Thursday, 30 October 2014

Seeing The Hound in a New Light

Something really nice popped through my letterbox this week. It wasn't a bill, nor a scary brown envelope from the tax office, thankfully it was the Blu-ray version of Hammer Film's 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'.

Perfect Halloween viewing (pumpkins not included)

Released as a dual DVD / Blu-ray combo by Shock Entertainment, the DVD is coded to Region 4 and the Blu-ray to Region B. I can't play the DVD version to compare the quality (as I can only play R2 discs) but the Blu-ray version looks amazing.

I'm used to poor prints with washed out colours when it comes to watching Hammer films (admittedly this is my first Hammer Blu-ray), so it was a real surprise to see how good it looked. In fact, the film transfer was so good I could barely believe that the film I was watching was over fifty years old. The only downside on the release is the lack of extras. There is a nice featurette on Hammer stalwart (and Dr. Watson in the film), Andre Morell, but a 'making of' or a commentary wouldn't have gone amiss.

Now, I can't see any point in writing a review of the film, as we've all seen it by now (and if you haven't, you need to rectify this at once). I for one love the Hammer version, and rate it as the best adaptation of ACD's most famous story (as much as I love Jeremy Brett's Holmes, I have to admit that his Hound falls short when compared to Cushing's 1959 effort).

Cushing, Morell and Lee in fine form and in high definition - what more can you ask for?

The Cushing finger in full effect

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A Book Fit For a Queen

This month sees the publication of one of Conan Doyle's lesser known Holmes stories, namely 'How Watson Learned the Trick'. The story has of course found its way into print previously (albeit rarely), but this is the very first time it has been released in its original format: a book measuring as little as 38.5mm by 30mm.
The short piece (a shade over 500 words) was written specifically for its inclusion in Queen Mary's Dolls House.

Queen Mary's Dolls House, is as the name suggests, a dolls
Master craftsmen hard at work
house that was built for (yes, you've guessed it) Queen Mary. However, the doll's house is nothing like one you would find in your local toy shop.

Built over a three year period, and completed in 1924, it stands at a staggering five feet tall and over eight feet wide. With a scale of 1:12 (one inch representing one foot), the House and its contents definitely brings the term 'grandiose' to a whole new level.

The doll's house is now owned by Queen Mary's granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II and it is on permanent display at Windsor Castle. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyen, a greatly respected British architect in his day. Today he is probably best remember for his design for The Cenotaph, which sits in Whitehall, London. Over a thousand people were involved in aspects of the build in some way or another (be they craftsmen, artists or writers) and the end result of their toils was a fully functioning four-storey Palladian Villa, with
forty rooms, complete with electricity, two working lifts,
Queen Mary (1867-1953)
running water (including flushable toilets), a garage with space for
five working cars, including  a 1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (donated
by Rolls-Royce) and a wine cellar armed with 200 bottles of Chateau
Lafitte 1875 and five dozen bottles of Veueve Cliquot (not to mention a strongroom which held miniature replicas of the Crown Jewels).
However, as impressive as this all is, it is of course the library that
attracts the Sherlockian in me.

The greatest authors of the day were asked to asked to contribute to the project and those that obliged included Conan Doyle, M.R. James,
Thomas Hardy, A.A. Milne, Rudyard Kipling,
W. Somerset Maugham and J.M. Barrie (George Bernard Shaw famously rebuffed the invitation).

If you haven't read the story before, it is well worth a view (although you might have to borrow Holmes' magnifying glass to read this version). 

'How Watson Learned the Trick' is published by Walker Books and can be purchased via their website or on Amazon.

Every library should have a Sherlock Holmes book (even a tiny one)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A Miraculous Find, Watson

Startling news! A print of the 1916 film, 'Sherlock Holmes', considered lost for close to a hundred years has recently surfaced in France.
The print was discovered in the archives of the French Cinémathèque and is currently in the process of being restored.

The film, which was produced by Essanay Studios starred the legendary Sherlock Holmes actor William Gillette in the title role and was an adaptation of his earlier stage-play 'Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts'. Gillette was 'Sherlock Holmes' to a entire generation, but barring a handful of photographs, little of his work survived - until now.

Two premieres have been scheduled for the restored print. The first being at Cinémathèque Française's Festival of Film Restoration in January 2015, whilst the American premiere will take place at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in May 2015. Barring a lucky few, we lesser mortals will have to wait for its eventual release on DVD or Blu-ray, which will undoubtedly occur some time afterwards. I know the summer of 2015 seems an age away for something that we are all dying to see, but having waited for 98 years another year won't harm us.