Sherlock Holmes: The Classic BBC Series Starring Douglas Wilmer
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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very dissatisfied. Every episode skipped or paused. So disappointedPublished 3 months ago by jan sharpe
I always loved Holmes. And this was just added to my collection. I just started watching them. But am pleased with what I have seen so far.Published 5 months ago by RALPH MANN
My twin sister was a great fan of Jeremy Brett's 1980' series as the great detective. And there is much to be said for her view. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Gerard D. Launay
A most interesting piece to be added to any Sherlock Holmes collectionPublished 6 months ago by Daniel A. Antidormi
I did not enjoy the series, but then as a "Dyed in the Wool" fan of Sherlock Holmes I look at any actor in the numerous characterization of Doyle's great sleuth and this... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Robert H. Boyer
This is a really interesting Sherlock Holmes BBC series from the early 1960's. There are 11 episodes and more than watchable but, of course, the video is not perfect. Read morePublished 8 months ago by DM Tucson
Another great Sherlock - highly recommend, particularly if you like British entertainment, and I do.Published 10 months ago by Tag68
Surprisingly very good, well acted and big time interesting also. If you like Holmes you need thisPublished 11 months ago by Bill Towle
Sorry, Douglas Wilmer was not the definitive Sherlock Holmes and neither was Nigel Stock the definitive Doctor Watson. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Miri Riva