There’s hours of enjoyment to be found in this valuable package. It contains all 14 Sherlock Holmes films featuring Basil Rathbone and Sir Nigel Bruce dating from 1939 to 1946. There’s also a fascinating account of the films restoration history, in which we are told that the work occupied almost a whole year for each film, and also that one or two of the films, including one of the last of them, “Pursuit to Algiers”, were almost ready to disintegrate. The resultant visual quality is amazingly good – I can distinguish the various tweeds from which the coats of Holmes and Watson are made.
Mainly produced and directed by Roy William Neill, the series originated in England where the first 2 films were made. Each used “period’” costume and setting, although only the first was based on a Conan Doyle story. Then production was transferred to Hollywood where mainly British cast members were still used, but the settings were now contemporary and sometimes the films were unashamedly war propaganda.
With a presence, appearance and inimitable diction, Basil Rathbone is unsurpassed as an exponent of Sherlock Holmes in film. His wish to be relieved of the role and the death of regular producer and director Roy William Neill terminated the series. Nigel Bruce, as Doctor Watson, replicates the bluff, doddery English buffoon that he played so well in numerous films of those years. It’s nothing like Conan Doyle’s original, but wonderfully endearing.
These were never more than B Grade film productions in their day, most lasting little more than one hour. Somehow, their appeal remains strong. If the opportunity arises, and visitors and relatives of all ages survey my shelves, one or other of these films is often chosen in preference to something of more substance. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is the most often chosen, but my favorite is “Pursuit to Algiers”.