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Customer Review

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Revelation on Blu Ray !!, October 28, 2011
This review is from: Sherlock Holmes: Complete Collection [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This review is will specifically address the question of whether or not this Blu Ray collection of classic Sherlock Holmes films is superior to and a worthy upgrade from the best DVD transfers currently available. I will assume you know the films and will mainly confine my review to issues related to the transfers themselves.

With that said I just wish to add that I have been watching these films for more than 50 years , first on television, then on VHS including some horrid public domain transfers, the MPI DVD's and the until now superior PAL Box Set released by Optimum Classic.

Much has been said about the UCLA Restorations and I feel I must add my voice to this conversation. UCLA , to the very best of my knowledge, did not "restore" these films, rather they rescued and "preserved" them from further deterioration. The difference being the films have NOT be overly cleaned up using the much ballyhooed frame by frame technique used on recent classics such as Ben-Hur, etc. In other words, the scratches, blips, wavering contrast/brightness and other inherent film imperfections remain, whether you purchase these titles on MPI DVD, Optimum Classic PAL or on this MPI Blu Ray release. UCLA did find the very best film elements to use for their preservation program and in some cases did have to revert to 16mm elements to restore certain missing title cards. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the fine work they did over a 10 year period and we are all the richer for it with the classic Rathbone series being preserved digitally for the foreseeable future.

This Blu Ray release gives you all 14 films on 5 discs. Arranged in chronologically order of release it takes up very little shelf space while providing a knock out one-two punch of quality entrainment and amazing quality. This collection easily retires my Optimum Classic PAL set which up to this point were the best classic Holmes transfers I had ever seen.

I am absolutely blown away by the video quality of this Blu Ray set. Having seen each of these films literally scores of time each it is like seeing them for the very first time. I was so happy to see the results that I had trouble sitting still in my chair while watching "Terror by Night" the other night. Overall the transfers are uniformly excellent. Some films fare better than others and this all depends on the condition of the film elements used. The transfer itself is virtually free of digital artifacts. Contrast is right on the money, they are bright, detailed and lush in every respect. DNR and edge enhancement is used to such a minimum that it is virtually imperceptible, if they used it at all. You will not see a pristine image such as the Blu Ray release of "Casablanca" but for "B" movie titles from the 40's the results are absolutely astounding.

As with the video quality the audio varies from feature to feature and again this has to do with the condition of the magnetic or optical soundtrack that existed on the elements used in the preservation. Overall they are VERY good. Presented in 16 bit non compressed linear PCM at 48khz Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes sounds better than it has since it's initial release in theaters.
MPI was not greedy and instead of releasing these one at a time and charging $19.99 each, they have instead given us the entire collection in a reasonable priced 14 film collection. These are a significance value and a set I will go back to again and again for many more hours of great entertainment.

As with most things , there seems to be a slight difference of opinion regarding the quality of these transfers and if these indeed represent a significant upgrade from their DVD counterparts. My position should be obvious, I firmly believe these are the definitive versions available for home video and I can not recommend them highly enough. The best money I have spent in a very long while!

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:

As much as I have raved about the wonderful video quality, it does come with some caveats. Basically the source material quality in some cases goes from uneven, to mid level and even to downright poor. Many times this occurs within the same film and switches quality levels more than once which can be a bit jarring and serves to take you out of the movie when it happens. The same thing is present on my DVD's but it is not so noticeable due to the lower overall resolution.

House of Fear suffers somewhat as the first reel of the presentation is obliviously from an inferior source, either a lower res DVD type file or a particularly bad piece of film , more than likely a 2nd or even 3rd generation print. Then magically at 11 minutes the image snaps to crystal clarity where it stays for another 2 or 3 reels, only to revert back to the lower quality image that the film started with. This goes on until partway thru the later pub scene where things get back to full HD quality and stay there for almost all of the remaining film. It can be a bit maddening at times since the GOOD quality image is so darn good that anything less than that is a big letdown. These are things you do not notice as easily when they happen on the previously released DVD's. It is regrettable as this is one of my favorites, but at least a good 2/3rds of the film has top quality PQ.

Another top favorite of mine is "Terror by Night" and I was very relieved to see this is one of the titles that looks wonderful from start to finish, stock footage of trains not withstanding. Phewww!

Bear all this in mind and before you judge just remember that MPI tried their best to give you all the bits they could from the best sources, but to present the entire film it was necessary for some scenes/reels to be sourced from less than ideal versions, namely 2nd and 3rd generation dupes and even 16mm source material. Basically it is a miracle the films exist at all with this high level of PQ.

