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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Literature > Anthology > British TV > The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes – Set 1 (1971/Acorn Media DVD)

The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes – Set 1 (1971/Acorn Media DVD)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Episodes: B



From its clever Magic Lantern opening, The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes is a series that suggests that new technology appeared hand in hand with new crime detection.  However, this is not a series about other detectives in Doyle stories but totally separate detectives of the same period created by other authors that have not remained as well known.  However, their work is impressive and the following adaptations are excellent:


John Neville as Dr. Thorndyke in A Message From The Deep Sea

Robert Stephens as Max Carrados in The Missing Witness Sensation

Peter Vaughn as Dorrington in The Affair Of The Avalanche Bicycle & Tyre Co. Ltd.

Roy Dotrice as Simon Carne in The Duchess Of Wiltshire’s Diamonds

Donald Pleasance as Carnacki in The Horse Of The Invisible

Peter Vaughn as Dorrington in The Case Of The Mirror Of Portugal

John Fraser as Dixon Druce in Madame Sara

Ronald Hines as Jonathan Pryde in The Case Of The Dixon Torpedo

Elvi Hale as Lady Molly in The Woman In The Big Hat

Peter Barkworth as Martin Hewitt in The Affair Of The Tortoise

Donald Sinden as Romney Pringle in The Assyrian Rejuvenator

Robert Lang as Bernard Sutton in The Ripening Rubies

Peter Barkworth as Martin Hewitt in The Case Of Laker, Absconded



With only a few repeat performers, this Thames production featured some of the best actors around and was produced on the heels of the Universal-produced NBC Mystery Movie.  If you liked that show (including Columbo, McCloud and the like) and you have not seen this series, you are in for a very big surprise.  The writing is top notch, the mysteries very clever and even the production looks good and period convincing.  They are all strong, but Donald Pleasance is so good as Carnacki, you’ll wish he had a long-running hit series playing the character.


Yet, each hour-long show is as strong as some of the best adaptations of Holmes himself and plays like a lost gem of Detective TV.  If you did not know better, you’d think you hit the jackpot for a bunch of lost pilots that were all gems, but this is a unique and important mystery anthology show that holds up very, very well for being nearly 40 years old.  These were built to last, much like the mystery set-ups in each and are all strongly recommended.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot mostly in PAL analog video with some 16mm in spots (here off of the PAL video of the time, unfortunately; hope that footage survived) and you can see haloing and other color weakness, to say nothing of detail limits, but they look about as good as PAL tapings of this time can, so the transfers are decent.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good for its age with some expected distortion.  Extras include text profiles of all the characters featured.


By the way, I pulled out the famous compilation book Detectionary (1977), a must-have for anyone serious about reading early Mystery fiction.  Simon Carne (created by Guy Newell Boothby), Horace Dorrington (created by Arthur Morrison), Jonathan Pryde (created by Arthur Morrison, the creator of Martin Hewitt), Dixon Druce (created by L.T. Meade), Lady Molly (created by Baroness Emma Orczy), Bernard Sutton (created by Sir Max Pemberton) and Romney Pringle (created by R. Austin Freeman & Dr. John Jones Pitcairn under the pseudonym Clifford Ashdown) were not listed!


This is a must for fans.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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