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MPI Home Video presents
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes—Volume Two (1983)

"Lay everything before us which may help us form an opinion on this matter."
- Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: December 11, 2001

Stars: Jeremy Brett, David Burke
Other Stars: Norman Jones, Jeremy Kemp, Rosalyn Landor
Director: Alan Grint, John Bruce

Manufacturer: Zomax
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violence, adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:48m:55s
Release Date: August 28, 2001
UPC: 030306177328
Genre: mystery

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+DC C-

DVD Review

British production company Granada International Television adapted The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in 1983, starring Jeremy Brett as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary detective and David Burke as his biographer and friend Dr. Watson. Granada brought some 46 Holmes tales to the small screen—MPI's second disc in a projected series presents the fifth and sixth one-hour episodes of the series: The Crooked Man, directed by Alan Grint; and The Speckled Band, directed by John Bruce. (See The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for info on the first, four-episode volume.)

To avoid spoiling the fun, I won't discuss the plot particulars of these episodes. Both are based on well-known Holmes stories (beware of spoilers) and feature wit, deduction, violence and dark psychology sufficient to honor the name. The episodes included here are different enough to play as two short movies, rather than consecutive episodes of an ongoing television series, with The Speckled Band the stronger of the two.

The series' production designers establish a literary, pseudo-period tone that feels just right, despite a visibly low budget. Doyle's fictionalized London is brought to life with hansom cabs, guttering streetlamps, and a convincingly false sheen of social elegance, constantly struggling to hide the darker realities underneath. The teleplays adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories seem faithful in tone and content without noticeable abridgement, and the lead performances are credible and fresh while following the classic lines established by Basil Rathbone and company. Brett's Holmes is sharp-witted, intelligent, unexpectedly witty and more than a little bit condescending, making for jolly good interplay with Burke's good-natured, frequently awestruck, puppy-dog-in-a-tweed-jacket Dr. Watson (who recognizes Holmes' personality flaws but doesn't make an issue of them). While supporting characterizations almost universally hew to the stereotypes long established by the genre, the show's maids and mistresses, lords and louts all seem appropriately cast and played. Jeremy Kemp in The Speckled Band is particularly effective as the belligerent, reclusive Dr. Grimesby Roylott.

Brett's intelligent, cold-blooded performance lends the series its most quintessentially Holmesian quality—the consulting detective is driven purely by his fascination with the science of deduction, neither shaken nor stirred by emotional considerations. The producers do not shy away from Holmes' off-putting personal demeanor, nor his mercenary need for gainful employment; Holmes is no financially independent crusader, but a working investigator beholden to his clients rather than to any moral prerogative. It is this refusal to dress up, soften, update, or alter Doyle's original material in any way that gives The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes its considerable integrity. By consistently returning to the well for inspiration, the show remains faithful enough in tone and substance to please diehard Holmes fans without being inaccessible to the uninitiated. Some will see it merely as a higher, more revered grade of pulp detective fiction; that's as may be, but it's good entertainment all round.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes—Volume Two is presented in the series' original 1.33:1 full-frame television format. The DVD is "digitally remastered" from original film prints, not videotape, avoiding the 3:2 pulldown common to filmed TV material as well as any PAL-to-NTSC conversion issues. Unfortunately, the amount of grain and uneven motion in the 16mm prints occasionally confounds MPI's digital compression, leading to "floating" blocks of imagery (distorting Holmes' face badly in one close-up shot) and some color instability throughout. Dark scenes are often harder to make out than they ought to be, losing detail in large black areas of shadow. The series' low budget leads to some harsh lighting and multiple shadows in a few indoor scenes, and the programs suffer from a distracting editing anomaly, a brief image jump that occurs at each transition from one shot to another. These defects don't interfere too badly with enjoyment of the disc when all is said and done, but quality control seems sorely lacking, and the transfer is well below average.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: MPI presents The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes—Volume Two with a Dolby Digital 2.0 monophonic audio track, ProLogic-decoded to the center channel. The dialogue is generally clear and comprehensible, helped no doubt by the actors' well-enunciated delivery. Because most of the dialogue was recorded "live" on set, the microphones pick up a lot of rustling, background hum, hiss and other noise. Music sounds a bit thin and reedy, and dynamic range is compressed. The audio is passable, with a bit of bass and few seriously distracting flaws, but it's clearly dated and limited by the series' budget and production timeframe.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Sherlock & Brett Societies
  2. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: MPI supports The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes DVD with 23 full-motion chapter stops and a few related supplements. Subtitles in English are nicely implemented, with sound effect descriptions for the hearing impaired (though the French and Spanish subtitles of the first volume are nowhere to be found this time around). Navigation is a bit awkward—all extra features take a one-way loop back to the Main Menu, rather than returning to the Bonus Material menu.

Briefly interesting supplements include a listing of seven Sherlock Holmes and Jeremy Brett Societies, fan organizations in France, England, Japan, Canada and Italy; a Photo Gallery featuring a small set of 5 publicity stills; and text-screen Biographies and Filmographies for actors Jeremy Brett and David Burke, with biographical notes on Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Granada's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes—Volume Two adapts two more of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective stories to the small screen with great success. MPI's DVD suffers from middling video and audio quality, but Holmes fans will find good entertainment on this two-episode disc.


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