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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Take Jeffrey Dahmer, make him heterosexual instead of homosexual, and
you've got this episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. When it was
revealed that the killer drilled into his victims' skulls and performed
makeshift lobotomies in an attempt to create a "zombified" girlfriend
who wouldn't leave him, I said to myself, "Ah...they borrowed that from
Jeffrey Dahmer." Then we find the killer working in a chocolate
factory...which they borrowed from Dahmer. He's a shy little nerd of a
guy who wears rather unflattering glasses...kind of like Dahmer. The
story follows the Dahmer line so thoroughly that when Carver's phone
rang at the end, I knew before he even picked it up what he was going
to tell Goren afterward.
While bolstered by some great performances, this is far too blatant a knock-off of a well-worn true story, which makes it painfully predictable, for the most part. Had this appeared as an episode of the original L&O, back in the '90s, it might have had more impact. For a program made ten years after the death of Jeffrey Dahmer, however, it seems quite stale.
No Christmas season would be complete without watching this marvelous
adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Blue Carbuncle.
This is such a wonderful episode that descriptions tend to fail me. Everything and everyone is at peak form here. Jeremy Brett's performance as Holmes is absolutely delightful (even by Brett standards), as is Burke's Watson, and their interplay in this episode is among the very best in the series.
There is a great deal of humor to be found here, including some genuine laugh-out-loud moments...and, of course, a nice little mystery at the heart of it. The production design, as always, is excellent, and the direction top-notch. There is a very authentic feeling of Christmas here, and it really shines through. And it's nice to see that even the dour Sherlock Holmes has a bit of the Christmas spirit in him...in his own way.
A wonderful episode, from start to finish. I can't praise it enough. I could say more, I could be more specific, but I don't want to ruin the fun for any first-time viewers. See it for yourself and it will quickly become a Christmas tradition, as it has for me.
A Scandal in Bohemia has its share of "firsts." It was the first short
story to feature Sherlock Holmes (after Arthur Conan Doyle introduced
the character in his novel, A Study in Scarlet), it was the first
episode of the excellent Granada series, and as such, it was the first
time the viewing audience had the pleasure of seeing Jeremy Brett in
the role of Holmes. It was also the first Granada episode I ever
I went into the Granada series not knowing what to expect. I'd heard many great things said about it, and particularly about Brett, but I had no real expectations. So I decided to give it a go, and to begin at the beginning. Within a few minutes of starting A Scandal in Bohemia, I leapt out of my seat and ran to grab my favorite collection of Sherlock Holmes tales. The reason being that, although I hadn't read A Scandal in Bohemia in some time, I found that it was all coming back to me as I watched the episode. I was literally shocked by how faithful it was, and had to check the story just to be sure that it really was staying as true to the source material as it seemed to be. And indeed, it was.
Throughout the course of the various Granada Holmes series, they would consistently remain true to the source material...or, in the instances where they strayed (mostly in the feature- length adventures), at least remain true to the SPIRIT. This was quite refreshing to me, as someone who loved the stories, and had seen countless adaptations that had strayed so far from what made them great. A Scandal in Bohemia was, to that time, the most faithful Holmes adaptation I had ever seen...and, along with many of the other wonderful Granada episodes, it's still among the most faithful.
Jeremy Brett, as Holmes, is superb from the word "Go." His magnificent performance in this episode engaged me instantly, and prepared me for the 40 adventures to follow...during which time, I would come to embrace his Holmes as THE definitive screen characterization of the world's greatest detective. Brett is the character of Sherlock Holmes come to life. Everything that he was in the stories, and everything that he often WASN'T in other adaptations, Jeremy Brett had it...and his presence alone made each and every episode a delight to watch.
David Burke also bears mentioning here, as a fantastic Watson to Brett's Holmes. Not at all in the Nigel Bruce mold, a characterization which has dogged many other adaptations throughout the years, Burke brings a charm and quiet intelligence to the role that complements Holmes's eccentric brilliance perfectly and, as with anything else in this episode, stays true to the essence of Conan Doyle's original story. Burke would serve as a faithful and amiable Watson throughout the run of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, before being replaced by the equally capable and likable Edward Hardwicke.
