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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Drama > Action > Crime > British > Comedy > Silent Film > Satire > History > Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (Mill Creek DVD Set)/Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Sherlock Jr. (1924 w/Three Ages (1923)/Kino Blu-ray)

Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (Mill Creek DVD Set)/Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Sherlock Jr. (1924 w/Three Ages (1923)/Kino Blu-ray)


Picture: C/B & C/B-     Sound: C/B & B-/B-     Extras: C-/C-/B-     Films: B-/C-/B



Should Sherlock Holmes be funny?  How funny was he actually in the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books?  Can you go too far in the comedy direction with one of the most filmed, imitated and well known fictional characters of all time in a given project?  That is what occurred to me when watching the latest round of releases based on who is still the world’s most famous detective.


Of course, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce remain the most famous pair to play Holmes and Dr. Watson respectively in their two films at Fox followed by their legendary full-blown series at Universal, which then extended to a radio drama series and much more.  Their films continue to be issued on DVD (and even now Internet-order DVD-R!) as their films are all public domain and though their films are already out in the remarkable Blu-ray restorations issued by MPI, which you can read more about at this link:





Though it was a cheat, Watson was made more comical than he was in the books and should have been otherwise, creating a new myth of him as at least partly a buffoon, but Bruce played him with enough dignity and the two had enough chemistry that it all worked out.  Mill Creek’s new Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes DVD Set has their Woman In Green in a lesser copy, the 39 episode show from 1954 with Ronald Howard as Holmes, three Arthur Wootner/Holmes films (The Sign Of Four (1932), The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935) and Murder At The Baskervilles (1937), plus some intros by Christopher Lee, who has his own Holmes history.  Most of the efforts are at least intelligent and at least ambitious, but often fall flat since they play it with older acting styles or find no nuance in the books.


This is a good low budget set for the curious, but has more curios than anything else.



Guy Ritchie sadly holds the distinction for the most profitable Holmes movie with his 2009 Robert Downey, Jr. version which is both the most commercial and least connected-to-the-books major production of the character ever made.  You can read all about it at our coverage of its Blu-ray release:





The director and cast reunite for Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011) which manages to be even poorer than the first (my fellow writer was kind to the earlier hit) and it rightly did not do quite as well at the box office simply because like so many shallow, empty hits, the studios anymore do not realize when they have gotten lucky at the box office.  There is nothing new here, we get too much comedy, not enough story, too many formula fighting scenes and this is even somehow more boring and flat as the first as Holmes and Watson (Jude Law) take on their old nemesis Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris of Mad Men) and with the help of brother Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry).


This basic idea has been done many times before and usually much better.  This film is even more obsessed with its slow motion, digital effects and wacky fights than the last and it runs on and on and on for a far too long 129 minutes.  Even having Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace and Eddie Marsan back as Inspector Lestrade cannot make this entertaining or substantial.  Maybe they all ought to quit while they are ahead.


Extras include UltraViolet Copy, a Movie App and Maximum Movie mode, which means this has shockingly little to back it.  Guess they all ran out of things to say?



That brings us to one of the funniest Holmes films of all time, though Holmes is really not in it.  Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. (1924) is an early surreal silent film with Keaton as a movie projectionist who wants to be Holmes and will do anything to get into the picture.  A fun classic, it is actually on Blu-ray from Kino and they have restored it to a condition so good, I have never seen it look so good.  It runs only 45 minutes, but is one of his most imitated films, the best film here and still funny 88 years later and counting.  So much so that you would be surprised.  It is also very fun and as you watch, ask yourself how many times you have seen it imitated.


Extras include Keaton’s 1923 time travel comedy Three Ages visual essays on both films by Silent Echoes author John Bengtson, feature length audio commentary on Sherlock by the great historian David Kalat, historian David B. Pearson’s Sherlock documentary, Ages cut into three stand-alone short films and D.W Griffith’s Man’s Genesis (1912, celebrating its 100th Anniversary now!) that inspired Ages.



The 1.33 X 1 black and white analog image across the four Mill Creek Adventures DVDs are a mixed bag and not always in great shape, let alone transferred well, but it is a budget release, so you can only expect so much.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Game was shot in Super 35mm film by Director of Photography Phillippe Rousselot (the last Richie Holmes film, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Boorman’s Hope & Glory) and looks better and clearer than expected despite the tired monochrome downstyling and endless, obvious digital effects.  The result is the best-looking disc here, as expected, but I was not so sure before we saw it.  The anamorphically enhanced image on the DVD version is much softer and weaker, though.  That leaves the 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Sherlock Jr. and Three Ages, which have been restored as well as they could be and even have some nice shots that make them worth seeing in HD.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono the four Mill Creek Adventures DVDs show their age, have harmonic distortion and are on the weak side, so be careful of playback volumes.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Game is pretty good sonically, again a bit better than expected, so I have to admit the film is well recorded and mixed with a consistent soundfield, but nothing spectacular or memorable beyond that.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD version is weaker as expected and no match for the Blu-ray.


So that leaves, believe it or not, a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Sherlock Jr. for the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra score, which is also here in 2.0 Mono along with Jay Ward’s Jazz score for the same film and Lee Erwin organ score and Robert Israel scores for Three Ages, which all play fine.  I just did not find any of them definitive.



For more Holmes from Kino, try out the 1922 John Barrymore silent classic version of Sherlock Holmes they recently issued on Blu-ray that we now know is one of the great early Holmes films at this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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