Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Study in Terror (1965)

Keeping with my series of blogs highlighting Sherlock Holmes movies you may not have seen I highly recommend checking out the 1965 film A Study in Terror.

It's definitely a film of it's time period. Produced at the height of both the Batman television series and the James Bond film, this version of Sherlock Holmes is heavily influenced by both.

Heck!! Even the poster for the movie states "Here comes the original caped crusader".

Based loosely on the same novel by Ellery Queen, we see Sherlock Holmes face off against a factual murderer in the form of Jack the Ripper. This is the first time I can recall anyone doing a film which would have Holmes solving the Ripper murders. I won't be the last either with the film featuring Holmes facing off against Jack the Ripper.

The next film is 1979's Murder By Decree starring Christopher Plummer as Holmes.

Although, this earlier take on the Ripper murders is less factual than the later film. It's not less enjoyable by any means.

Despite it falling into many of the Sherlock Holmes stereotypes created by the Basil Rathbone films, I found it to be a highly entertaining and enjoyable film.

The late John Neville does a very good job as Sherlock Holmes in this film. And although Donald Houston leans more towards the bumbling Nigel Bruce Watson of the Rathbone films with a touch of Oliver Hardy bashfulness. I do find him much more likable and agreeable than the harrumphing old duffer Bruce created.

Both Neville and Houston add a touch of youth to the roles that had not been seen in the previous attempts at Holmes.

The other two things I really enjoyed about the film was Robert Morley's portrayal as Mycroft Holmes and Frank Finlay as Inspector Lestrade. Both actors look exactly the way the characters are described in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original tales.

Finlay would in fact appear as Lestrade once more in the later Holmes/Ripper movie. To my mind, he is still the best actor to appear as the "ferret-faced" Scotland Yard inspector.

A bit of trivia I love to throw out, both the late Robert Morley and Stephen Fry share a distinction as actors who have both played Oscar Wilde and Mycroft Holmes.

And as I had mentioned, the movie doesn't completely stick to the facts of the case in the way the later Christopher Plummer Holmes film or even Alan Moore's epic Jack the Ripper graphic novel From Hell does.

However, this does not make the film all the less enjoyable for me. Even the Batman/Bond flavored action is not that bad.

Not to mention you get to see a very young Dame Judi Dench in only her third feature film.

Although, it seems someone is selling DVD-R copy of it on, sadly it looks as though this film has not had a proper release on DVD just yet. And it really should.

Add this one to your queue of Sherlock Holmes films you need to check out.


Comicbookrehab said...

Ah, the Ellery Queen novel - that one is famous for featuring Ellery in linking/framing sequences where he's reading the book and comes up with a second solution to what happened! Because of this, the book is considered an original novel when it was actually an adaptation of an original script. By that time, Dannay and Lee were hiring ghost writers - this is considered one of the best from that late period, because Dannay helped write the frame.

Andy Fish said...

That DVD-R is an official release. Sony and WB have been doing this for a number of years now for their lesser known titles that wouldn't sell in mass production. The DVD-R's are produced to order, which makes it slower to get, but the quality is excellent.

I've got this title and a host of others-- all great-- including the 1975 DOC SAVAGE movie, which is one of the all time great bad films.