Only five episodes of the BBC s celebrated 1960s Sherlock Holmes series survive. Coincidentally, all five star the inimitable Peter Cushing (Star Wars) as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle s legendary detective, with Nigel Stock as Dr. Watson. And, fortunately for Holmes fans, they have finally been made available on DVD in North America, courtesy of A&E.
Having already starred as Holmes in the famous Hammer film Hound of the Baskervilles, Cushing was uniquely suited to craft the definitive portrayal for these five captivating televised mysteries. For his first outing as the BBC s Holmes, Cushing revisits the moors of Dartmoor for a feature-length version of Holmes most well-known case, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Subsequent adventures pit his vaunted intellect against murderers, cannibals and Australian bushwackers in faithful productions of The Sign of the Four, The Blue Carbuncle, A Study in Scarlet and The Boscombe Valley Mystery.
There will certainly be some car-door slamming on Baker Street with the release of this essential collection of the long-thought-lost 1960s BBC TV series. The set contains five surviving episodes starring the venerable Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, whose deerstalker he first tried on for size in the 1959 Hammer production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. That classic mystery gets the two-part treatment here and is easily the highlight of the set. The other stories--"A Study in Scarlet," "The Sign of Four," "The Blue Carbuncle," and "The Boscombe Valley Mystery," each clocking in at less than an hour--are a little worse for the abridgment, but watching Cushing's cool and collected Holmes is good to while away an hour or two. To paraphrase Paul Simon, every generation throws a Sherlock Holmes up the pop charts, and Cushing ranks with the best of them (Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett). "I am no policeman," he proclaims at one point. "I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection. When the official police are out of their depth, the matter is laid before me." His partner Watson (Nigel Stock) is wrong when he states that "anticipation is the worst part of any adventure." On the contrary, one eagerly anticipates Holmes's arrival on the scene, where he will meticulously examine the clues and use his "remarkable powers of observation" to solve cases the police consider closed. Each baffling mystery is but "child's play" or "commonplace" to him. As Watson gasps after Holmes makes another brilliant deduction, "You amaze me." And so will this collection, no doubt. --Donald Liebenson