The Sherlock Holmes Collection
Ostensibly, the release of this three-DVD set was timed to coincide with Guy Ritchie’s recent reboot of the Sherlock Holmes story. A perfect marketing decision on A&E’s part. But while this set does provide a healthy reminder of the more traditional depictions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation, there are some other interesting factors that bubble up when going through the five episodes of the series featured here.
One is that there are only five episodes available on this set. Aired in 1968, the original run of Sherlock Holmes had 16 installments, each one highlighting a different story in the Doyle oeuvre. Unfortunately, this was a time when the BBC, in a strange cost cutting measure, chose to erase the video cassettes of existing programs to reuse them for new material. This has meant that so many of the television network’s signature series are only available in truncated sets like this or are completely lost to time.
It is also interesting to note just how much the creators of this series lop out of the original Doyle stories. This is likely because, at this point in British history, the Holmes stories were widely read and part of the canon. What was missing could easily be filled in by mental recall. For those who might be inspired to pick this up by the release of the Ritchie film, they might not be prepared for the rather stilted way the adaptations are put together and might be put off them completely.
The most illuminating part of this set is the showcase it gives to the fine acting of Peter Cushing. Known here in the States for his role in Star Wars (he was Death Star commander Grand Moff Tarkin), Cushing has already served 30 years in the acting trenches by the time this series was made, taking on everything from literary adaptations to a variety of horror films made by Hammer Studios. Cushing, though, really comes into his own on this series, settling comfortably into the role of the famous detective with wit, charm and intellect. Watching him bounce around the repartee with Doctor Watson (played admirably by another British acting icon Nigel Stock) and worry over everything from his pipe to a dead body is a sheer delight. He’s easily one of the best actors to portray the character since Basil Rathbone’s beloved run in the ’30s and ’40s.
This set is a great and somewhat tragic time capsule. The economic and breezy episodes are perfect for any Holmes fan but will surely leave them wanting for more. It’s just too bad that what you see here is all that you’ll get.
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