16 February 2009

DVD: "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes" - Collector's Edition

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes
Produced by Sidney R. Sheldon
Directed by Various
Written by Various
Starring: Ronald Howard and H. Marion Crawford
DVD Release Date: 4 May 2004
Rating: G
List Price: $29.98

The Television Series
Difficult though it may be to believe, of all the various TV and film incarnations of Doyle's famed detective, this 1954-1955 series is the only time he has appeared in a televised American production.  Howard plays Holmes as a step ahead of everyone else, but generally good natured; he is not condescending toward those who haven't caught up with him.  Crawford plays Watson almost exclusively for laughs, as does frequent guest Archie Duncan as Inspector LeStrade.  The plots are clever and although the music is frequently recycled (as are several guest stars), each of these twenty episodes is genuinely delightful.

Christopher Lee filmed an introduction to the series to be watched prior to the first episode, as well as closing remarks to be heard when you've finished the set.  Each of the five discs also contains a feature of on-screen text highlighting the actors's filmographies, other Holmes TV & film appearances and a biography of Doyle.  Also, there are a handful of trivia questions asked about the episodes on each disc.  It may not be the most overwhelming bonus feature of all time, but it was brief enough to have actually been an enjoyable little diversion and a test of how attentively I had watched!

The Recommendation
I felt, while watching this delightful series with my wife, that a case could easily be made that this must have been an inspiration for one of our current favorite series, Psych.  If you enjoy Shawn and Gus, and if you're not closed-minded about black & white series, then you should certainly track down this series.  Note that there were 39 episodes produced, and only 20 of them appear in this release by Madacy.  This series is in the public domain, so there are numerous home video releases by various companies.  Be cautious about which version you buy, and be aware that Amazon currently has a listing for only one release that contains the series in its entirety.  You should also know that the audio/visual quality is not always excellent throughout this release, and this is generally true of all home video releases of this series, as the original prints from which the episodes were transfered had not aged well, and a full restoration is too costly.

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