The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [1939]

Alfred Werker's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) has always been regarded as the best of the Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce -- and there are also those who think of it as the best Holmes movie ever made. It's been given an appropriately exalted treatment by MPI Home Video, starting with a sparkling transfer of the beautifully shot film. The disc plays like an array of gorgeous still photographs and is one of the best-looking DVDs of a 1930s title that one can find. The audio quality is a match for the picture, the sound set at a high volume level and revealing the richness of the onscreen music, which is essential to the mystery. Every bit as fascinating as the movie is the commentary track by Holmes expert Richard Valley, in which the author/publisher takes us on a delightful (and delight-filled) walk through the movie, touching on plot, casting, characters, underlying literary works, movie backstory -- even the song "I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside" (sung by Rathbone) -- and just about every other aspect of the film that one might care to name. His commentary, which finally explains why 20th Century Fox dropped the series after this film (it had to do with a demand from the Conan Doyle estate), is worth the price of admission by itself. The other supplementary features include a music-accompanied montage of still shots and publicity art from the production (running three minutes) and re-release trailers to The Scarlet Claw, Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, and Terror by Night -- none looking especially good, but all entertaining. The disc opens automatically to a two-layer menu that keeps the special features confined to a special internal layer of the menu. The only flaw in the disc is that navigating between the film and the menu is a little more complicated than is often the case, first requiring an exit from the chapter selection and then involving a maneuver or two with the controls.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Audio commentary with Richard Valley
  • Selected theatrical trailers
  • Production notes by Richard Valley
  • Photo gallery

Synopsis

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce make their second screen appearances as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Ostensibly based on the stage play by William Gillette, the film owes nothing to the play beyond the characters of Holmes, Watson, Billy the page boy and Professor Moriarty. Played with relish (and a bit of pickle) by George Zucco, Moriarty plots to steal the Crown Jewels, and also to confound Holmes by obliging the Great Detective to be in two places at once. Ida Lupino costars as an imperiled young woman who is seemingly plagued by an ancient family curse--a plot development that has been carefully stage-managed by the malevolent Moriarty. Basil Rathbone is excellent not only as Holmes but also in the guise of a cockney music-hall entertainer (if indeed that is Rathbone performing a buck-and-wing in longshot). The second of Twentieth Century-Fox's Holmes films (Hound of the Baskervilles was the first), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was the last in which Rathbone and Bruce were seen in a 19th century setting. In the subsquent Sherlock Holmes series at Universal, the exploits of Holmes and Watson were updated to the World War II years. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Basil Rathbone
    Basil Rathbone - Sherlock Holmes
  • Nigel Bruce
    Nigel Bruce - Dr. Watson
  • Ida Lupino
    Ida Lupino - Ann Brandon
  • Alan Marshal
    Alan Marshal - Jerrold Hunter
  • E.E. Clive
    E.E. Clive - Inspector Bristol
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