A&E has brought together a collection of television episodes from three British series that have featured prominently on the network over the years. The shows each feature one of the greatest detectives in literature. The long-running shows have used the original literary works as the basis for most of the episodes. But long before they were played on television, we knew who they were. The exploits of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot have engaged the minds of mystery lovers for nearly a century now. For the first time, you have the wonderful opportunity to enjoy them at your own leisure, together in one massive collection called Great Detectives.
Here’s what you’ll find in this impressive set:
Played by Peter Cushing, Holmes has seldom been better. These episodes bring us a bit of the Hammer style and atmosphere. It’s unfortunate that there less here than the Miss Marple series. They are, without a doubt, the best episodes in the collection. There have been so many versions of the noted detective that it’s quite remarkable that Cushing manages to make the part his very own in this series.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles
A Study In Scarlet
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Sign Of The Four
The Blue Carbuncle
I was surprised to discover that most Agatha Christie fans did not consider the demure old dame as the most popular of her detective characters. I’ve certainly been familiar with her since I was a young child. While not very prone to action, Miss Marple is that kindly old lady who seems to have a talent for ferreting out the truth of the matter. The late Joan Hickson brings out the decided British charm of the detective. The stories are a bit talkative for my tastes, but the atmosphere persists.
The Moving Finger
At Bertram’s Hotel
Murder At The Vicarage
A Caribbean Mystery
The Mirror Crack’D
4:50 From Paddington
It appears that David Suchet has captured the particular mannerisms and physical traits of the Belgian detective quite nicely. Of the three, he was the one I was least familiar with. It appears he was Christie’s most prolific detective. Here the style of elegance reigns supreme. Poirot is a particular man with refined tastes and an almost compulsive desire for order in all things. He’s the most mercenary of the three detectives, often collecting handsome fees to continue his rather lavish life-style.
Death On The Nile
The Mystery Of The Blue Train
Taken At The Flood
After The Funeral
Cards On The Table
You’ll find this impressive collection spans 12 discs and brings you nearly 30 hours of mysteries to unravel.
Each episode is presented in its original full-frame broadcast aspect ratio. There is a certain wide variety to the image quality, but none really stand out. Unfortunately, there is a lot of compression artifact. The Marple episodes look the worst for wear. I’m not sure that much could have been done here. Some of these episodes are quite old by now and likely not as well preserved as I might have liked to have seen. Usually A&E does a much better job of these image presentations. I’m left to conclude there just aren’t any good-quality masters to be found.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are not really anything to write home about. You can hear everything and the dialog works just fine.
There are text bios of the detectives, the writers, and the actors who brought them to life on the set.
Sherlock Holmes – The Great Detective: This is a biography-style documentary on the renowned fictional detective. You’ll get to see many of the incarnations that have brought him to life over the years.
Picture quality aside, I find myself heartily recommending this collection. It’s like having a books-on-video version of some of the best mystery stories ever written. If you think of them more in that archive way, this makes a ton of sense. This is not a complete collection of the shows themselves. I can’t even tell you if they are the absolute best. I can tell you that they are good representative examples of the respective shows. They have that decidedly British attitude which might be a bit slow for some of you. But if you’re looking for something a bit more cerebral and thought this collection might fill the bill nicely, “How right you are“.