Overall | The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988) | Master Blackmailer, The/Last Vampyre, The (1992)

Sherlock Holmes-Volume 1 (1988)

Sherlock Holmes-Volume 1 (1988)

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Released 11-Apr-2003

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Overall Package

    This two disc set includes three feature length episodes of the Sherlock Holmes television series made for Granada Television in the 1980s and 1990s starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. These are all good quality television productions and the characterisation of Holmes is one of the best ever. They are lively, entertaining and well worth watching.

    The video quality is poor on the first disc (The Hound of the Baskervilles) and better but still nothing spectacular on the other titles.

    The audio quality is reasonable but based upon reports significantly better than the VHS releases. I did notice some audio sync issues during The Hound of the Baskervilles.

    The set has no extras of any kind.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
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Overall | The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988) | Master Blackmailer, The/Last Vampyre, The (1992)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988)

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Released 11-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 100:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian Mills
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jeremy Brett
Edward Hardwicke
Neil Duncan
Ronald Pickup
Kristoffer Tabori
James Faulkner
Fiona Gillies
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

    The Hound of the Baskervilles, for either TV or film, has been remade over a dozen times since the beginning of the 1900s. The last remake for the BBC had a real edge to it, and starred Richard Roxborough as Sherlock Holmes and Ian Hart as a very strong willed and wonderfully Victorian Dr Watson. The only fly in the ointment was the use of woeful CGI for the hound (they'd have done better using perspective and maintaining a semblance of reality). Still, my favourite Holmes has always been Jeremy Brett who, along with Edward Hardwicke, were the best pairing so far and over a 10 year period they made 40 episodes or movies from the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. Made for Granada Television and adapted by John Hawkesbury, The Hound of the Baskervilles was one of four telemovies. Made in 1988, it came during a major renaissance of the Holmesian epics but actually isn't the best of the series by a long shot.

    The six series made by this production team were The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984-1985), The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1986-1988), The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1991), several 2 hour movies (The Master Blackmailer, The Last Vampyre, The Eligible Bachelor, 1994) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994). Jeremy Brett died in 1995 due to a heart problem and other complications, cutting short what was becoming a definitive collection of movies adapted from the novels and short stories of Conan Doyle.

    The Hound of the Baskervilles concerns itself with the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville (Raymond Adamson). "Stricken dead by heart attack" says the post-mortem. "By fear" says Dr Mortimer (Neil Duncan) who comes to London to engage Sherlock Holmes to investigate the mystery. Retelling the story of the Baskerville curse (whose details were left out at the coronial inquest because of their fanciful nature), he asks Holmes to help protect the last known surviving member of the Baskerville family, Sir Henry Baskerville (Kristoffer Tabori), newly arrived from the colonies to take up residence at his ancestral home. Sir Henry, who is busy chastising a member of the hotel staff over the loss of two of his boots left out for cleaning the night before, learns of the particular curse of his family over breakfast as Dr Mortimer recants his tale.

    After agreeing to help, Holmes believes he detects someone spying on them and gives chase, but loses his man who drives off in a Hansom cab. Returning to Sir Henry and Dr Mortimer, he insists that Watson and he accompany Sir Henry back to Baskerville Hall. After arriving at the station they notice policemen standing idly, and later on run across a patrol on horseback where they learn that Selden, the Notting Hill murderer, has escaped from Dartmore prison and has fled into the moor where he is being tracked down. Soon thereafter, they arrive at Baskerville Hall where they are met by the butler, Barrymore (Ronald Pickup) and his wife (Rosemary McHale). After a brief overnight stay, Holmes excuses himself, citing other cases that require his attention, but leaves the redoubtable Dr Watson to look after Sir Henry. He exhorts Sir Henry not to cross the moors on his own and instructs Watson to write to him daily concerning the daily routine surrounding the hall and its near neighbours.

    In the course of the next few days, Sir Henry and Watson make the acquaintance of his new neighbours, Stapleton (James Faulkner), a rather severe character who claims to be a collector of butterflies and his sister Beryl (Fiona Gillies), a beautiful, if troubled, woman who attempts to warn Watson, mistakenly taking him for Sir Henry. Being neighbourly (and beginning to be infatuated with Beryl), Sir Henry invites them to dine at the hall, along with the Vicar of Grimpen (Donald McKillip) and Frankland (Bernard Horsfall), a local magistrate. Here his guests relate their local gossip as well as discuss the legend of the mysterious hound that is said to haunt the moors. The next day, Watson, duteous to a fault, stamps around the countryside visiting everyone he can and sending copious details for Holmes to read, not knowing that Holmes has already returned and is undertaking his own investigation.