As an initiation into the Granada Holmes entries, A Scandal in Bohemia served its purpose admirably. I was struck by how faithful it was, how capable the direction and production design were, and how wonderful the performances were. It was as if someone had breathed life into Conan Doyle's story and raised it from the page for all to see. Suffice it to say, I was mightily impressed, and have been a devotee of the Granada Holmes series, and Jeremy Brett, ever since.
One of the more faithful adaptations (though that doesn't say much) of
Mary Shelley's novel, this film is worth a look if you can see it
without spending much money...particularly if you're a fan of the book,
as I am. It does, unfortunately, leave out some key points of the
novel, but not as many as most adaptations.
Cinematically, the film is rather drab. Too many sustained static shots and a rather sparse score bog the film down a bit, and the acting is too uneven. Some performances are great, while others are mediocre, and a few are simply bad.
Overall, the film feels a bit uneven and minimalistic, but it doesn't stray into some of the ridiculous areas that many Frankenstein films do. If only the direction were a bit more lively and the running time a bit longer (in order to include more of the important notes from the novel), it could have been a great film.
One considerable step down from Kenneth Branaugh's 1994 adaptation.
This is not at all a bad adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's second
Sherlock Holmes novel. Ian Richardson makes a fine (if too affable)
Holmes, and David Healy (though portly enough to be Mycroft Holmes) is
one of the screen's better Watsons. It's quite entertaining...and when
I first saw it, I considered it the best Sign of Four adaptation ever
made. In later years, however, I would discover the Granada
productions...and their adaptation of Sign of Four, which far overrides
this one in terms of faithfulness, style, pacing, direction, acting,
There are a few problems with this adaptation which could have easily been rectified. First off, the plot structure is changed so drastically from that of the novel. Not necessarily a problem, in itself. But in this case, too much is revealed to us too early on, leaving little room for suspense, and making Holmes's deductions seem fairly anti-climactic. Rather than learning of the particulars of various events through Holmes's brilliant deductions, we actually SEE the events first, then watch Holmes work them out via deductive reasoning. The other major disadvantage to this structure is that the introduction (a representation of events that Conan Doyle didn't reveal to us until the final act!) is quite labored and unnecessarily delays the introduction of Holmes and Watson. By the time Holmes begins to seriously investigate the matter of the one-legged man and his strange ally, we are nearly halfway through the film. We already know far more than we should, and many of the events which follow are altered due to the shifting of later themes to an earlier point in the film, giving a very uneven feel to the overall piece. The first two acts are far too leisurely, and the final act plays out at breakneck speed.
Beyond that, some of the characters have been changed beyond all recognition. Again, this is a needless change, and does nothing to enhance the story. In fact, in some cases, notably the alteration of Thaddeus Sholto, the changes detract from the effectiveness of various scenes. Conan Doyle's Sholto was an extremely nervous little man...seemingly on the verge of a minor nervous breakdown at all times. This greatly enhanced the suspense of the story...as being in his presence made us, as readers, a bit jittery, as well. So, naturally, presenting him as a dashing young man with a fine gift for articulation deadens the impact of the scenes in which he appears.
I know I'm focusing on the negative here, but I find it difficult not to compare this film with the Granada production which usurped it three years later. That adaptation was practically perfect in every way...fantastic performances all around (including a spot-on Thaddeus Sholto, courtesy of Ron Lacey), extremely faithful to the source material...easily one of the best Holmes adaptations ever committed to film. Still, this version has a lot to offer, and is quite fun in its own way. Though I would have liked to have seen Holmes indulge in a few mood swings (and perhaps brandish his cocaine needle, just for the sake of accuracy), Richardson is one of the better Sherlocks. And Healy is no slouch as Watson, even if he doesn't match David Burke or Edward Hardwicke.
The truth is, I was duly impressed with this film the first time around, and I still quite enjoy watching it from time to time. View this and the Granada version back-to-back and debate the pros and cons for yourself.
Prior to the 1988 adaptation from Granada Television, I would say that
this was the best adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. It stays
close to the source for the most part...but most of the changes it
makes are needless ones, which is somewhat puzzling. Why omit Arthur
Frankland? Why introduce Lyons, when he clearly has little function in
the story? Some of the changes do actually work, however...including
the bit with the gypsy. And in total, this Hound is entertaining and
certainly has its moments.
