When people think about solving crimes in literature, the name SHERLOCK HOLMES comes to mind. The British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the character in 1887. The movie stars William Gillette who was best known as a great stage actor but when the American filmmaker Arthur Berthelet wanted to make SHERLOCK HOLMES, Gillette was his choice.
The film was made in 1916 and there are a couple of interesting facts behind it. The film is very true to the stage play that Gillette had written and starred as SHERLOCK HOLMES. This was also the only existing footage that exists of Gillette. As film history and fans will tell you, he is probably the best Holmes ever. He played Holmes over 1300 times and to be able to convey the feelings of the character in a silent film takes talent that most actors today would fail in doing. Ernest Maupain played the series’ most nefarious character and Sherlock’s rival Professor Moriarty. For those of you who don’t understand the relationship between Holmes and Moriarty, think of it like the conflict between Batman and The Joker. It was usually a contest of wits.
One other interesting fact about the film is that it was later shown in 1920 in France and that was when was misplaced. I wasn’t until a few years ago that a duplicate of the film was found by la Cinémathèque française. Now, Flicker Alley, along with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and la Cinémathèque française, the film has been restored for the anniversary of its release. It has been almost 100 years since it’s release in the US and now a beautiful Blu-ray has been born.
The film has been restored into a 1080p AVC transfer that looks superb. The image has been cleaned up to the best possible version from the nitrate film that was found. Now keep in mind, there was probably an incredible amount of dirt, speckling, scratches and hairs on the film but a lot of that was cleaned up in the restoration. Honestly, there are nice details and strong contrasting but the blacks are a bit more like dark grey. Overall, the picture really does look excellent.
The audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and it consists of the musical score for the film. It has been beautifully done and goes perfectly with the film. It is a strong mix that fills the home theater with music.
-From Lost to Found: Restoring William Gillette’s SHERLOCK HOLMES: This is a 24-minute featurette at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Robert Byrne talks about the challenges of restoring a 99-year old film.
-Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900): This is a clip from archival video from the collections of the Library of Congress. It is the earliest known footage of Sherlock Holmes.
-A Canine Sherlock (1912): This footage from the EYE Institute is about a dog named Spot who solves a crime.
-Più forte che Sherlock Holmes (1913): This film is also from the EYE Institute about Sherlock Holmes.
-Late Conan Doyle Talks to You About the Beyond (1928): The opening for the feature says this is the only talking picture made by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle throughout his life.
-Sherlock Holmes Turn Engineer (1930): These are some outtakes of William Gillette from the FOX Movietone Collection.
-Promotional Photographs Gallery (1899): These are the original promo photos from the stage production of Sherlock Holmes.
-Lobby Cards and Flyer Gallery (1916): These are from the original theatrical run of the film.
Three-disc set w/1 Blu-ray and 2 DVDs
1080p MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The film has been called one of the Holy Grails of film and Gillette shaped the character of Holmes from then on. It is a piece of American History and Flicker Alley has done an incredible job of bringing it to the masses of fans and film scholars. If you are into early silent movies and or just love cinema in general, this is one of the best Blu-rays to own.