This collection of short British Sherlock Holmes productions begins with the French-British coproduction The Copper Beeches (1912), featuring the comically-overplayed performance by the actor portraying Rucastle, the vindictive father. Not much of a mystery and not much of a film, with its outright bad direction and overwrought acting. At least Georges Tréville makes a reasonable Holmes.
The other films in this collection come from the first 1921 series of Holmes films produced by the Stoll company. Eille Norwood portrays a believeable and satisfying Holmes.
In The Dying Detective (1921), Holmes is near death, afflicted by a rare Asiatic disease, and still manages to solve a murder case.
A family is found sitting upright and dead at their dinner table in The Devil’s Foot (1921) and Holmes must deduce both the mysterious method and motive.
For The Man with the Twisted Lip (1921), Holmes dons one of his disguises to investigate a curious beggar amid London’s seedier denizens, who is in turn accused of the murder of a well-to-do family man. Holmes solves the mystery with surprising results. — Carl Bennett
2002 DVD edition
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1912-1921), color-toned black & white and color-tinted black & white, 105 minutes total, not rated,
including The Copper Beeches (1912), color-toned black & white and color-tinted black & white, 24 minutes, not rated, The Dying Detective (1921), color-toned black & white, 28 minutes, not rated, The Devil’s Foot (1921), color-toned black & white, 27 minutes, not rated, and The Man with the Twisted Lip (1921), color-toned black & white, 26 minutes, not rated.
Grapevine Video, no catalog number, unknown UPC number.
Full-frame 4:3 NTSC, one single-sided, single-layered DVD-R disc, Region 0, 4.5 Mbps average video bit rate, 224 kbps audio bit rate, PCM 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 4 chapter stops, standard DVD keepcase, $16.95.
Release date: 2002.
Country of origin: USA
This collection has been mastered from 16mm reduction prints of varying quality. The Cooper Beeches (1912) appears to have been transferred from a very-good fine-grain 16mm print, which holds a reasonable greyscale range and image detail. Some of the intertitles have been windowboxed to ensure readability on all monitors. Easily the best-looking film on the disc, we would rate this film’s visual quality at a 6.
The Dying Detective (1921) has been transferred from a fair 16mm reduction print that has blasted-out highlights with closed-up shadow details and little greyscale range in between, however intertitles and insert shots of handwriting are still legible. The source print has more than its share of frame jitters.
The Devil’s Foot (1921) is even worse as some intertitles are barely readable; most have been freeze-framed to hold the most-legible frames long enough to be read, but does little for those that are too dark in the best of frames. Even so, with its too dark print, the film’s action can still be followed.
The Man with the Twisted Lip (1921) is the best-looking of these three Stoll film prints but is still contrasty, with closed shadows and detailless highlights. Like the three others, frame jitters can be distracting.
The films are accompanied by a soundtrack of preexisting recordings. The print quality of the Stoll films brings down the overall visual quality of this disc, but this is currently the only way to collect these films on home video.
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