Master Blackmailer, The/Last Vampyre, The (1992)

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Released 11-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 204:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (0:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Hammond
Tim Sullivan
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jeremy Brett
Edward Hardwick
Robert Hardy
David Mallison
Serena Gordon
Roy Marsden
Maurice Denham
Case ?
RPI Box Music Patrick Gowers


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is another presentation from Granada Television of two of the movies made for the Sherlock Holmes series made between 1985 and 1994, before the redoubtable Jeremy Brett succumbed to heart problems in 1995. In all, there were 40 episodes made, including 4 full length movies. These two movies are part of what is essentially a fifth series of 3 episodes which also included The Eligible Bachelor.

   The Master Blackmailer - 102:27 - (Based upon Arthur Conan Doyle's - Charles Augustus Milverton)
This story opens in Paris, where a young woman writes a letter which is delivered by an emissary who dutifully delivers it but then rescues the letter from a burning fire and passes it off to a blackmailer. Jump to 12 years later and the same blackmailer, now identified as Charles Augustus Milverton (Robert Hardy) is attempting to extort money from another young woman who is refusing his demands. Meantime, Holmes is consulting with an aging Dowager (Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies) who wishes to retain his services to discover who was blackmailing her two nephews, recently deceased as a result. The only clues she has to offer Holmes are the words CAM and devil.

   Colonel Dorking (David Mallinson), happily engaged to a beautiful young woman, says he is returning to his barracks for a regimental dinner but in fact visits a male brothel. While he is there, Milverton accosts him with a letter asking for money. Refusing to pay, Dorking confronts his former lover but is forcibly ejected, receiving a beating. At a garden party a few days later, his fiancé receives a package which causes her much distress and leads to Colonel Dorking committing suicide over its contents. Inspector Lestrade (Colin Jeavons) is called in to handle the case and a letter left on a side table is taken by the Colonel's batman and delivered to Holmes, whereupon Lestrade confronts him as to its contents. Offering up the letter, but not the card that was contained in the envelope, he professes no knowledge of why he received the letter until Lestrade leaves. With Watson accompanying him, Holmes now has the name of CAM and visits Milverton's home to scout it out.

   Knowing that he needs assistance, since blackmail is one of the most insidious but hardest to prove of crimes, Holmes undertakes a drastic course of action and dons a disguise in order to infiltrate Milverton's home while asking Watson to make enquiries into his character, his means and his background. Milverton has already begun to zero in on his next victim while this is happening, a Lady Eva Blackwell (Serena Gordon), soon to be married to one of the wealthiest men in England. As time goes on, Holmes becomes convinced of the dangerousness of his adversary, especially after the two men meet at Baker Street, where Milverton shows the lengths that he will go to to defend himself, while Holmes is backed into a corner trying to defend the honour of Lady Eva who has now confided in him regarding the letters that Milverton holds against her. It is only with some luck that Holmes will get his man and retrieve the letters. That, and a strange twist of fate.

   The Last Vampyre - 101:35 - (Based upon Arthur Conan Doyle's - The Sussex Vampyre)
This movie opens with a carriage racing through the night, a pregnant woman, a church and blood streaming down her neck. Next, villagers with torches are setting fire to a house while a man inside is burned to death. Many years later, a blacksmith dies after an argument with Stockton (Roy Marsden), who has newly returned from overseas. Stockton is the last survivor of the family of St Claire whose residence was burned to the ground long ago. Now he is treated like a pariah by the local folk and Reverend Richard Merridew (Maurice Denham) considers it his duty to ask Sherlock Holmes to come to his local community and investigate the rumours of vampyrism and whether Stockton is involved in this despicable practise. In order to convince Holmes to come, he recounts a story about another person in the village, Bob Ferguson who, with his Peruvian wife and newly born son, have also returned to the village of Lamberly recently. A dinner a few days before which Stockton had attended had tragic consequences, as the young boy is found dead the next morning after Stockton had touched him.

   Holmes agrees to come and arrives for the funeral of the child. Also in attendance is Stockton, although maintaining a discrete presence only. Holmes and Watson meet with Ferguson at his home and find the maid Dolores protective of her mistress, Carlotta Ferguson (Yolanda Vasquez). Later Holmes takes a carriage ride together with Stockton out to his former ancestral home where Holmes is dazzled by what appears to be an apparition. Throughout all this Holmes maintains his scepticism, but when Stockton dies after crashing into a tree, and the villagers take it upon themselves to burn his possessions and dig up his body he begins to formulate a theory as to the real truth of the matter, which is much more plausible than the legends of vampires.