The better quality your system is, the more you will notice the imitations of the source materials used. Of course you will ALSO notice the sheer beauty of the "good stuff" when they were working with top quality camera negatives. It IS a mixed bag, but overall the good far outweighs the bad and when it looks good, it looks VERY good.
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Showing 1-10 of 31 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 13, 2011 11:49:38 AM PST
I purchased this set and reviewed it when it first came out(April,2011) although your review is a hundred times better than mine. I'm re-watching them all for the fifth time and cannot believe how superb the PQ is on some of the titles, especially "Sherlock Holmes in Washington". When you can see the make-up on the actor's faces then you know you're seeing a print from the original negative and those details are missed on the other versions that I've owned. I just wish that Robert Gitt and his team could have restored the first two 20th Century-Fox titles but doubt if the original negatives exist for these. For instance, the original negative of "The Grapes of Wrath" no longer exists along with "In Old Chicago","The Song of Bernadette" and I could go on and on. It's a shame. At least Universal and Disney took care of most of their titles over the years(however, don't get me started on the Blu-ray of "Spartacus"). Anyway, I still think that Rathbone and Bruce were the best Holmes/Dr. Watson ever put on film. They were great friends in private away from the set and movie-making and it really shows on screen. I still think that Rathbone was bored with the character in the later films as he seemed to be going through the motions. On another note, you mentioned that you purchased the "Citizen Kane" set on Blu-ray. If you review it, keep in mind that the original negative was burned in a warehouse fire in New Jersey in the early Seventies along with many other titles. I would recommend reading the Wikipedia site on "Citizen Kane" under the subtitle: PRINTS to see just how great the restorers did with the blu-ray considering they didn't have the original negative. My next purchase will be the blu-ray of "My Fair Lady" this week and I'm saving my money for all the titles that are coming out next year. Universal is finally releasing four of the Hitchcock classics on Blu-ray: "Vertigo", "Rear Window", "The Man that Knew Too Much" and "The Birds" as well as a 50th Anniversery of "To Kill a Mockinbird". Sony is releasing a 50th of "Lawrence of Arabia" and Paramount is finally releasing the first three "Indiana Jones" films also. So now you know where my tax refund is going. Keep up the great writting. You're one of the best reviewers on Amazon and I always check to see if you've reviewed a blu-ray I'm interested in before purchasing it(like "The Sand Pebbles" my favorite Steve McQueen film) Cheers! Mike.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2011 12:15:06 PM PST
Marty Gillis says:
Thanks for your very kind words Mike. (although I doubt ANY of my reviews are 100 times better than anybody else's, but the compliment was surely appreciated) I am glad my reviews might be helpful to film lovers on the fence as to whether or not they should upgrade to the Blu Ray version. Those are the types I look for before purchasing.

While technically the Jeremy Brett series is more accurate to the texts (not to mention superlative acting all around) I absolutely always get a nice cozy feeling watching Basil And Nigel do their stuff. It never disappoints and is just the ticket for a cold rainy afternoon with a cup of hot tea and the phone turned off! Gimme some "Terror By Night" any old day!

You have given me some GREAT news regarding those 4 Hitchcock titles. I had known about The Birds, but not the others. That is simply wonderful news. Same goes for Indiana Jones. I keep hoping more Cary Grant titles will find their way to Blu Ray and also the Bogart/Bacall films as well.

Overall I still feel the job done with The Sand Pebbles is very very good. I have only a few minor quibbles with the PQ and those seem to be obviously due to the source material and are only minor things that occur, here and there. I wish I didn't have such a critical eye, then I could enjoy the films a bit more. HA HA But the first time or so I watch a favorite on Blu Ray I am paying special attention to every little thing, I just can't help myself!

As for the My Fair Lady release, I have read some very troubling reports from Blu Ray.com and since the "HD Sensei" is to be trusted , I am afraid this does not bode well. One can only hope he is wrong, but I highly doubt it. Go and check out his review of the Blu ray PQ and see what you think.

I notice the Citizen Kane Blu Ray set includes a very informative documentary which I had planned to view before watching the movie itself. I was not aware until I read your comment that the original negative was destroyed. From everything I have read online, Citizen Kane has absolutely wonderful PQ. I will certainly chime in with my own impressions after viewing, sometime in the near future.

