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Roy William Neill
Basil Rathbone , Nigel Bruce, Gerald Hamer, Paul Cavanagh
Writing Credits:
Edmund L. Hartmann and Roy William Neill

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection stars Basil Rathbone as the legendary Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as the venerable Dr. John H. Watson. Comprised of all 14 films on 5 discs in high definition.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 74 min.
Price: $129.98
Release Date: 3/29/2011

Available Only as Part of the 14-Film ďComplete Sherlock Holmes CollectionĒ

• Audio Commentary from Author David Stuart Davies
• Introduction from Film Restorationist Robert Gitt
• Photo Galleries
• Trailers
• Footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Scarlet Claw: Sherlock Holmes - The Complete Collection (1944)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 25, 2014)

With 1944ís The Scarlet Claw, the series of Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone passes its halfway point, as it was the eighth of 14. In a small village called La Morte Rouge, the locals worry that something sinister and supernatural stalks them. Tales of mysterious glows and animals with ripped-out throats abound, and these take a turn for the worse when Lady Penrose ends up dead, also with severe damage to her neck.

News of this reaches Lord Penrose (Paul Cavanagh) in Quebec while he attends a convention to discuss the occult. Penrose believes in the topic, so he butts heads with a more fact-based attendee: Sherlock Holmes (Rathbone).

When he learns of his wifeís death, Penrose heads home Ė and Holmes follows, primarily because he gets a postmortem letter from Lady Penrose herself in which the now-deceased frets for her life. Holmes and his cohort Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) head to La Morte Rouge and the scene of the crime to find out who Ė or what Ė caused the Ladyís demise.

Iím cherry-picking the Holmes movies I see; I canít make the time to watch all 14, so I chose to go with the titles that offer audio commentaries. Thatís been a fairly good method to date, as it seems to allow me to skip some of the lesser entries, though a relative clunker like Voice of Terror does slip past on occasion.

Claw definitely deserves discussion among the seriesí stronger flicks, as it plays like a better-made version of Hound of the Baskervilles. That one lost points due to too little Holmes and a tired romantic subplot. Claw doesnít make either of those mistakes, as it provides a consistently stimulating affair.

If forced to pick a disappointment, Iíd say that Claw discards the supernatural element too quickly. Sure, we know that there isnít really a monster stalking the inhabitants of La Morte Rouge, but the film couldíve kept that thread alive longer and done more to cast doubts upon Holmesí unswerving sense of rational thought.

Otherwise, plotting and development seem good. The story sets up a clear mystery and follows its paths in a concise way. Of course, this means the usual diet of missteps and red herrings, but all fit the tale well; we donít get a lot of fat along the way.

That goes a long way toward making this a compelling story. As I mentioned when I reviewed Faces Death, the Holmes franchise flounders when it tries too hard to go away from its roots. Is Holmes a limited character? Yes Ė heís not someone who gives us a true three-dimensional personality, and thatís fine, as we donít really want that from him. When we go into Holmes movies, we want good mysteries that the lead solves via deduction, and thatís about it. If Sherlock has to fight Nazis or chase spies, he loses his identity.

Which the seriesí producers clearly realized, as the franchise usually went with bread and butter. To stretch food metaphors, Scarlet Claw is indeed a meat and potatoes Holmes film: one that focuses on what the character does best. And itís a good meat and potatoes tale that one could argue stands among the franchiseís best.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture D+/ Audio D+/ Bonus NA

The Scarlet Claw appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. I hoped that as the Holmes series progressed, the images would improve, but in this case, the opposite seemed to be true, as Claw mightíve been the most problematic transfer of the films Iíve seen.

As usual, print flaws were the main concern. From open to close, I noticed many examples of specks, blotches, marks, tears, nicks, scratches, lines and debris. Some segments looked better than others, but none escaped harm.

The rest of the image was stronger but not as good as its predecessors. In particular, softness took a bit of a hit. While most of the film showed fairly nice delineation, wide shots tended to seem softer than usual. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and blacks looked pretty good. Dark tones seemed reasonably solid, and low-light shots offered fairly positive clarity. Though this wasnít an unwatchable presentation, the combination of nearly constant print flaws and some softness made it a ďD+Ē.

Donít expect improvements from the problematic monaural soundtrack. In particular, this one seemed rougher than its predecessors. Noise was a bigger concern, and speech tended to be edgy and sibilant. Music was usually somewhat harsh, and effects appeared distorted. All I want from a 1940s mono mix is to get acceptably clear audio, but that didnít happen here; the track was a bit of a mess.

Because Claw came as part of a 14-film, five-disc set, I didnít give it a grade for bonus materials. The package spreads these across all of those platters, and only a few are film-specific, so I didnít think it was fair to issue individual marks for extras.

We do find an audio commentary for Claw. Author David Stuart Davies provides a running, screen-specific look at story issues and influences, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, connected timelines and other production areas.

This is the third Davies commentary Iíve heard, and itís a decent one but not terrific. At this point, Davies seems to be running out of series-related notes the share, so he feels a bit tapped out along the way. Nonetheless, he still manages to throw out a reasonable amount of info; the track simply drags more than Iíd like.

Found on Disc One of this package, we get an Introduction by Robert Gitt. In this four-minute, 38-second piece, Gitt discusses the efforts that went into the restoration of the Universal Holmes flicks. Gitt gives us a good look at some of the challenges he and his team encountered.

Disc Five offers a few more bonus materials, and we find five Photo Galleries. Each one shows a running montage of stills accompanied by music; they run two minutes, 35 seconds apiece. We see posters and photos from the flicks. These are mildly interesting but not particularly memorable.

Next we discover a compilation of trailers. We locate promos for The Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw, The Pearl of Death, House of Fear, Terror By Night and Dressed to Kill. Theyíre in awful shape, but theyíre still fun to see.

Footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle comes from a newsreel that appeared at the time of his death. This one-minute, 16-second clip gives us a little of Doyle as he talks about his work on the series. He doesnít tell us much, but itís nice to have a look at the man behind the legend.

With a tight narrative and a clever narrative, The Scarlet Claw satisfies. It doesnít attempt to reinvent any wheels, but it delivers the kind of fun mystery we want from Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, picture and audio come with many problems. A few supplements round out the set with some decent material, however. The Blu-ray has issues but the movie itself entertains

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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