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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: The Classic 1964-65 BBC TV series


Regarded by many to be the best incarnation of the Baker Street sleuth, Douglas Wilmer gives a career-defining performance in this celebrated BBC series. Intelligent, quick on his heels, and bearing a striking resemblance to the original Sidney Paget illustrations, Wilmer's portrayal is possibly the closest to Conan Doyle's original vision that there has ever been. In 2012, his status as legend within the Sherlock pantheon was cemented when he was asked to make a cameo appearance in Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch.

The first story in the series, The Speckled Band, was originally produced as part of the BBC drama strand Detective. Appearing alongside Wilmer, as Holmes loyal companion Dr John Watson, was the great Nigel Stock. Such was the success of the adaptation that Wilmer and Stock were reunited a year later for a full 12-part series. With a supporting cast that included Clochemerle star Peter Madden as Inspector Lestrade, TV veteran Derek Francis as Mycroft Holmes, and guest stars such as Peter Wyngarde (Department S, The Innocents) and Patrick Troughton (Doctor Who), the popularity of the series gave rise to a second series, in which the role of Sherlock was played by Peter Cushing.


Episode listing:

• The Speckled Band (1964) Director: Robin Midgley
• The Illustrious Client (1965) Director: Peter Sadsy
• The Devil’s Foot (1965) Director: Max Varnel
• The Copper Beeches (1965) Director: Gareth Davies
• The Red Headed League (1965) Director: Peter Duguid
• The Abbey Range (Reconstructed Episode) (1965) Director: Peter Green
• The Six Napoleons (1965) Director: Gareth Davies
• The Man With the Twisted Lip (1965) Director: Eric Tayler
• The Beryl Coronet (1965) Director: Max Varnel
• The Bruce-Partington Plans (Reconstructed Episode) (1965) Director: Shaun Sutton
• Charles Augustus Milverton (1965) Director: Philip Dudley
• Retired Colourman (1965) Director: Michael Hayes
• Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1965) Director: Shaun Sutton

Presented for the first time on UK DVD, this long-awaited release also includes an array of fascinating special features, including two reconstructions of partially-surviving episodes, an alternative presentation of the Detective pilot, an alternative title sequence, an interview with Douglas Wilmer and five newly-recorded audio commentaries.


Theatrical Releases: 1964 - 1965

  DVD Reviews


DVD Review: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: The Classic BBC TV series


DVD Box Cover

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Distribution BFI - Region 2 - PAL
Time: 13 X 49:00 - 51:00 episodes plus extras
Sample Bitrate: 
Audio English (original mono) / optional Spanish audio presentation of The Speckled Band
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Digital production: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33:1

Edition Details:

  •  Original 1964 Detective pilot episode The Speckled Band
    All surviving episodes from the 1965 series
     Alternative Spanish audio presentation of The Speckled Band
     Alternative title sequence for The Illustrious Client (:44)
     The Abbey Grange episode reconstruction, featuring a newly-filmed sequence of Douglas Wilmer reading the first half of the story, followed by all surviving original footage
     The Bruce-Partington Plans episode reconstruction, using all surviving original footage and original shooting scripts
     Douglas Wilmer...on Television (2012, Simon Harries, 21:33) the iconic actor discusses his career in British film and television
     Five audio commentaries, including contributions from Douglas Wilmer and celebrated directors Peter Cregeen and Peter Sasdy, all moderated by actor-comedian Toby Hadoke
     Fully illustrated booklet with new essays and full episode credits

DVD Release Date:
March 30th, 2015
4 discs in cardboard box





The 13 episodes of this 4-disc boxset house the surviving 1965 Sherlock Holmes BBC TV series. Most of the 1965 episodes of Sherlock Holmes were recorded to both 35mm (for broadcast) and 16mm film (for overseas exploitation by BBC Enterprises). Unfortunately, the 35mm transmission masters no longer exist. However, most 16mm film recordings are held in the BBC Archive. Sherlock Holmes episodes were, about, 50 minutes long, and the final 16mm versions were split over two 25-minute reels.

All four DVD discs are dual-layered. They are also progressive in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios. Bitrates are modest with 2.5 hours per SD disc, but the image is a little inconsistent - resembling Kinescope (see the Ernie Kovac Specials and Criterion's Golden Age of Television set.) Even if the static captures look poor - it is something you get used to very quickly when watching the presentation. It is, predictably, very grainy and there was probably some warping and characters faces can look out-of-proportion at times. Audio may be a shade better than you might expect it to sound when looking at the video. Thankfully BFI have added optional English subtitles on their region 2 - PAL discs.

Firstly, as supplements we are privileged to get five new audio commentaries, including contributions from Douglas Wilmer and celebrated directors Peter Cregeen and Peter Sasdy (on The Illustrious Client), all moderated by actor-comedian Toby Hadoke. They are fun with keen recollections of the production. Included is the original 1964 'Detectives' pilot episode The Speckled Band, plus an alternative Spanish audio presentation of that episode. There is also an alternative title sequence for The Illustrious Client created for international sales version by BBC Enterprises as a contractual requirement for guest star Peter Wyngarde. In the case of The Abbey Grange, only the second of thee two 16mm reels exists with both picture and sound for the first reel now missing. In the case of The Bruce-Partington Plans, only the first 16mm reel remains. Fortunately, however, the audio for the second half also exists. On The Abbey Grange - the last half of the episode survives and the reconstruction features a newly-filmed sequence with Douglas Wilmer reading the first portion, followed by all surviving original footage. On The Bruce-Partington Plans episode reconstruction, uses all surviving original footage but the first half's picture is gone and has the original shooting scripts and original audio with the video portion being lost. There is a 22-minute segment Douglas Wilmer… on Television from 2012 by Simon Harries where the iconic actor discusses his career in British film and television. Lastly is a fully illustrated booklet with essays and full episode credits.

I had never seen TV series before and it took a while to get used to the Douglas Wilmer rendition of Holmes, but once I did the episodes were very enjoyable. As I have said, the lesser-appearance was not as issue after the pilot. You don't even think about it - and still get wrapped up in the mysteries. It's great to have these as the other option would be nothing with the 35mm of the Masters of 64-65 years gone - followed in subsequent years by Peter Cushing. Sherlock Holmes fans should probably indulge. Wilmer is a fine representation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic character. There is a lot of value here with the 13 X 50-minute episodes and the commentaries and other extras. Recommended!   

Gary W. Tooze

Sample DVD Menus and extra

Screen Captures


















First half of The Abbey Grange



Second Half of the Bruce Partington Plans



DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:


Distribution BFI - Region 2 - PAL


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