"THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES." (1939-46. NOT RATED. MPI. $129.98.)
None of the recent Sherlock Holmes releases or reissues compares to what many still consider the definitive Holmes franchise, with Basil Rathbone as the super sleuth and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson.
MPI has rereleased its excellent package of all 14 films. As someone who grew up watching these films on TV and hadn't seen them in years, I offer these observations:
(1) People criticized the Robert Downey Jr. "Holmes" movie for taking too many liberties with Conan Doyle, but that train left the station long ago. The first two films, made by 20th Century Fox, were faithful enough, but then the series jumped to Universal, and Holmes and Watson were suddenly fighting Nazis in the 1940s.
(2) Am I the only one who prefers the later films? By then, the series was in the hands of a great genre director, Roy William Neill ("Black Angel"), who kept things sharp and moving, and Rathbone and Bruce had grown comfortable in their roles.
(3) Most of the films were meticulously restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and the transfers look great.
(4) Conan Doyle imagined Holmes to be about 30. Rathbone was 47 when he began playing the role. Downey Jr. was 44. Strangely, Bruce, who looks much older than either of them, was 44 when he began playing Watson, younger than Rathbone and, yes, the same age as Downey Jr. So 44 doesn't seem as old as it used to.
(5) The movies are just as much fun as I remembered. Heartily recommended.