The Sherlock Holmes Collection

The Sherlock Holmes Collection (1968)
A&E Home Video
Cast: Peter Cushing, Nigel Stock
Extras: Documentary

During the 1960s the British Broadcasting Corporation created a television series based on the exploits of master sleuth Sherlock Holmes, starring none other than Peter Cushing as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective. Most of the episodes have been lost but courtesy of A&E Home Video, we are now able to behold what is left o the series on this 3-disc DVD set.

"The Sherlock Holmes Collection" contains the feature-length pilot of the series, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" in which Cushing reprises his role in this mystery that he had put on celluloid before already for the Hammer Studios. With Nigel Stock as Dr. Watson by his side, they solve the mystery in the fog-shrouded moors of Dartmoor in the story that has probably become the most famous of all Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Also included are the mysteries "A Study In Scarlet," "The Sign Of Four," "The Blue Carbuncle" and "The Boscombe Valley Mystery."

This BBC series tried as best as they could to stay true to the original short stories by Doyle, thus presenting us with very faithful interpretations. Cushing makes for a good Sherlock Holmes, though in my mind Basil Rathbone will forever remain the penultimate Holmes. That is a personal preference however and should not be considered a detriment to Cushing's acute portrayal of Holmes. I have been re-reading the stories only recently and was struck just how cold and detached a character Holmes is oftentimes in these mysteries. Cushing manages to capture that aloof attitude very well, that untouchable sense of superiority that infiltrates Holmes' every move and line.
The production is decent, particularly for a television production of the era. Sets are limited but manage to produce the desired effects, though the most striking thing about the series is probably its overall look. Instead of having the shallow field of depth associated with movies typically, this series has a definitive TV look throughout.

In terms of the presentation quality, sadly the show hasn't fared very well. Starting the with problem that this PAL-produced show had to be transferred to NTSC, resulting in some minor artifacts, the biggest problem is that the image has deteriorated quite dramatically. One can only speculate where the elements for this presentation come from – as I mentioned in my opening, most of the show has actually been lost – so it is not surprising to see that the presentation is full of discoloration and defects. There is signal noise in the image as well as an incredible amount of ghosting, giving the image a very soft and washed out look and particularly motion is visible blurry. Colors are muted and the overall contrast is fairly weak. While for an ordinary DVD presentation this would be entirely unacceptable, in this case, I feel it is the nature of the beast. A&E must have asked themselves whether it should release material of this quality, and I am glad they decided to go for it. I'd rather be able to see these episodes in this severely limited quality than not at all. It may not please the purists but ultimately not every DVD release can look like a million bucks if the source elements are on the brink of complete deterioration.

The release features a Dolby Stereo track that is working well and is without major problems. I would have welcomed subtitles or close-captions, of course, as I feel they should be integral part of any release.

As an extra the release contains the documentary "Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective."

For fans of Sherlock Holmes and for completists, there is finally a way to own these cherished adaptations of Holmes mysteries on DVD – or what is left of them. This is clearly a release targeting a certain group of fans and as such, despite its shortcomings and state of deterioration, I feel it is well worth your time to take a look at these interpretations of the famous adventures.