OH, I almost forgot., hearing that Lawrence is coming Blu Ray, well that about takes the cake huh? YIKES! I can see where all my disposable income is going for the next few months or so easily. Thanks again for your kind remarks and I am very glad any of my reviews can be helpful to someone else. Cheers! Marty G

Posted on Nov 18, 2011 2:08:20 PM PST
Thanks for the info on "My Fair Lady". I checked it out and decided not to purchase it. I'll wait until 2014 and maybe they will put out a 50th Anniversery Edition in 8k!! So I'm using the money I'm saving by not purchasing "Lady" and will be buying the Blu-ray of "12 Angry Men" which Criterion is releasing week week. I have the regular DVD of the film(MGM) but the PQ is not up to par as far as I'm concerned. I was watching "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" the other night for the fifth or sixth time and thought that I recogonized one of the unbilled actors in the very beginning during the opening scene in "the Rat and the Raven Pub" who was not listed in the credits. Believe it or not it is Peter Lawford and he plays one of the sailors at the bar and even says a few lines. Can't believe I missed him the other times I watched it. Watched "The Spider Woman" again last night-beautiful print. Don't have any info yet on upcoming Cary Grant films on Blu-ray. Paramount seems to be taking their time with "To Catch a Thief" along with many others. I'd love to have "Murder on the Orient Express" on Blu-ray as well as "Chinatown"(both Paramount pictures) but will probably be on Medicare before they get around to releasing them. I did find out in addition to the ones that I already told you about that Universal is also releasing three Speilberg titles: "ET", "Jaws", and "Shindler's List" all on Blu-ray. That being said, the best Blu-ray release of the year was "Ben-Hur", hands down(even with the India censor frame and "black-out" of the face of Jesus). My next review will probably be "12 Angry Men" in the next couple of weeks. Cheers. Mike.

Posted on Nov 22, 2011 5:22:21 AM PST
Lone Ranger says:
Excellent Review...........

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2011 6:37:48 AM PST
Marty Gillis says:
Thanks OILMAN ! Cheers! Marty G

Posted on Dec 10, 2011 2:37:43 PM PST
Now everybody take note. THIS IS WHAT A REVUE SHOULD BE LIKE.Great revue Marty,thanks heaps

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2011 3:02:23 PM PST
Marty Gillis says:
Thanks very much Stephen for your kind remarks. I am still totally enjoying the set. For the most part I am 100% thrilled with it and just over the moon that my personal favorite "Terror by Night" is rendered in almost perfect picture quality!~ After watching these for many many years it is such a pleasure to see them in such good shape. After a bit of online research I have found out we all owe a bit of thanks to Mr. Hugh Hefner (yes, THAT Hugh Hefner) for his generous donation of cash towards funding this film preservation project. Like many of us here Mr. Hefner is a film lover and not afraid to put his money where his mouth is. (when it is not elsewhere! ha ha) Cheers! Marty G

Posted on Mar 3, 2012 8:19:12 AM PST
BOB SZVETICS says:
There are so many specks lines dirt in Voice Of Terror and the Pearl Of Death its is unwatchable the dvd box set is super compaired to these awefull blu-rays. on Pearl Of Death it looks like it snowing.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2012 9:03:46 AM PST
Marty Gillis says:
Hello Robert! I have these films on NTSC and also PAL DVD (which shows more resolution) and of course this Blu Ray set. In most cases the noise, specks and visible lines seem to be the result of the increased resolution with the Blu Ray 1080p scans clearly revealing the defects in the source material. Now I can't swear to it in court and some people will disagree with me, but all my research seems to indicate that these are the SAME transfers that are used in the NTSC and PAL DVD sets that use the UCLA preservation scans. The films were NEVER restored, only preserved..... If I ever hear of a full restoration I will buy these for a 4th time!

I am sorry you don't think these are better than the DVD presentations but to each their own. I would rather see the fully resolved picture details, even when it includes the various forms of age related print damage. The new release of "Notorious" with Cary Grant on Blu Ray doesn't look anywhere NEAR as good as most of these titles, yet gets decent reviews on all the big reviewing sites. Go figure! (I own it by the way) If you purchased this Holmes set on Blu Ray for the better resolution but don't like the results, I would recommend purchasing the PAL set from Amazon UK and a region free player. That will give you a bump in resolution but obscure most of the print damage that is so clearly seen in 1080p.

Either way, the movies are GREAT, print damage not withstanding. I have not regretted the purchase of this set for one minute. The good outweighs the bad for me! Cheers! Marty G

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2012 5:06:46 AM PST
Lone Ranger says:
Dear Marty,
I think I"ll stick with my UCLA restoration DVD "s
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