THE CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Starring: Jeremy Brett, Edward Hardwicke
Format: DVD - 3 disk set (6 one-hour episodes plus bonus material).
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
The very first thing you need to know about this release is that the original negative was used to make this version. The quality is outstanding! It's like watching the stories for the first time ever. Even after repeated viewings, I continue to remark on how crisp and vibrant the details are when compared to how murky or unrecognizable they were in the previous versions. Watching these episodes on TV or VHS, when compared to the DVD version, makes the viewing of them seem blurry and grainy. I urge you to treat yourself to this newest DVD version. It is worth every penny! (Prices range from $30 - $40 depending upon where you make your purchase.)
"The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes" contains several of my favorite stories. All six of the stories in this collection are worthy of praise.
In "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" Dr. Watson is intrigued by a woman while he is on holiday at a lakeside retreat. He corresponds with Holmes, expressing his admiration for Lady Frances and his developing concern for her safety. Holmes arrives on the scene just after Lady Frances disappears and it's a race to discover what has happened to her and if possible, to save her life. I particularly enjoy the way Holmes rustles around their Baker Street rooms, pondering the tidbits of information gleaned from Watson's letters as he tinkers with various objects on his desk that lend themselves to the mapping out of the case.
You may remember that Holmes also relied upon Watson's narrative details in a series of letters penned during the days Watson spent with Sir Henry Baskerville, while Holmes remained, seemingly in London, in "The Hound of the Baskervilles."
"The Problem at Thor Bridge," "Shoscombe Old Place," "The Boscome Valley Mystery," "The Illustrious Client," and "The Creeping Man" are the other stories presented in this collection.
In the instance of "The Problem at Thor Bridge," all of the evidence indicates the governess shot and killed her employer's wife. Holmes is convinced that she is innocent, but can he prove it before she is hanged? A similar problem awaits Watson and Holmes in "The Boscome Valley Mystery." The evidence suggests a son killed his father following a raging argument. Again, Holmes believes the young man to be innocent but is at a loss how to prove it. Will his client be hanged before Holmes can sort out the twisted facts and the dying man's strange reference to "...a rat"?
"Shoscombe Old Place" finds Watson and Holmes snooping around the stables of Sir Robert Norberton. A human bone has been found in the ashes of the furnace, a money-lender to whom Sir Robert owed a great deal of money has disappeared, and a wallet with the missing man's initials has also been found in the ashes of the furnace. Holmes and Watson set about to unravel the mystery and set things to right. Much the same way they do in "The Illustrious Client."
In order to reveal a villian for the murderous ruffian he truly is, Holmes is engaged by an anonymous client (aka: King Edward) to prevent a head strong young Englishwoman from falling victim to the brutish, Baron Gruner of Austria. She intends to marry him in a matter of weeks and will hear no words spoken against him. Holmes sends for help from London's underbelly of society but soon is savagely attacked by the Austrian's henchmen. Watson steps in at Holme's request and impersonates an expert in Chinese pottery, to lull Von Gruener into letting down his guard. Things do not go as planned but it's a great adventure for Holmes and Watson.
And finally, "The Creeping Man" brings a touch of science fiction to the story when Holmes is called upon to investigate the strange goings on at the home of one of England's most eminent natural scientists. Dr. Presbury's daughter claims to have seen an animal-like figure at her first floor bedroom window (that would be the second story window to those of us in the U.S.) during the night. She fainted before getting a close look at it however, and her father insists she was only dreaming. Events take a bizarre turn when Holmes links the creature's visits to missing chimpanzees, baboons, and a gorilla.
This is another of my favorite stories. I love Dr. Watson's assessment of Dvorak's Emporium when he is sent there by Holmes with nothing more than a vague address to guide him. He arrives only to be threatened with bodily harm twice before giving up and returning to Baker Street. He is clearly annoyed that Holmes sent him on what he considers a wild goose chase and tells Holmes that Dvorak's establishment seems to be a general store but that it can't be doing very well. When Holmes asks why not, Watson replies, "because the general public are not allowed in." Yet for all his trouble, Watson did gain a valuable clue that helps Holmes unravel the mystery of the nocturnal creature terrorizing Miss Presbury.
Each of these stories stands alone yet, when the overall quality of the filming is considered, this collection is a delight to view. There is also bonus material including a short interview with Brett and Hardwick from a program called "Daytime Live." It was wonderful to see Brett so bright and bubbly as he responded to the interviewer's questions. I wish the interview had been longer and more in depth. It mostly concerns the stage play "The Secret of Sherlock Holmes," both were appearing in, as Holmes and Watson. Still it was a chance to see and hear Brett speaking about his thoughts on Holmes. There is also a commentary track on "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" with director John Madden which I found to be a bit boring, but I'm sure others may find it fascinating.
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