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Featured TV on DVD Review: Great Detective Anthology

October 13th, 2010

Great Detective Anthology - Buy from Amazon

The second anthology TV on DVD Megaset I've reviewed in two days. Strange. This one, Great Detective Anthology, features three of the greatest murder mystery franchises of all time, starting with...

Sherlock Holmes

Grand Moff Tarkin stars as Sherlock Holmes, the most famous creation of Arthur Conan Doyle. These are the oldest films from this DVD with The Hound of the Baskervilles just over 50 years old. And it looks it. The video quality is surprisingly good, but it just has the look of a 1950s British production. The Hound of the Baskervilles was a theatrical release made by Hammer Films, which is split into two parts for the 1960s BBC TV series. There are four other episodes from the series (A Study in Scarlet, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Sign of Four, and The Blue Carbuncle) but that's only five (or six) of the fifteen (or sixteen) episodes Peter Cushing was in. Many fans would prefer a full-series set instead of an incomplete selection.

The Extras

On the third disc there is a 46-minute documentary called Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective.

Miss Marple

Miss Marple is arguably the most famous creation of Agatha Christie, it's either Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, who is next on the set. This four-disc section devoted to the amateur sleuth has 8 TV movies featuring Joan Hickson in what many consider the definitive portrayal of the character and these films are arguably the most faithful to the original stories. Joan Hickson played Miss Marple a dozen times over the course of eight years, but only eight of the TV movies are found here. They are The Moving Finger, At Bertram's Hotel, The Murder at the Vicarage, Nemesis, A Caribbean Mystery, The mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, Sleeping Murder, and 4:50 From Paddington. Nothing close to chronological order, nor could one really argue they including the eight best, as there are none that are really that much weaker than any of the others.

The Extras

There are no real extras on this four-disc section with just a short text bio of Agatha Christie, and another on the character.

Hercule Poirot

The DVD wraps up with a collection of Hercule Poirot TV movies, all starring David Suchet. The final five-disc section includes five TV movies, each at close to two hours in length. I've been complaining a bit that the previous two detectives were not given a complete collection. Five of fifteen is a bit annoying, eight of twelve is puzzling. However, here David Suchet has played Hercule Poirot more than five-dozen times, and that's not an exaggeration for comedic effect. In the past twenty years, he has portrayed this character 65 times, and his plan is to do so 19 more times to complete the entire catalog. I'm looking forward to him succeeding. Granted, I do like Peter Ustinov's performance as Poirot, but it is hard to argue with David Suchet's longevity. And yes, I will admit my preference for Ustinov could just be nostalgia, because he was the first actor I saw play the part, and I've liked him in other roles.

The five episodes here are Death on the Nile, The Mystery of the Blue Train, Taken at the Flood, After the Funeral, and Cards on the Table. All are from more recent years and all are very solid episodes.

On there other hand, a lot of fans would prefer to buy the full season sets as they come out.

Extras

The only extras on the DVD are text based bios of Agatha Christie, David Suchet, and Hercule Poirot.

The Verdict

Great Detective Anthology presents a lot of entertainment value for the dollar, and the 12-disc DVD is worth picking up for fans of British murder mysteries from over the past few decades, but who don't have a favorite character / actor. That said, fans David Suchet's Hercule Poirot, for instance, will likely want full-season sets.


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