Ian Richardson is a fine Holmes, even if he seems a bit too good-natured. Perhaps this was a throwback to the old Basil Rathbone Holmes persona...and it works in this context. Richardson is hardly the moody Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle...but definitely fun to watch. Unfortunately, Donald Churchill is not one of the great screen Watsons. He is a definite step down from his immediate predecessor, David Healy, who portrayed the good Doctor opposite Richardson in The Sign of Four. As the films were produced in the same year, by the same producer, one must wonder why Healy did not reprise the role for Hound. Instead, we are presented with a rather too blustery Watson, almost reminiscent of Nigel Bruce, though not nearly as appealing. Churchill looks the part, but not much else.
Ron Lacey is a treat to watch, as always...this time, playing it straighter than usual in his role as Inspector Lestrade, whose participation is greatly enhanced in this adaptation, for he appeared in the novel merely as a minor supporting character, showing up toward the end. Here, he is on the scene quite early, though behaving in an uncharacteristically antagonistic fashion. Ron Lacey would, of course, show up in another Holmes adventure before too long...appearing as both Thaddeus and Bartholomew Sholto in the 1986 Granada adaptation of The Sign of Four.
All things considered, this is a good adaptation. It is simply not the best. That honor goes to Granada's production. Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes was the very essence of the literary character and very little of the novel was changed for the sake of that particular adaptation. This production runs a distant second...though prior to Granada's Hound, this one was easily the best of the bunch. It may, in fact, simply be a matter of individual taste. Neither film can be considered bad, by any stretch of the imagination. The preference, I suppose, depends solely on what one may be looking for in a Hound adaptation. I suggest seeing both this and the 1988 Granada production, and making up your own mind.
This film has sentimental value for me. It was the first entry of the
Universal Holmes series I ever saw. One might say I started at the end
and worked my way backwards. Indeed, this was the first Sherlock Holmes
film I ever saw. More than that, it was my introduction to the
character of Holmes. This was the film that prompted my lifelong
admiration for the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Holmes
character, and his various on screen incarnations. And it was also the
first videotape I ever owned.
It is also, all sentimentality aside, one of the better films in this series. Never quite reaching the heights of The Scarlet Claw or The Woman In Green, Dressed to Kill does manage to present Holmes with an intricate problem which allows him to display his reasoning powers and thwart the villains. In dealing with the main plot device of a secret code, it is similar in many ways to Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon. But the lack of WWII subterfuge, Nazi agents, and flag-waving back-slapping propaganda sets it apart as a superior installment. In a way, it's a demonstration of how the previous film could have been better (much as Terror by Night was a demonstration of how Pursuit to Algiers should have been handled).
My only qualm is that, much like The Secret Weapon, Holmes stumbles upon the final means of unraveling the code when Watson makes an offhand remark. Indeed, the two scenes are strikingly similar, and one must wonder if this is coincidence. However, the rest of the film is so well-crafted that one can overlook this minor annoyance and enjoy this final entry for what it's worth.
As usual, cast and crew do an admirable job and manage to overcome their meager budget and time constraints. One might very well wonder what could have been if Universal had taken the Holmes franchise more seriously and upgraded the films to A-picture status. Roy William Neill and company worked wonders with what they were given. Imagine what they could have done with proper funding and more realistic shooting schedules. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Universal's Holmes was forever locked into the B-picture slot. Even when Universal announced that it was upgrading the series, it proved to be all talk. A pity, but the filmmakers managed to overcome this stumbling block time and again, producing a fairly consistent run of entertaining pictures, which are still enjoyed today, 60 years after the series' end.
Dressed to Kill was a fine end to the series, I think. Rathbone had already decided not to do another picture, despite the fact that Universal held the rights until 1949. Like Conan Doyle, he suffered from overexposure to the character (having played Holmes in 14 feature films, and in over 200 half-hour radio performances) and felt that, in Conan Doyle's words, Holmes "kept his mind from better things." It's great that the series was able to maintain the momentum that it did in its four-year run, and that at least eight of the dozen films managed to achieve some level of greatness. After a shaky start, the Universal series proved itself worthy of the Sherlock Holmes name with a string of wonderfully entertaining films. And I think it's only fitting that a series which started on a rather sour note managed to end on a reasonably high one.
Terror By Night takes most of the intriguing elements of the previous
Holmes film (Pursuit to Algiers), leaves out the extraneous bits which
hampered that particular film, cranks up the suspense, and roars out of
the station on the rails of a complex and entertaining mystery.
