Christopher Lee’s Sherlock

Hot off The Hound of the Baskervilles which saw Hammer icon Peter Cushing playing the great detective, director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula and so many other genre classics) took his chances three years later with another Hammer icon in Christopher Lee as the titular detective in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace. Made outside the auspices of Hammer, it would be Lee’s only theatrical project playing Sherlock.

Theoretically based off Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Valley Of Fear, the screenplay from Curt Siodmak (The Wolf Man) pulls only the barest of elements from the famous author’s novel. Hammer regular Thorley Walters shows up alongside Lee as Dr. Watson. Filmed in Berlin as a European co-production, German actor Hans Söhnker plays Professor Moriarty. Senta Berger (The Swiss Conspiracy) has a small but ravishing part as a young housewife when her character’s husband is murdered.

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace is only essential for Christopher Lee completists

The world’s greatest detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted ally Dr. Watson battle the nefarious Moriarty over a necklace believed to have been owned by Cleopatra. Choppy plotting aside, there isn’t much to the mystery within Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace. There are obvious nods to his classic trappings such as the deerstalker hat and the somewhat uneven nature of his friendship with Watson. The movie is a relatively benign but uninspired take on Sherlock Holmes and his stories.

Moriarty here is less a criminal genius and more a greedy criminal, not really an intellectual match for Holmes. Hans Söhnker chews the scenery as a mustache-twirling villain. There’s almost a comedic vibe to the entire affair as his schemes pose little threat to the great detective. It’s a far cry from the evil mastermind most adaptations go with for Sherlock’s primary nemesis.

Christopher Lee seems to be having fun as Sherlock, playing him as the character was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His Sherlock is insensitive and often quite difficult, even to friends and close associates. It’s a nuanced performance which seems to have influenced modern versions of the character, including Benedict Cumberbatch’s BBC portrayal. One issue is Lee doesn’t actually voice Sherlock in the English audio, which is a loss no matter how you look at it.

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace is only essential for Christopher Lee completists. The legendary actor has been in far better movies. He’s not the problem and his take on Sherlock isn’t without merit. However, this Sherlock Holmes has nothing on Basil Rathbone. The screenplay is middling and doesn’t do anything that interesting with the characters, while lacking the formal stylism of better Sherlock adaptations.

Video

The 1962 black-and-white movie looks flawlessly crisp in 1080p video courtesy of Severin Films. Utilizing a new 2K restoration from the original German film negative, the 85-minute main feature is generously spread in a transparent AVC encode on a BD-50. A huge improvement over earlier DVD editions, the picture quality is quite amazing.

Boasting film-like grain reproduction and excellent texture, the sharp cinematography reveals film elements in superb condition with little visible damage. A generous contrast and pitch-perfect black levels exude real definition, blowing away prior home video versions.

The picture quality is so pristine I can’t help but wonder if the transfer has been mildly filtered. However, fine detail is generous in close-ups. There are no signs of ringing or damaging artifacts. Retaining the movie’s 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace looks nigh perfect on BD.

Audio

Like many European productions of the era, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace’s audio was recorded after filming had finished. Severin Films provides the mono German dub and mono English dub in 2.0 DTS-HD MA. The movie’s score isn’t anything special and maybe is its weakest link in terms of craftsmanship.

The strange deal with this film is Christopher Lee doesn’t voice himself in the English dub. While the German dub offers slightly better fidelity and fuller sound, it feels like an odd choice to watch Sherlock Holmes in anything but English unless German is your native language. It’s a standard British voice cast delivering capable, if dry, performances.

Dialogue reproduction is adequate, there isn’t much to the limited sound design. The English soundtrack seems to have different music in spots but otherwise offers serviceable dynamics in a lackluster recording.

Optional English subtitles for the German audio and optional English SDH subtitles for the English dub are available. They play in a white font.

Extras

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace was rare for many years, having been relegated to television in the United States. The cult film in Christopher Lee’s career had never seen a legitimate authorized release on home video in America or even outside Europe.

Severin Films finally issues their Blu-ray version of the mystery in a standalone release, separating it from their lavish 2021 Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee box set. If you own that deluxe set, this disc is identical in A/V quality and bonus features.

The Blu-ray is coded for all regions, arriving in a black BD case.

Audio Commentary with Film Writers Kim Newman & Barry Forshaw – Having cut literally dozens of genre audio commentaries before for other labels like Arrow Video, they tackle this pseudo-Hammer production with insight and easy conversation.

Tony Dalton Interviews Terence Fisher (12:35 in HD) – An older archival audio interview of the genre legend with clips and still playing in the background.

Tony Dalton on Terence Fisher (26:48 in HD) – Recorded over the Internet, Dalton discusses Fisher’s career.

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace Trailer (03:11 in HD) – German audio with English subtitles offered.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace
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  • Extras
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Christopher Lee and director Terence Fisher reunite outside of Hammer for this unique but fairly middling take on the Sherlock Holmes’ mythos

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 36 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


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