   These two movies are much better fare than the first disc released with only The Hound of the Baskervilles on it. Both movies have credible plots with intricately woven subplots that allow you to exercise your mind if you like solving puzzles, although The Master Blackmailer is far more straightforward than The Last Vampyre. Both are nicely presented and well worth watching.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a much better presentation than the first of these discs (Hound of the Baskervilles) with a much cleaner picture in both movies and fewer major problems to distract from your viewing pleasure.

    Again, these transfers are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and are not 16x9 enhanced.

    Grain is much more subdued in both movies with only really noticeable levels becoming apparent in the open air scenes. For the most part if you look hard enough it is there, but it doesn't diminish the quality by much. Sharpness is excellent with little or no edge enhancement noticed in either movie, although The Last Vampyre does exhibit some moments of softness during its presentation, but nothing too drastic. Shadow detail is marred by the use of low level lighting in various scenes reducing the backgrounds to shapeless masses. Fine detail can be seen in close-up shots, but normally it is unremarkable. There is a noticeable lack of depth to the picture in evidence throughout, mostly because of the low lighting. Low level noise is variable. Mostly it isn't noticeable due to the blacks being so prevalent, but if you look closely you can see unnatural spottiness in the black levels from time to time.

    The colour is reasonable over both movies with a fair palette in use. Due to the period in question, drab colours were very much the order of the day so that is to be expected. Saturation levels were quite normal except for The Master Blackmailer at around 24:58 where the colour becomes washed out. Apart from this and the drab colours, for the rest of the time colour rendition was consistent. Skin tones were also fairly consistent but had a more whitish hue than is normal.

    Aliasing can be seen at 66:13 in The Master Blackmailer, but normally it is confined to mere shimmering from time to time. At 7:45 in The Master Blackmailer, the picture jumps twice in a short interval indicating missing frames. At 16:20 there is a noticeable telecine wobble and film artefacts are noticeable throughout with particular examples at 28:33, 47:08 and 47:43. The Last Vampyre also has its share of flecks at 25:01, 26:23, 42:48, 61:20, 63:06. 69:48, 77:26 and 78:22 amongst others. There was no evidence of pixelization or any other major MPEG flaws on the disc.

    There were no subtitles on this disc for either movie.

    No layer change was detected. The most probable reason is that each movie is on a different layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    These are consistent, somewhat unremarkable audio efforts, much as that found on The Hound Of The Baskervilles. A single soundtrack is available on this disc for both movies, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded effort at 224 kilobits per second. It is fairly unremarkable in both movies with little separation noticeable and the fronts being solid but not offering any spaciousness. The centre channel is a solid effort containing the dialogue nicely and there are no clicks, pops or hisses to contend with as on the various VHS efforts I've heard. Overall, the soundtracks were okay but it was essentially like watching television with a little bit of rear work thrown in.

    There were no major problems with the dialogue except for softly spoken lines which are often lost to the ether and without subtitles some dialogue was lost in the general clatter of London life. Syncing was mostly fine except for The Master Blackmailer at 11:36 when there is a lip-syncing error during a song.

    The music was again an adaptation of the original series soundtrack by Patrick Gower and mingled in nicely with the visuals. Nothing remarkable, just a very recognisable track.

    The surrounds are utilised to add a surround element to the mix but it is a fairly unremarkable element. Gower's music doesn't contain a lot of variety to add any real immersiveness and there are scant effects used to offer anything but the most rudimentary envelopment.

    There was no subwoofer activity on this disc.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There were no extras on this disc. The menu was a static picture with a magnifying glass cursor.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is no Region 1 release of these two movies on a single disc but they are available individually. From the looks of it, though, both regional releases are exactly the same - movie only.

Summary

    A quality pair of movies, especially The Master Blackmailer in which Robert Hardy almost stole the show from Jeremy Brett with his portrayal of a man of no morals and less scruples.

    The video is a lot better quality than that of The Hound Of The Baskervilles which isn't that hard really and does come up as a quite reasonable presentation.

    The audio is again decent, with surround-encoding this time round for some more immersiveness, but nothing spectacular.

    There is the usual dearth of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Saturday, April 05, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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