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Sherlock Holmes: The Classic BBC Series Starring Douglas Wilmer

55 customer reviews

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(Sep 14, 2010)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The classic BBC run of Sherlock Holmes starring Douglas Wilmer is finally available on DVD! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective has enthralled generations since his first appearance in 1887. In 1964 BBC commissioned a series with Douglas Wilmer as Holmes and Nigel Stock as his faithful friend Dr. Watson. This DVD, never before released, includes some of the best stories from the canon. Whether it’s the horrifying case of The Speckled Band or the fascinating story behind The Red Headed League, this is a DVD must have for all Sherlock and mystery fans. Note: Of the original 13 episodes in this series, no source material exists for "The Abbey Grange" or "The Bruce-Partington Plans," so they are regrettably not included here.

The 1960s BBC series Sherlock Holmes has all the virtues of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective--shrewd and efficient, with flashes of visual panache but never at the expense of sturdy, straightforward storytelling. The 13 episodes on this DVD set include such favorites as "The Red-Headed League" and "The Six Napoleons," as well as lesser-known stories like "The Beryl Coronet" and "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax." Douglas Wilmer plays Holmes with all the traditional accouterments: the deerstalker cap, the pipe, the aquiline nose, the obsessive and abrasive nature, the mix of haughty superiority and moral compassion. Nigel Stock is a typically affable but dense Watson. The supporting casts feature an abundance of unknown but capable character actors who bring flavor and zest to their roles. Some episodes have a hint of film noir or the pulp surrealism of Fantomas, with good use of shadows and things not quite seen. The best stories traffic in the macabre. In "The Devil's Foot," a woman dies overnight while playing cards with her brothers, who each went mad; they sit at a round table, the woman's hand covered in melted wax from the candle, the men grinning, twitching, and laughing. Holmes, of course, will suss out the truth--but the truth is less likely to stick in the mind than that weird domestic image. Sherlock Holmes walks that fine line between morbid imagination and complete faith in the power of the rational mind. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

Includes pilot episode "The Speckled Band"

Product Details

  • Actors: Douglas Wilmer, Nigel Stock, Peter Madden, Grace Arnold, Jimmy Ashton
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 14, 2010
  • Run Time: 650 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003NF97NA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,886 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sherlock Holmes: The Classic BBC Series Starring Douglas Wilmer" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 68 people found the following review helpful By it on September 17, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
These dramatizations are pleasant to watch and hold your attention. I am giving it only four stars because of two things that man bother some viewers and not others.

1. These were recorded on video tape about 50 years ago (in round numbers). It shows. They have not been digitally remastered. They have the usual low resolution, small amounts of snow, and in one episode, black blobs that stay put during the whole 50 minutes. They usually invisibly blend in with the dark objects and snow, but once in a while a thespian move so that it is on their face. Other episodes have less irritating imperfections. The audio does not have any defects.

2. These are short stories that are stretched out to last 50 minutes. If you consider that a full novel can fit in a 90 minute dramatization, you can guess how much padding is inserted and how many scenes are prolonged. Amateur cultural anthropologists, like myself, will not find this useless. They can enjoy the clothes, furniture, architecture, spoken language, and social interactions.

Anyway, if you are a Holmes fan, you should definitely buy this one.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By The Professor on September 29, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The surviving eleven episodes from the 1964-65 BBC Sherlock Holmes make their belated debut on DVD hot on the heels of A&E's recent release of the Peter Cushing episodes.

The Pros: Douglas Wilmer makes a fine Holmes, both in performance and appearance. He looks like a cross between the original drawings from The Strand Magazine and Basil Rathbone in profile. He spends far too much time wearing his cliche deerstalker cap, but he looks like he's having so much fun that I can forgive him. Nigel Stock as Watson is a competent actor giving his all, much as he did as Watson in the Cushing episodes. A fun touch for fans is when Jeremy Brett's first Watson, David Burke, shows up sans moustache as a young playboy gambler in one adventure. The stories hew very close to the Doyle originals, but are occasionally padded for time with fun additional moments that nicely complement the overall tone.

The Cons: The video quality varies from passable to abysmal. The very first episode is one of the worst, with "stair-step" video pixellation and immovable black specks screen center that constantly draw your eyes. Things improve a bit for the next nine episodes, but then the final episode spoils things with some awkward sound edits that clip dialogue. Since the BBC regularly wiped their tapes after transmission to re-record over them and save money, I suppose it's a small miracle we have these episodes in any form--But quite honestly the quality makes them look like the public domain prints of old TV shows you get eight on a disk for $5 at K-mart. In addition, the eleven 50 minute episodes are on four DVD-18 double-sided disks. It is practically impossible not to scratch them and they are much more prone to playback errors than single-sided DVDs.

In fact, I had to have Amazon send me a replacement when one of the episodes decided to freeze and go dead right in the middle of the action. Still, even with the above gripes, I recommend the set.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By J. Clark on October 14, 2010
Format: DVD
It marvelous being able to see this definitive 1960's black and white BBC television dramatisation of some of the best Sherlock Holmes Canon finaly on official BBC dvd,though I confess to having had most of the series in my possesion for many years via the collecting circuit.

Douglas Wilmer (who is still alive) is the only Holmes worthy of ranking alongside Jeremy Brett.They were both brilliant in their own way Wilmer plays Holmes as a matter of fact unemotional thinking machine and the late great Jeremy Brett played him as a rather more emotional unraveller of mysteries.Both got as close to the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as is imaginably possible.

Gawd knows why the BBC have released this classic series on dvd in America before the country they were made and financed in the UK no doubt for financial reasons the American market being so vast,but take it from me anybody remotely interested in Sherlock Holmes cannot afford not to see this series. You will never see a better telling of these tales.

Sadly the BBC havent done even the smallest amount of restoration of these recordings that have survived by virtue of it being preserved on telecine film used in the sixties to distribute tv recordings to other countries as it overcame the difficulties of broadcast formats.

Some sharpening of the picture quality and cleaning up of the hissy low volume sound would have made these vintage recordings much more palatable to the younger audience spawned on digital clarity.

Theirs no extras at all, even though the brilliant Douglas Wilmer is still alive and has recently been videoed discussing the series.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. Casey on September 24, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
After buying the Peter Cushing/Nigel Stock BBC series, I didn't think my collection would be complete, so I decided to risk it and go for this series, too.

I found it great fun - though, as the reviewer above me mentioned, some of the shows seem rather stretched out - (notibly The Red-Headed League) and I do wish the episodes could have been remastered, as the Cushing series was.

I have never seen Wilmer in anything before, but his Holmes grew on me, and Nigel Stock makes a sturdy Watson.

With two notible exceptions, none of the guest actors I saw were at all familiar.... (for appearing in anything else,) but sharp-eyed viewers will catch Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor Who) in "The Devil's Foot" and David Burke (that's right, the first Doctor Watson in the acclaimed Granada series -1984-1995) as Sir George Burnwell in The Beryl Coronet - a story the even the Granada series didn't get to.

All in all, good fun and I feel I got what I paid for.
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Sherlock Holmes: The Classic BBC Series Starring Douglas Wilmer
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