. The title shows the beginnings of SHERLOCK and Sir Author Conan Doyle. There REALLY was a Doctor Bell.
Published 14 months ago by halh
4.0 out of 5 stars Pre-Holmes Doyle
This is an excellent tale about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got his start. All Holmesians should enjoy it. Ian Richardson is superb.
Published 15 months ago by Drew E
5.0 out of 5 stars A must see
If you like Sherlock Holmes at all or are a true fan, this is a must. Well done and historical.
Published 17 months ago by D. West
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing, delivery and production
Great period-correct production. Well acted with a few weak spots in the delivery from "Mr. Doyle". I am a Sherlock Holmes fan and appreciate A.C. Read more
Published 18 months ago by orville poor
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