01st May, 5 Comments
By John Watson
With the British Film Institute’s release of a 4-DVD set of the BBC TV’s Sherlock Holmes series from the 1950s, now is a good time to review Douglas Wilmer’s portrayal of Holmes alongside Nigel Stock’s portrayal of me (which he continued alongside Peter Cushing’s Holmes on television in the 1960’s).
Wilmer is regarded by some as one of the best portrayers of Holmes and certainly watching these again for the first time in many years it is easy to understand why his Holmes is so widely revered. Let us not forget that he was assisted by a very good Watson in Nigel Stock who went on to play opposite Peter Cushing in the later BBC series.
Wilmer first appeared as Holmes in a the first of three BBC series entitled “Detective” appearing between 1965 and 1969. Each episode of this series introduced by Rupert Davies as the BBC was keen to follow up on the successful “Maigret” series. This “pilot” was “The Speckled Band” 50 minute broadcast on May 18th, 1964 at 9:25pm on BBC One and was the third in the first of the three “Detective” series.
- The Speckled Band (Pilot)
- The Illustrious Client (with optional audio commentary)
- The Devil’s Foot (with optional audio commentary)
This disc also contains the following extras:
- Spanish Audio Version of The Speckled Band (for overseas sales to be dubbed onto the video)
- Alternative Titles for The Illustrious Client (again for overseas screening and featuring Peter Wyngarde)
- The Copper Beeches
- The Red-Headed League (with optional audio commentary)
- The Abbey Grange (with optional audio commentary)
The Abbey Grange is a partial reconstruction as the picture and sound from the first reel is missing. Wilmer reads from my original story, with some adaptations to suit the screenplay, and then resumes the original broadcast after Holmes and I return to the Abbey Grange following our discussion about the “incident of the wine glasses”.
- The Six Napoleons
- The Man With The Twisted Lip
- The Beryl Coronet
- The Bruce-Partington Plans
In The Beryl Coronet the villain, Sir George Burnwell, is played by a young David Burke, who was Watson to Jeremy Brett’s Holmes in Granada’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Only the first reel of The Bruce-Partington Plans exists and so the second half is sound only.
- Charles Augustus Milverton (with optional audio commentary)
- The Retired Colourman
- The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
This disc also carries an interview with Wilmer “Douglas Wilmer . . . On Television” from 2012 which gives insight into how he decided to play Holmes and why some of the scripts he regarded as “disgraceful”.
The DVD set is accompanied by a booklet comprising:
- An introduction to the Sherlock Holmes stories and their appearance on stage and screen by Nicholas Utechin
- An interview with Douglas Wilmer by Elaine McCafferty
- An introduction to the BBC TV series that starred Wilmer as Holmes (by Jonathan McCafferty)
- A guide to the thirteen episodes on the disks
- A note about the restoration of the episodes by Peter Crocker
Wilmer has also produced his autobiography – Stage Whispers – which was launched at The Sherlock Holmes Society of London’s meeting in March 2009.
Wilmer appeared in a cameo role as a member of The Diogenes Club in the BBC Sherlock “The Reichenbach Fall”.
You will need to read the accompanying booklet to find out about the ambulance crew that attended Sherlock Holmes . . .
Posted in Television