Sherock Holmes: The Last Vampyre

Sherock Holmes: The Last Vampyre (1992)
MPI Home Video
Cast: Jeremy Brett, Edward Hardwicke, Roy Marsden, Yolanda Vasquez
Extras: Image Gallery

Currently, MPI Home Video is releasing a series of ’Sherlock Holmes’ films on DVD, featuring Jeremy Brett in the part of the world-class sleuth. Most of you will be familiar with the films themselves, as they are recurring television fare that is always a welcome view. Stylish, atmospheric and well produced, ’The Last Vampyre’ is one of the great additions of the series.

In the past, MPI Home Video has always had some problems with the technical quality of their DVD releases. Fortunately things seem to have improved a bit since I last checked out one of their discs. Although not perfect, the transfer found on this release is a notable improvement over MPI’s previous efforts. Still, the presentation has its weaknesses. Notably immediately are two things. The transfer is extremely soft with edges that wash into each other, creating an image the severely lacks detail and definition. Secondly, the transfer is remarkably dark. The fact that there are virtually no details in the shadows, leads me to believe that the black level of the transfer has been set too high, removing all image information below that threshold, turning them into blackness. It gives the transfer a look that is overly contrasty and harsh. Colors are generally well reproduced, though a bit lifeless at times. The compression reveals some artifacts, mostly in the form of pixelation, but it is nowhere near as bad as in past MTI releases. Still, given the fact that there is still plenty of unused space on the disc, I wonder why the compressionist did not decide to give the transfer a higher bitrate to improve the image.

The DVD contains an image gallery with a handful of illustrations by Howard K. Elcock, who has illustrated many Sherlock Holmes print editions.

’The Last Vampyre’ is a passable release. The technical difficulties are a bit distracting but don’t make the release unwatchable. I am not sure why MPI is still having these quality problems after all these years but it begins with the quality of the master itself and goes all the way to the encoding of the video stream. Fans of Jeremy Brett’s Holmes shouldn’t be discouraged, though. This release is a nice addition to their collection.