Prelude To Murder

Prelude To Murder (1946)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Patricia Morison, Edmund Breon
Extras: Two Versions, Theatrical Trailer

There are some things I just can't say "No" to. Sherlock Holmes movies and stories are one of them. When 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment dropped a DVD version of "Prelude To Murder" I was more than eager to check it out, of course. The film marks the last time Rathbone and Bruce stepped in front of the camera as the infamous sleuths, which further adds charm to the film, as we see the story unfold and one last time have the chance to witness the chemistry and wonderful acting that made their pairing so enjoyable.

Also known as "Dressed To Kill," the Sherlock Holmes adventure "Prelude To Murder" is coming to DVD courtesy of Legend films and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. This 1946 story of the legendary British detective revolves around three musical boxes that seem to contain information about the whereabouts of the loot from a robbery – namely, print plates for 5 pound notes, stolen directly from the Bank of England. One by one, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson try to piece together the puzzle and find out what the clues are and where they lead before these print plates fall into criminal hands and disappear forever.

"Prelude To Murder" is not based on an actual Arthur Conan Doyle story, but instead, sort of veers off the adventure "A Scandal In Bohemia" from 1891, making references to that story while creating a completely new mystery.

Starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, this 1946 story is presented in two versions on this release, both of them in their original fullframe aspect ratio. The first one is a restored and colorized version of the movie, while the second one is the original black and white version, also restored. The restoration has been done very well and I've never seen a Rathbone Holmes film with such clarity. While contrast is still a bit at odds, the image shows virtually no scratches or blemishes. Slight registration problems make the image waver a bit but for the most part it is very clean. The biggest shortcoming is perhaps the stark contrast of the film, which is a result of the limitations of film stock back during the time when the movie was shot. The film is not able to finely delineate subtle shades, especially in dark areas, creating an image that has bold blacks and little shadow delineation. There's not too much that can be done about it as the image information is simply not there in the original and as such I was extremely pleased with the look of the film on this DVD. The compression has also been handled very well, making sure no compression artifacts are evident.

The release contains the movie's original mono audio track. Again, the track has been cleaned up and is free of pops or audible hiss. While it has a limited frequency response, it never feels muffled and has good, clear high ends that make sure dialogues are always understandable and without sibilance. Slight distortion is evident in select scenes – once again a limitation of the original production, of course. The dynamic range is adequate and makes sure everything is well balanced and audible, without being drowned out or lost through the noise reduction process. Although it does not contain language subtitles, the DVD has been close-captioned. All in all, very well done!

The release also contains the movie's trailer for the colorized version. It also looks very nice with very little grain and wear.

I was very surprised how great this film looks on this release. Having seen various other incarnations of this and other Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone, their quality has always been remarkably sub-par. Here we finally have a DVD that properly pays tribute to the film, making sure it looks and sounds as good as it can. After all, this is a classic movie that has many fans, all of whom will definitely be grateful for this remarkable showing.

For a mere $9.98 you can now own the best versions of the film ever to have graced home video, so for Holmes fans there is no question. Go get this one, as well as "Terror By Night," which 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is releasing in the same manner.