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THE SHERLOCK HOLMES COLLECTION:
VOLUME THREE

As a fan of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies made during the 1930s & 1940s, I can honestly say that I am absolutely delighted by the recently restored editions of these delightful films that have been released through MPI Home Video. For those unaware of the history of these films, here is a brief recap. The majority of the films in Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes series were released through Universal Pictures as quick, entertaining programmers during the 1940s. While these movies continually played on television during my youth, years of abuse and neglect lead to the film elements falling on rather hard times. During the video era, the only way one was likely to see one of these Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies was in a poor quality presentation, usually made from battered 16mm prints, countless generations off the original negatives. As I mentioned above, these films have recently been restored to their 35mm glory with THE SHERLOCK HOLMES COLLECTION: VOLUME THREE being made available on DVD for $69.98, or $19.98 each for the four individual films that comprise the collection.

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SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE WOMAN IN GREEN is very loosely adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure Of The Empty House, with Holmes coming up against his arch nemesis Professor Moriarity (this time portrayed by Henry Daniell) in a story that involves the grisly murders of four women in London, each of whom has had a finger severed by the killer. PURSUIT TO ALGIERS would seem to have very little to do with the stories of Conan Doyle, but the movie proves to be surprisingly good fun, with Holmes and Watson protecting a young king from assassins while making the crossing from England to Algiers.

TERROR BY NIGHT lifts ideas from various Conan Doyle stories and packages them into a highly entertaining adventure that finds Holmes protecting an enormous diamond named the "Star of Rhodesia" from murderers and thieves on a London to Edinburgh train. SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL reworks the plot of Conan Doyle’s The Six Napoleons, with Sherlock Holmes investigating the thefts and murders that follow on the auction of three seemingly insignificant music boxes. The supporting players in these four Holmes adventures include Hillary Brooke, Frederick Worlock, Paul Cavanagh, Matthew Boulton, Marjorie Riordan, Rosalind Ivan, Martin Kosleck, John Abbott, Alan Mowbray, Dennis Hoey, Patricia Morison and Edmond Breon.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE WOMAN IN GREEN, PURSUIT TO ALGIERS, TERROR BY NIGHT and SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL all arrive on DVD looking remarkably good, with the same general video presentation. MPI Home Video has mastered the four films from truly fine black and white transfers, which present each movie in the proper 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio. As with the films in the previous collections, the image quality of this current crop of DVDs is utterly gorgeous, especially in comparison to the horrendous PD video incarnations that fans have had to suffer with for decades. I am sure many of you remember those intolerably soft, grainy presentations that had blown out contrast and virtually no fine detail.

Unlike those previous incarnations, each of these four restored films offers up a sharp and beautifully defined picture, which allows one to appreciate subtle details that have been absent from PD versions of these movies that have hit the market. Blacks appear inky, plus the whites are solid and completely stable. Contrast is also great, as is the grayscale, which produces a great deal of nuance in the image. As for the restored film elements, they appear to be in great shape. Of course, stock footage appears a bit rough and occasionally soft. Also, sequences with rear projection and fog effects have some issues with softness and less than ideal contrast. Film grain is generally mild, but shots with some process work can exhibit a bit more. Digital compression artifacts are fairly well concealed on all of the DVDs.

All four of the films that comprise THE SHERLOCK HOLMES COLLECTION: VOLUME THREE come with good sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. During the restorations and mastering processes, the majority of background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned up. As one might expect from these vintage films, the fidelity of all four soundtracks does have some limitations. Still, the tracks produce a crisp, clean sound that renders the Universal stock music in a fairly pleasant manner. Dialogue is always completely intelligible, with the voices of both Rathbone and Bruce retaining their distinctive flavor. No other language tracks are included on the DVDs; however, English subtitles have been provided.

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Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features. Supplemental materials are provided for the four-disc collection, but not on the individual releases of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE WOMAN IN GREEN, PURSUIT TO ALGIERS, TERROR BY NIGHT and SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL. Author David Stuart Davies provides a running audio commentary on SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Other materials include a still gallery of production photos and poster art, plus archive footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Having SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE WOMAN IN GREEN, PURSUIT TO ALGIERS, TERROR BY NIGHT and SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL restored to their 35mm glory is indeed a revelation. One no longer needs to suffer through battered 16mm prints (too many generations off the original negatives to count) because these four films do indeed look wonderful once again. If you are fan of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies, then you will want to add this set to your collection. Very highly recommended.

 

THE SHERLOCK HOLMES COLLECTION: VOLUME THREE 


Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume 3 (Dressed to Kill/In Pursuit to Algiers/Terror By Night/The Woman in Green)

 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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