    Holmes formulates his theory about the Baskerville family and its curse and comes up with a dangerous plan to smoke out the culprit, but he must enlist the aid of both Watson and Sir Henry who will act as bait for the massive beast that he knows is both real and set to fall upon his client. The final act in this play will lead to a chase across the bogs of the moors and death.

    This is possibly the least interesting episode of the entire series, partially because it's all been done before and this is no better, or worse, than anything else that's been offered. A recent adaptation starring Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) was in many respects as good as this effort but it's a story that has been done before, so unless there is something unique it takes a lot to make it stand out. It was said that Jeremy Brett was ill during the making of the movie, but ill or not, this isn't a patch on the rest of the series or on the other movies. As the quintessential Holmes, this had to be made, but as a fan, this was not one that I cared much for except that it will hopefully lead to the rest of the series making it to DVD sometime soon.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This 1988 telemovie is showing a lot of signs of age. The picture quality isn't that spectacular, probably rating somewhere just above good VHS, but is definitely not as good as other presentations in this series.

    The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33: 1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture is mostly soft and sometimes almost shapeless with lots of blurred background figures to contend with. As a result, shadow detail is poor with very little fine detail available and if you were at the pictures you'd be screaming for focus. Grain is very noticeable during the opening few minutes and maintains a fairly high profile throughout, although it does settle down after a while - either that or you simply become inured to its presence. Low level noise doesn't appear to have been a problem.

    The colour is fairly pedestrian with some moments of quality. Overall, the palette is fairly drab, but that isn't a problem with the transfer, more a feature of the period being presented. Saturation levels aren't as good as normal with some decidedly faded moments. Skin tones were fine, but colour bleed was present here and there (eg: 5:37 in an obviously ghosted outline and again at 58:50) although no colour bleed was in evidence. Cross colouration was noted at 12:52 on a tweed jacket, but there was no chroma noise.

    There are artefacts aplenty in this transfer; 0:32, 6:59, 7:35, 9:54, 10:24, 23:57, 36:28, 38:06, 50:48 amongst dozens of others. Most are either large black flecks or the more annoying white ones and many are sprays or obvious chunks out of the print. At 55:18 there is a distinct water mark in the middle of the picture but apart from these problems there was no obvious pixelization, aliasing or moiré artefacts in evidence, possibly due to the level of grain and the general blurriness of the picture.

    There were no subtitles on this disc.

    This is a single layered disc.

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

Audio

    The sound for this disc was fairly pedestrian but at least it was clean, clear and suffered from no echoing or hollow timbre which has been present on other discs and tapes of this series. There is only one soundtrack on this disc, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 offering at a bitrate of 224 kilobits per second. The sound is decent with minimal separation across the fronts but at least you can hear them talking without the clutter from the ambient noise.

    As I said, dialogue was okay without being spectacular, but at least it was audible. Syncing was not an issue that I noted any problems with.

    The music from the series by Patrick Gowers was used with some variations added, but nothing out of the ordinary. The underlying score is actually very good since, like most good series, you can immediately tell upon hearing a refrain what it comes from, which is about as good as any television series can ask for from its music.

   There was minimal interaction from the surrounds on this disc, as some of the music makes it way into the rear channels but nothing that adds any elements of immersiveness.

    There was no subwoofer usage 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. A menu an extra does not make!

R4 vs R1

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

    From the looks of it, the Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this disc on DVD are about the same (except possibly for the menu structure). No extras or additional features appear to be present on either disc, so therefore I'd be more inclined to give the nod to the Region 4 version without any knowledge of the picture quality of the Region 1 offering.

Summary

    The Hound of the Baskervilles is a classic tale of deception, treachery and revenge. Although not one of the better efforts in the series made by Granada Television, it is nonetheless an important part of any telling of the stories of Sherlock Holmes and Jeremy Brett was one of the best to take on the persona. It's a pity this isn't better, but fortunately the rest of the series is!

    The video is mediocre at best, poor at worst, but it can't degrade any further at least.

    The audio does better than the video. Even though it's only in 2 channel stereo, it is clean and clear which is something of a bonus, especially if you've had to listen to any of the VHS versions around.

    There is a complete lack of extras on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Friday, April 04, 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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Sherlock Holmes box set in r2 - REPLY POSTED

Overall | The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988) | Master Blackmailer, The/Last Vampyre, The (1992)

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

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

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Released 11-Apr-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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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

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Drummond G (Don't read my bio)

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