SHERLOCK HOLMES, Various directors/BFI A particular enthusiasm of Sherlock Holmes devotees is a spirited argument over which actor best incarnated Conan Doyle’s immortal character. Those of a certain age swear by the saturnine, beautifully spoken Basil Rathbone, while Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent modern-day reinvention of the character has gleaned many followers. But while the popular choice among television viewers has long been the impeccably cast Jeremy Brett, there are those who have espoused the cause of the classic BBC TV series featuring Douglas Wilmer (still going strong at 95 in 2014). But this particular judgement has had to be taken on trust, given that Wilmer’s series (with Nigel Stock as Watson) has been unseeable for so long. The 1965 TV series, though, has now enjoyed a belated wash-and-rinse courtesy of the BFI in a four-DVD set, which not only includes all the existing episodes, but also contains reconstructions of lost episodes, audio commentaries and an interview with a sprightly Douglas Wilmer. Wilmer, like so many of his fellow actors in the role, bore a marked resemblance to the Sidney Paget illustrations, but brought a highly individual and personal stamp to his Holmes — more wry and amused in his manner that many other actors. His first appearance was originally part of the BBC drama strand Detective (with a dramatisation of The Speckled Band) and so well-received was this initial outing that it led to a series, and it is a series which holds up well in the 21st-century. There are, of course, caveats: budgetary restraints are frequently apparent in some production design cost-cutting, and there is the occasional seat-of-the-pants, ramshackle feel to the production in terms of editing and staging, but it is a measure of Wilmer’s status (as opposed to Nigel Stock’s rather stolid Watson) that this is so rewarding for the Holmesian. With the lost William Gillette Holmes film recently surfacing in Paris, it’s becoming more and more possible to assess the individual achievements of the many actors who have played the Great Detective over the years.
THE LEGACY/Arrow It’s a particular pleasure to welcome this superbly acted Danish drama to the DVD and Blu-ray medium, where picture values are intimately sharper than in its recent television incarnation. What’s more, the subtleties of playing and direction are even more apparent on the second viewing. Subterfuge and lies are the order the day when terminally ill artist Veronika Grønnegaard decides to make up for her past behaviour. Her grown-up children carry a heavy psychological burden exacerbated by her death – and her divisive legacy.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, John Frankenheimer, director/Arrow One would have thought that absolutely no recommendation was required for this superb American thriller (adapted from a novel by Richard Condon), withdrawn for many years by its star Frank Sinatra when he thought that it might have inspired the killer of his friend Jack Kennedy. Looked at today, it is a film of diamond-hard brilliance with note-perfect performances from Angela Lansbury (mesmerisingly imperious as a political hostess) and Sinatra himself, famously unfastidious as an actor, but here giving one of the best performances of his career. The remake with Denzel Washington was a solid piece of work, but it is utterly blown away by the original version, looking better than ever in Arrow’s transfer.
THE MISSING, Various directors/RLJ/ Acorn This compelling crime drama about a father’s search for his missing son was must-see viewing for much of Britain on its original TV showing, with many of water-cooler moments in which people argued – both pro and con— about the developments throughout the series. If the ending was somewhat controversial, the series looks balanced and impressive in this DVD incarnation.