Sherlock Holmes (1916) [Blu-ray/DVD Dual-Format Edition]
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Blu-ray/DVD Dual-Format Edition
In commemoration of the 99th anniversary of the film s original release, Flicker Alley along with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and La Cinémathèque française is proud to present the Blu-ray/DVD premiere of one of the holy grails of lost films: William Gillette s Sherlock Holmes.
Long considered lost until a complete dupe negative was identified in the vaults of la Cinémathèque française last year, this William Gillette film is a vital missing link in the history of Sherlock Holmes on screen. By the time it was produced at Essanay Studios in 1916, Gillette had been established as the world s foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage having played him approximately 1300 times since his 1899 debut. This newly-restored edition, thanks to the monumental efforts of both the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and la Cinémathèque française, represents the sole surviving appearance of Gillette s Holmes on film. Presented with optional French and English intertitles and an original score composed and performed by Neil Brand, Guenter Buchwald, and Frank Bockius, Flicker Alley is honored to bring Sherlock Holmes onto Blu-ray and DVD for the first time ever.
The film faithfully retains the play s famous set pieces Holmes s encounter with Professor Moriarty, his daring escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber, and the tour-de-force deductions. It also illustrates how Gillette, who wrote the adaptation himself, wove bits from Conan Doyle s stories ranging from A Scandal in Bohemia to The Final Problem, into an original, innovative mystery play.
Film restorer Robert Byrne says, It s an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette s Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette s magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the original Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time.
Bonus Materials Include:
- Optional English and French intertitles
- From Lost to Found: Restoring William Gillette s Sherlock Holmes Presented by film restorer Robert Byrne at the 2015 San Francisco Silent Film Festival
- Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900): Courtesy of the Library of Congress and presented in HD, this is the earliest known film to feature the character of Sherlock Holmes.
- A Canine Sherlock (1912): From the EYE Film Institute, the film stars Spot the Dog as the titular character.
- Più forte che Sherlock Holmes (1913): Also from the EYE Film Institute, this entertaining Italian trick-film owes as much to Méliès as it does Doyle.
- HD transfers from the Fox Movietone Collection: Interview with Arthur Conan Doyle and outtakes from a 1930 newsreel with William Gillette showing off his amateur railroad (University of South Carolina).
- A PDF typescript of the 1899 Sherlock Holmes play by William Gillette.
- A PDF of the original contract between William Gillette and the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.
- A booklet featuring images from the film and information about the restoration project.
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Check out the first Comment (dated September 1, 2015) following my review.
This 1916 silent film was believed lost for 98 years until a print was found in France.
This is not just any Sherlock Holmes film.
In 1899 William Gillette appeared on Broadway in his own dramatization of "Sherlock Holmes" (just twelve years after the first print appearance of the detective).
The play was billed as co-written with Arthur Conan Doyle, but Gillette did most of the work.
Their collaboration was mostly by telegram.
On one occasion Gillette telegraphed Conan Doyle: "May I marry Holmes?"
Doyle's response: "You may marry him, or murder him or do what you like with him."
In September 1901, Gillette and his play opened at the Lyceum Theatre in London - showing the natives how it's done.
William Gillette, not Doyle, was responsible for three Sherlock Holmes trademarks:
--- The curved meerschaum pipe. Earlier illustrations always showed Holmes with a straight clay pipe.
--- Billy the Page: The character was recycled by Conan Doyle twenty years later for "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone".
--- The line "Oh, this is elementary, my dear fellow", which evolved into "Elementary my dear Watson".
In the 1890s, the best known illustrator of Sherlock Holmes was Sidney Paget of Strand Magazine.
But in the new century, Frederic Dorr Steele of Collier's Magazine set the standard.
He drew the illustrations for "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" when it appeared in 1903.
Steele used William Gillette as his model, and the actor became the popular vision of what Sherlock Holmes was supposed to look like.
Some of his best-known magazine covers appear below.
Gillette was 46 years old when the play opened on Broadway, but he was 63 by the time of the 1916 film version (his final stage appearance as Sherlock Holmes was at age 79).
Filmed in Chicago (yeah!) by the Essanay Film Corporation.
A lengthy film for 1916: seven reels (116 minutes).
Typical of classier productions, the film is tinted sepia for indoor scenes and blue for night scenes.
-- The supporting cast is mostly forgotten, though Ernest Maupain is an effective Moriarty (he usually played comic villains at Essanay).
The IMDB data base credits a surprisingly thin Edward Arnold (age 26) in a bit part as "crippled henchman in striped cap" (@1:30:30 - he’s the henchman on the left)
Edward Arnold appeared in 149 films between 1916 and 1956 (see photo).
-- The sole surviving print is in beautiful condition - no significant nitrate deterioration.
Amazing considering 98 years of neglect.
-- I wish there was more exterior shooting in 1916 Chicago.
One exception: Moriarty's gas chamber was located in a really scary Chicago alley - it looked like the brick walls still showed signs of scorching from the Chicago Fire.
-- At 116 minutes, this was a straightforward filming of the play.
It probably would have benefited from a little tightening up.
The director, Arthur Berthelet (1879-1949), was a Broadway veteran who simply directed the play while the cameras filmed it.
He directed eight films in 1916 and eight in 1917, following which his career just petered out.
The 1922 John Barrymore version of the same play was 85 minutes, which seemed about right.
Directed by Albert Parker (not one of the Greats, but he understood film editing.)
A Mystery: Arthur Berthelet directed 21 silent films between 1915 and 1925.
Then after a long hiatus, he came back to work on thirteen sound films between 1937 and 1948.
Not as a director, but as the "dialogue director" (usually uncredited) - source: Internet Movie Data Base.
Bonus Features with the Gillette film:
- Twenty page booklet.
- Illustrated lecture on film restoration
- Lobby Card photographs from the 1899 Broadway play and the 1916 film.
- Original script of the play and Gillette's contract with Essanay Films (on DVD-ROM)
- Three silent shorts (see my filmography):
----- "Sherlock Holmes Baffled" (1900)
----- "A Canine Sherlock" starring Spot the Dog (1912)
----- "Più forte che Sherlock Holmes" (1913)
- Two Fox Movietone newsreels with sound:
----- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1928)
----- William Gillette (1930)
I just wish that Johnston Forbes-Robertson's 1913 Hamlet feature, which exists, would be released to Dvd. At the time of his first performances of Hamlet, he was considered by many critics to be the best Hamlet in history. Another instance of a brilliant performer/performance of the past existing in much more than just print reviews.
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Restoration is amazingly good
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