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139 of 148 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The curious case of the missing episodes., 24 Jun. 2004
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This review is from: The Sherlock Holmes Collection Box Set [DVD] (DVD)
Peter Cushing was no stranger to Sherlock Holmes when he inherited the role from Douglas Wilmer in the 1968 BBC TV series having previously played the character in the 1959 Hammer film version of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. Originally conceived as a big budget production the series ran to 16 episodes and adapted 15 of Conan Doyle's short stories and novels. The end result is somewhat lacking in certain departments and a long way from the standard of the later ITV Jeremy Brett series of the 1980's. Of the 16 episodes made only six survive and are all released in this BBC Box set. The surviving episodes are a mixed bag but probably representative of the series as a whole. As usual with BBC productions of the time they are a mix of videotaped studio material intercut with filmed inserts. The jarring difference in quality between the two mediums highlights the major problem with the series. The filmed material stands out as being better in terms of quality and production values than the studio scenes and lends a certain authenticity to the production. That said, there is a nice sense of period to many of the productions and Cushing himself appears to have researched the character well and unlike many of his predecessors plays up Holmes' less appealing qualities. Nigel Stock as Watson has been praised for his performance in so far as he played it straight instead of being the bumbling fool usually associated with Nigel Bruce in the 1940's film series. However, on the evidence of these 6 episodes he is still merely playing the feed for the main character and has very little to do often resorting to comic moments which appear out of place. Cushing is his usual professional self and certainly rises above the rest of the supporting cast which itself includes some familiar faces from British TV of the past - most notably James Beck of Dad's Army fame who gives an excellent performance in 'The Blue Carbuncle'. The stories themselves are reasonably faithful to their origins but suffer from some curious reworking in order to fit their allotted time slot.
Picture and sound quality as generally very good considering the age of the material with no major problems. The packaging of the DVD's is terrible with a box slipcase featuring more fonts that I have ever seen in one place! The unforgivable choice of repeating pictures by merely flipping them into a mirror image is awful and the DVD menus themselves are equally dull. Understandably there are no extras on the discs given the age of the material but it would have been nice to have some detailed liner notes charting the history of the series as it was considered a prestigious production at the time. These six episodes have rarely been seen since their original 1968 transmission but it is nice to see them released together (although they are also available individually) and would recommend buying the box set as it is difficult to choose an ideal single release that represents the series as a whole. The stories are spread across three discs as follows:
Disc 1:
A Study in Scarlet - The first Sherlock Holmes story written by Conan Doyle fits quite nicely into the single episode 50 minute format. The lengthy novel condenses well and omits much of the back story instead focusing on Holmes' investigation and adding a music hall sequence. The film/video sequences are less jarring as much of the story takes place at night or in dark rooms keeping a continuity that is lost in other episodes.
The Boscombe Valley Mystery - A very substandard episode with very little action and some poor performances from all but Cushing and Stock. The episode has dated terribly with some groovy psychedelic special effects towards the end!
Disc 2:
The Hound of the Baskervilles - The story is presented in its original 2 episode format and manages to remain relatively faithful to the novel given the expanded running time. The main fault with the story is that Holmes is missing for much of the time and it falls upon Nigel Stock to carry the first episode alone. With a good deal of location footage shot on Dartmoor itself the production probably looks the best of the lot.
Disc 3:
The Sign of Four - Another full length story which was compressed down to 50 minutes but this time doesn't work as well which is a shame is it is a great story. The Jeremy Brett adaptation remains the superior version but it is nice to see Cushing in some classic scenes although the entire second half is rushed.
The Blue Carbuncle - The final story of the series is probably the most enjoyable remains very close to Conan Doyle's original. There is some nice interplay between Cushing and Stock and the story captures the sense of period very well despite the obvious hectic schedule and shoddy production values.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Apr 2011, 13:41:08 BST
Your review said there are 6 episodes but you have only given details of 5 ?

In reply to an earlier post on 5 May 2011, 08:22:52 BST
Paul Smith says:
Hound of the Baskervilles is in 2 episodes. And along with the other 4 stories each having one episode, that makes six episodes.

hope this clears it up for you, cheers

In reply to an earlier post on 5 May 2011, 08:55:26 BST
Yes thanks Paul

Posted on 25 May 2011, 12:55:26 BST
I had my first speaking part as a TV actor in a episode entitled "The Solitary Cyclist". I said "Whoa" to a horse. It was scripted so I received a speaking-part fee. I was hoping to find it to show my grandchildren when I have some. Very disappointing to hear that it has been lost. I have retired from the business now and am working in supportive education but if anyone falls across the missing episodes, please do say.
Regards, Dean Harris

Posted on 13 Feb 2014, 01:16:50 GMT
stevep says:
great review olny got to see bits of the shows as i was a kid but stuck with me all thease years so glad to get this set shame about the lost shows but thats the bbc for you never know they may turn up hope so
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