During the chaos of a mutiny, three British officers in India get their hands on a great treasure. They do not do so honorably, however, and, mistrustful of each other, make a blood pact, which cannot be broken without suffering a terrible curse. Decades later, the three have experienced very different fortunes, and vengeance has come to call. Irene (Susannah Harker), the daughter of one of these men, seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes (Charlton Heston!) and Dr. Watson (Richard Johnson). There are many dark deeds to unravel, and along the way, Watson and Irene fall in love.
The reason for this obscurity’s arrival on home video is obvious, what with the Guy Ritchie movie doing the same. While this effort is far less problematically revisionist than Ritchie’s, it still presents much for the Holmes fan to struggle past. Apart from the squirm-inducing age difference between Johnson and Harker, there is, of course, the supremely odd casting of Heston as Holmes. In fact, Heston had played the part in the stage version of this story, and to his credit, he does have a solid grasp on the character, and his English accent is serviceable. His angular features are also right for the part, though there is also a muscular physicality to Heston that makes his Holmes seem just as likely to punch through a wall as solve a mystery. And Heston is one of those stars who never disappears into a role, and so one is always conscious of watching Heston, not Holmes, on the screen. As for the film itself, its stage origins remain obvious, despite the many locations. This is an entertaining enough oddity, but no more.
The colours are rich, granting the film a rather handsome period feel, making it look more expensive than I suspect it actually was. The blacks and flesh tones are good, too. There is noticeable grain, however, and the whole thing is just a little bit too dark, rendering some scenes rather murky.
The 2.0 soundtrack is decent, but hardly stunning. The dialogue is clean, clear and undistorted, and the score has a pretty energetic surround mix. Environmental effects, however, aren’t as apparent, and again, it’s hard not to shake the sense of watching a play with elaborate sets. In other words, the sound design doesn’t exactly immerse one.
An agreeable time-waster at best. But when you get right down to it, if you want to be watching Sherlock Holmes stories, there is really only one choice: the Jeremy Brett television series.