The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Alfred Werker's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) has always been regarded as the best of the Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce -- and there are also those who think of it as the best Holmes movie ever made. It's been given an appropriately exalted treatment by MPI Home Video, starting with a sparkling transfer of the beautifully shot film. The disc plays like an array of gorgeous still photographs and is one of the best-looking DVDs of a 1930s title that one can find. The audio quality is a match for the picture, the sound set at a high volume level and revealing the richness of the onscreen music, which is essential to the mystery. Every bit as fascinating as the movie is the commentary track by Holmes expert Richard Valley, in which the author/publisher takes us on a delightful (and delight-filled) walk through the movie, touching on plot, casting, characters, underlying literary works, movie backstory -- even the song "I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside" (sung by Rathbone) -- and just about every other aspect of the film that one might care to name. His commentary, which finally explains why 20th Century Fox dropped the series after this film (it had to do with a demand from the Conan Doyle estate), is worth the price of admission by itself. The other supplementary features include a music-accompanied montage of still shots and publicity art from the production (running three minutes) and re-release trailers to The Scarlet Claw, Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, and Terror by Night -- none looking especially good, but all entertaining. The disc opens automatically to a two-layer menu that keeps the special features confined to a special internal layer of the menu. The only flaw in the disc is that navigating between the film and the menu is a little more complicated than is often the case, first requiring an exit from the chapter selection and then involving a maneuver or two with the controls.