Monday, May 2, 2011

BBC Sherlock Holmes!

I found this set of vintage BBC shows on DVD just by fluke the other day at the local Target. I'm a bit of a fool for Peter Cushing, a charming actor of the old style, and I'm a bit of a hound for anything remotely touching on the classic Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, so this was a must have.
This was Cushing's second go at the role, so I craved to compare it to the classic Hammer version.

The collection is only the surviving episodes of the second season of the BBC run. Apparently the rest have been lost leaving only five stories and six episodes. It's a shame because they're tastefully done, solid adaptations on par in style if not production values with the Jeremy Brett adaptations a decade later.

Cushing is ideal as Holmes and Nigel Stock is an admirable Watson. He's a still a bit of a buffoon but it is muted compared to Nigel Bruce in the classic Rathbone movies from the 40's.

The Hound adaptation is especially good in two parts, with great casting. In fact the acting is the best thing about these stories, solid characters with memorable muggs and distinctive voices. There are even nuances here and there that point to aspects of the characters not necessarily evident in the original Doyle stories. Most notably the women really seem to enjoy the embraces, even those they're not supposed to. It's a change that points to a more full-bodied England than we see in the stories or the early films. It's a peek behind the Victorian ideals so to speak.

There's ample smoking in this one, and both Stock and Cushing hold their own in a world swirling in pipe smoke. It seems this made Cushing nauseous but it's impossible to detect.

These are really great. Aside from the Hound story, the collection has The Sign of Four, A Study in Scarlet, The Blue Carbuncle, and The Boscombe Valley Mystery. What happened to the other episodes is not discussed, but presumably they were just lost at some point and time.

Here's a site that focuses on Peter Cushing's Sherlock Homes parts with special attention for this series.

The DVD also has an A&E Biography on Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle which uses cuts from the Granada adaptations. It's an odd blend of reality and fiction which did add to my knowledge of "The Great Detective".

This collection is highly recommended.

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  1. The Sherlock Holmes episodes were lost to BBC frugalness; the reused the tapes the episodes had been stored on... not even keeping masters. The fact any episodes survived was more by accident than design.

    And it's good to hear someone else appreciating Cushing's Holmes. I think he's one of the very best to play the role.

  2. How much is the set at Target?
    I was going to order it from Edward R Hamilton for $7.95
    If it's the same price, I'll pop over to Target!

  3. Since you're a Cushing fan (and who among us fanboys isn't?), you might want to check out the comic adaptation of his first appearance as Dr Who:


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