The film follows Holmes and his friend/chronicler Watson on a train voyage, where Holmes has been commissioned to guard a precious stone. When the gem is inevitably stolen, with murder to accompany the theft, Holmes and Watson are thrust into yet another profound whodunit. With a gallery of suspects to choose from, Holmes must find the thief/murderer before the train reaches its final destination...at great risk to his own personal safety, naturally.
This film is far more effective than its predecessor on virtually every level. The suspense is palpable and sustained, the pacing quick and uninterrupted (thankfully, no musical numbers to detract from the overall ambiance). The cinematography is dark and moody, evoking film noir and the classic films of Alfred Hitchcock. The lead performances are, as always, great...Rathbone and Bruce play it up wonderfully here, though Bruce's Watson does seem to go out of his way to make a fool of himself. Dennis Hoey also puts in the last of his six performances as Inspector Lestrade here, and contributes his usual warm, if perpetually inept (the character, not the actor), presence.
Overall, I'd rate Terror By Night as one of the top five films in the Universal Holmes series. A vast improvement over Pursuit to Algiers, with a similar plot, but far better execution. If you haven't time to watch both, give Pursuit a miss and stick with Terror.
While it has its strong points, Pursuit to Algiers is a low point in
the latter days of the Universal Holmes series. Though superior to the
first three films, I'd only give this 5½ stars on a scale of 1-10. In
many ways, it is, as some critics have called it "Sherlock Holmes meets
Love Boat." An intriguing premise is largely overshadowed by numerous
musical numbers, and a rather too drawn-out ocean voyage that never
seems to generate the suspense it seeks.
Nigel Bruce has a fine moment as Watson in this installment, however...perhaps his finest in the series...a touching, if brief, glimpse into the good doctor's depth of feeling for his renowned friend. Still, a similar moment can be found in The Spider Woman...which, in all other regards, is a better film than Pursuit to Algiers. So take that for what it's worth. Still, it is a high point in the film, and deserves mention.
Overall, the film is similar in many respects to the entry which immediately follows it...Terror By Night. Terror By Night is, however, a much more satisfying installment, and could even be viewed as a superior alternative to Pursuit to Algiers. For completists, this entry is, of course, compulsory viewing. But for those who are simply looking for an entertaining Holmes mystery, I'd suggest The Scarlet Claw, The Woman In Green, The Spider Woman, The House of Fear, or The Pearl of Death as a better choice. Or, for a similar story to that presented in Pursuit to Algiers...a voyage, a missing gem, several suspects wrapped up in a traditional whodunit...I'd suggest Terror By Night.
This is, by no means, a bad film...it just fails to live up to the standard set by many of the films that came before it (and carried on by the two which followed it). It is head and shoulders above the first three Nazi-busting spy films in the series, which seem nonsensical in the context of Sherlock Holmes cinema, but is perhaps the least of the latter films.
This was one of the first Universal Holmes films I ever saw. I believe
I was ten at the time, and the film kept my attention fixed on the
screen from start to finish. Fifteen years later, it still has much the
Without doubt the most gruesome entry in the series, The Woman In Green presents us with a shocking series of murders. The bodies of young women are being found all over London, their right forefingers inexplicably severed and absent...as if the killer (who is compared more than once with Jack the Ripper, invoking Holmes's Victorian roots) is taking them with him as morbid trophies of his senseless crimes. When Sherlock Holmes is called in to assist Scotland Yard, however, he soon finds method in the madness...and the ultimate criminal mastermind pulling the strings.
The story is an original, but pulls key moments from The Final Problem and The Empty House in order to punctuate the action...and very effectively. Rich in atmosphere, with magnificent performances all around, I would actually rate this film at 7½ stars...placing it just below the best entry, The Scarlet Claw. Rathbone's Holmes is in top form, Bruce's Watson manages to be sensible at least half the time, and Henry Daniell's Moriarty (cited by Rathbone as his favorite of the three Professors who played opposite him) is a sinister delight to watch...cold, calculating, and emotionally anemic, he is the perfect counterpoint to Rathbone's Holmes.
On the technical side, the film is on a par with most of the series...very capably made, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances. Roy William Neill and company showed amazing skill and tenacity in producing as many Holmes films as they did, in such a short span of time, with extremely limited resources...and this is one of their finest efforts.
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