Monday, 25 February 2013

Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes Boxset

I'm a wee bit late in reviewing this, but as I've been studying Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four recently (and have an assignment about it due) now seems as good a time as any to share my thoughts on the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes adaptations.

I've mentioned before that Mr Click is a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and he owns several different adaptations. The first one we watched was the Basil Rathbone films which date from the 1940s and most of which transport Holmes to that era to pit his wits against the Nazis. Those are his favourites. I have to admit I was pleased to move onto the Jeremy Brett ones purely because they're more my style. Although until we watched these ones I'd seen less than a handful of the Brett episodes, he's such an iconic representation of Holmes that he's who I tend to picture as I'm reading, even if I've got the Sidney Paget illustrations on the page!

The boxset that Mr Click owns features every episode, divided into four sets; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It's nicely designed and looks like a pair of books; I'm a big fan of funky looking DVD cases, this one suits the contents well.

Most episodes run to about an hour on DVD though there are some feature length ones which run to about double that. It tends to be the bigger stories, like The Hound of the Baskervilles. Often it's obvious which'll be the longer ones because they're on a disc by themselves but some aren't so you don't always know how long it'll be when you start watching. The earlier episodes are often direct adaptations of the books, which in my opinion are usually stronger than the later 'original' ones which are just missing that Arthur Conan Doyle spark.

Watching these so soon after watching the Basil Rathbone versions, I have to say I prefer the way Watson is presented in the Brett-era. Nigel Bruce's Watson is a bit of a bumbling fool whereas the Watsons portrayed by David Burke and Edward Hardwicke (after the first set Watson is taken over by the latter) are intelligent men who help Sherlock solve the crimes rather than just seeming to be there for comic relief.

Image from Jeremy
And of course I can't mention the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes without mentioning Jeremy Brett himself. I wasn't aware of what a tough life he had until Mark told me when I said we'd finished watching the series. Reading about Brett it seems he was tortured by mental health problems and his sexuality, I can't help but wonder if that affected some of his intense portrayals of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a bit of a tortured soul himself; this brilliant mind which is constantly in need of fuel to such an extent that he feeds a drug addiction to help stave off boredom. Brett seems to throw himself into Holmes and become the character; there are probably parallels that can been drawn between the man and the fictional character.

Since finishing the series we've decided to stay in Victorian England and are watching a selection of BBC adaptations of Charles Dickens stories. It's been a nice easy shift from one to the other and coincided nicely with my studying the Victorian period for my course. We're almost finished with Mr Dickens so I'll post a note of my thoughts on it then; hopefully a little sooner after we finish than this review.


  1. Great review. You know my thoughts on this, indeed you've kindly referenced me! But I love Brett as Holmes, he is the definitive and, like you, I prefer the first series than the later ones. I also prefer David Burke as Watson too. I think my favourite of the feature length ones are The Sign Of Four and The Master Blackmailer. As a kid I was very lucky to go on a school trip to nearby Granada Studios (when they used to run tours there) and actually walked down Baker Street (and Coronation St too) for a Holmes fan it was great fun.

    1. That sounds like an incredible school trip (I told John and he was pretty jealous too). What a brilliant experience.

      I definitely agree with you on The Sign of Four, as it's one of the books I'm studying in my course I particularly enjoyed watching the adaptation.


Let me know what you think. :-)