September 21, 2009

Justify My Netflix: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes

Today's movie: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, 1971-73 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this early-'70s British television anthology has a premise that's hard to pass up: based on a series of story collections edited by Graham Greene's brother, it takes a look at thirteen other Victorian-Era fictional detectives who were being penned and published at the same time as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales, almost all of whom besides Holmes himself have faded into nearly forgotten obscurity, devoting an hour each episode to dramatizing one of their old adventures.

The reality: Fantastic! Now, granted, I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan already, and just a bit obsessive about the Victorian Age in general, which helps when it comes to this slightly outdated series just now being released for the first time on DVD; but if you are as well, you're sure to love this look at all the lesser detectives being published in the London penny dreadfuls back in the late 1800s, including such inventive/digressive characters as Max Carrados (aka "the blind Sherlock Holmes"), Dr. John Thorndyke ("the more scientific Sherlock Holmes"), Thomas Carnacki ("the ghost-hunting Sherlock Holmes"), and Simon Carne ("the anti-Sherlock Holmes," who uses his deductive skills not to solve crimes but to commit them). True, the early-'70s video quality and special effects leave a bit to be desired, but that's not why one watches Victorian-Era projects in the first place; if instead you're looking for ingenious plots, grand costuming, as well as a look at the underbelly of 1800s London by someone other than the admitted master Conan Doyle, you'll want to be sure to add this four-disc set to your queue right away.

Strangest piece of trivia: Even though Hugh Greene, editor of the literary anthologies this series was based on, was at the time director-general of the BBC, the show itself was actually produced by the Beeb's rival, Thames Television.

Worth your time? If you're a fan of either Holmesian literature or the Victorian Age in general, absolutely

Filed by Jason Pettus at 2:29 PM, September 21, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |