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The Best of Sherlock Holmes

 

The Ten Best Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes Movies

By Randall Stock

 

Basil Rathbone made 14 Sherlock Holmes movies from 1939 to 1946.  To many he remains the iconic image of the great detective.  While all these films are worth watching, some are better than others.  This list identifies the top ten Holmes movies starring Basil Rathbone.  It provides details about each movie, recommends the best DVD version, and suggests how to build a Rathbone collection.

 

The Top 10 Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes Movies

 

MovieScore
1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes100
2. The Hound of the Baskervilles92
3. The Scarlet Claw90
4. The Pearl of Death80
5. The Spider Woman69
6. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death68
7. The House of Fear63
8. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon57
9. The Woman in Green43
10. Terror by Night33

 

See also my list of the Year's Best Sherlock Holmes movies and TV on DVD & Blu-ray.

 

Ranking, Reviews, and Scores

There are plenty of places on the Internet that provide movie reviews and rankings.  However, they all have various limitations, and to get a really good assessment you should check several different sources and then somehow combine their selections.  All of that can take a lot of time, so I've done the research and analysis for you and put it all in a single list.

 

You can read the details of the ranking process below.  Scores provide a simple value for comparing the relative positions of each movie.

 

There are many cheap and low-quality versions of these movies on DVD and VHS.  Don't waste your time or money.  I've listed high-quality DVDs below, and called out a few as "highly recommended" based on the picture/sound quality, movie ranking, extras, and price.  See the key to movie entries for more details.

 

This page includes details on all 14 movies (with DVD notes), a description of DVD Double Feature and Box sets, and my overall recommendation for DVDs.

 

My website also has lists of the Year's Best Sherlock Holmes books and DVDs, the best Holmes gifts for new fans, and information about an excellent book about the Basil Rathbone Holmes movies.

 

 

Overall Best Rathbone DVD Choice

 

Double Feature: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes / Scarlet Claw - Rathbone DVD

Highly Recommended
DVD at Amazon

Sherlock Holmes Double Feature: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Scarlet Claw


Don't miss this outstanding combination – get two of the top three Rathbone Holmes films plus extras for less than $20.  The Adventures provides Holmes in his classic 1890s setting, while The Scarlet Claw is unquestionably the best of the "modern" movies set in the 1940s.  Both films have very good sound and picture quality.  Although the cover art is in color and some retailers list them as color movies, these are both in their original atmospheric black and white.

DVD Notes: See full details for the Adventures DVD Double Feature

Content (# refers to movie ranking)
#  1 – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, plus commentary by Richard Valley
#  3 – The Scarlet Claw, plus commentary by David Stuart Davies
Theatrical Trailer for The Scarlet Claw
Photo Gallery for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

COMPARISONS
You can buy both films as standalone DVDs (see links above to the movies), but at almost twice the cost of this Double Feature.  The standalone Adventures includes a few more extras but these are not critical and the Scarlet Claw extras are not available with that standalone edition.  I did not see a significant difference in picture quality between the standalone versions and the Double Feature, and have no hesitation in recommending the Double Feature as a best buy.

Your other option for these movies would be to get the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set, which includes all 14 films plus extras.  That's a good value if you really want all the movies, but may be more than you want to spend.  See the next entry for my recommended core collection of "Essentials."
Top 10


Recommended Rathbone DVD Essentials

 

Double Feature: Hound of the Baskervilles / Pursuit to Algiers - Rathbone DVD

Highly Recommended
DVD at Amazon

A Core Rathbone Collection: Two Double Feature DVDs


Those with a limited budget should first get the Double Feature Adventures/Scarlet Claw.  After that, your next purchase should be this Double Feature Hound of the Baskervilles/Pursuit to Algiers.  It also costs less than $20 and includes a fine adaptation of the classic Holmes novel plus another Holmes film set in the 1940s.  With these two purchases, you'll have the three best Rathbone movies, several good extras, and a fourth Holmes film as a bonus.

DVD Notes: See full details for the Hound DVD Double Feature

Content (# refers to movie ranking)
#  2 – The Hound of the Baskervilles, plus commentary by David Stuart Davies
#11 – Pursuit to Algiers
Photo Gallery for The Hound of the Baskervilles

But if you really want all 14 Rathbone films, consider the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set listed next.

Top 10


Best Choice for the Rathbone Enthusiast

 

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection - Rathbone DVD

Highly Recommended
DVD at Amazon

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection – DVD Boxed Set


This is by far the best deal for someone who wants high-quality versions of all 14 Rathbone Holmes films.  And if it happens to be on sale for less than $75, it becomes my recommended choice for a core Rathbone collection.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released June 27, 2006.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
Universal Pictures films restored by UCLA

Films are arranged on DVD in the order of their original release.  The set consists of the following (# refers to ranking):

DVD-1:
Restoring Sherlock Holmes by Robert Gitt, UCLA Film and Television Archive (featurette, 5 min.)
#  2 – The Hound of the Baskervilles, plus commentary by David Stuart Davies
#  1 – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, plus commentary by Richard Valley
#13 – Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror

DVD-2:
#  8 – Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
#12 – Sherlock Holmes in Washington
#  6 – Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, plus commentary by David Stuart Davies

DVD-3:
#  5 – The Spider Woman
#  3 – The Scarlet Claw, plus commentary by David Stuart Davies
#  4 – The Pearl of Death

DVD-4:
#  7 – The House of Fear
#  9 – The Woman in Green, plus commentary by David Stuart Davies
#11 – Pursuit to Algiers

DVD-5:
#10 – Terror by Night
#14 – Dressed to Kill, plus commentary by Patricia Morison, David Gregory and Richard Valley
Photo Galleries (5, covers all films)
Theatrical trailers (not restored) for 6 films: The Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw, The Pearl of Death, The House of Fear, Terror by Night, and Dressed to Kill.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle interview (excerpt from 1927 Movietone film)


COMPARISONS
All of the DVDs on this page provide high-quality picture and sound, so to get all 14 movies your key choices involve price, extras, and packaging.  I looked at all combinations of these items, and unless there is an incredible sale on the 4-DVD Boxed Sets, your best choice for all 14 is clearly to get The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection includes all the on-DVD material found in the other DVDs plus an audio commentary for Dressed to Kill.  However, it does not include the detailed booklets of production notes.  Those booklets are nice to have, but most people can find similar information online if they want it.

Unlike the 4-DVD boxed sets, this set includes more than one movie on a DVD and therefore these versions may have more compression.  That said, the film quality on the Complete collection is still very good.

The cardboard box packaging of the Complete collection is bare-bones and much lower in quality than the containers for the other DVDs and boxed sets.  Some reviewers found it easy to damage the box.  It does, however, store the entire collection in a compact 1 1/4 inch wide package.

If instead you want a core collection of just the best films, get the two Double Features noted above.  And consider the other Double Feature DVDs if you want expand your collection.
Top 10


Basil Rathbone Movie Information

Details on all of the Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone, listed in rank order.  See the key to entries for explanations of the entry structure.

 

 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Rathbone DVD

Highly Recommended
DVD at Amazon


See also the
Double Feature

#1 – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

  Score: 100/100
Professor Moriarty plans to steal the crown jewels from the Tower of London.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Ida Lupino and Alan Marshal
First Release: 1 September 1939 (# 2/14)
Run Time: 85 minutes
Based on the play "Sherlock Holmes" by William Gillette
  with the permission of the executors of the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Fox Holmes series

Film Notes: Set in the Victorian period, this was Rathbone's second appearance as Holmes, and the last made by Twentieth-Century Fox.  Most of the plot from the Gillette play was discarded.  The American Film Institute (AFI) credits the picture with one of the top 100 movie quotations of all time, selecting "Elementary, my dear Watson" as number 65 on their list.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released April 27, 2004.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by Richard Valley
Production notes by Richard Valley (8 page booklet)
Photo gallery and selected trailers

DVD Best Value – in the highly recommended Adventures Double Feature
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


The Hound of the Baskervilles - Rathbone DVD

Highly Recommended
DVD at Amazon


See also the
Double Feature

#2 – The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

  Score: 92/100
An ancient curse, a spectral hound, and a mysterious death bring Holmes to Dartmoor in his most famous case.

Starring: Richard Greene, Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, and Wendy Barrie
First Release: 31 March 1939 (# 1/14)
Run Time: 80 minutes
Adapted from "The Hound of the Baskervilles" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Fox Holmes series

Film Notes: Rathbone made his first appearance as Holmes in this film, and it's the first Holmes film ever to be set in the proper Victorian period.  It's also a reasonably faithful adaption of the original book.  The movie adds a seance which contributes nicely to the atmosphere and fits with Conan Doyle's later interests.  Top billing went to Greene in this film but to Rathbone in all the others.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released April 27, 2004.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by David Stuart Davies
Production notes by Richard Valley (8 page booklet)
Photo gallery
Theatrical trailers (not restored) for 3 films: The House of Fear, Terror by Night, and Dressed to Kill.

DVD Best Value – in the highly recommended Hound Double Feature
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


The Scarlet Claw - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon


Double Feature
Recommended

#3 – The Scarlet Claw (1944)

  Score: 90/100
Holmes investigates a series of murders attributed to a marsh monster in a French-Canadian village.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Gerald Hamer, and Paul Cavanagh
First Release: 26 May 1944 (# 8/14)
Run Time: 74 minutes
Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: Critics and reviewers consider this to be the best of the twelve movies made by Universal, and some consider it to be better than the two Fox films.  It borrows a bit from The Hound of the Baskervilles but has plenty of interesting new material and fine photography.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released November 25, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

DVD Best Value – in the highly recommended Double Feature Edition
Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 2 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


The Pearl of Death - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#4 – The Pearl of Death (1944)

  Score: 80/100
Holmes confronts the Hoxton Creeper over a series of murders and a cursed pearl.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey, and Evelyn Ankers
First Release: 1 August 1944 (# 9/14)
Run Time: 69 minutes
Based on "The Six Napoleons" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: The film builds upon Conan Doyle's plot of a stolen pearl hidden in a bust of Napoleon by adding a murderer who kills by breaking people's backs.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released November 25, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

DVD Best Value – in the recommended Double Feature Edition
Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 2 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


The Spider Woman - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#5 – The Spider Woman (1944)

  Score: 69/100
Holmes believes a succession of "pajama suicides" is actually a diabolical series of murders.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Gale Sondergaard, and Dennis Hoey
First Release: 21 January 1944 (# 7/14)
Run Time: 63 minutes
Based on a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: The film uses elements from at least five Conan Doyle stories.  Sondergaard's "black widow" villainess inspired a 1946 semi-sequel (The Spider Woman Strikes Back) that did not involve Holmes.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released November 25, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

DVD Best Value – in the recommended Double Feature Edition
Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 2 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Sherlock Holmes Faces Death - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#6 – Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)

  Score: 68/100
Holmes discovers the meaning of an ancient family ritual as he investigates murders at Musgrave Manor.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey, and Arthur Margetson
First Release: 17 September 1943 (# 6/14)
Run Time: 68 minutes
Based on the story "The Musgrave Ritual" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: Unlike the first four war-themed Universal films, this one focuses on a more traditional mystery.  The Musgrave ritual is changed from the original story but remains a major part of the plot.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released October 28, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

DVD Best Value – in the recommended Double Feature Edition
Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 1 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Audio commentary for this film only with the Double Feature or the Collections
Top 10


The House of Fear - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#7 – The House of Fear (1945)

  Score: 63/100
Holmes investigates when members of a club die after receiving orange pips.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Aubrey Mather, and Dennis Hoey
First Release: 16 March 1945 (# 10/14)
Run Time: 69 minutes
Based on "The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: While using Conan Doyle's idea of pips as a warning message, the movie's plot diverges significantly and includes elements from Agatha Christie's 1939 novel And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians).

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released November 25, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

DVD Best Value – in the recommended Double Feature Edition
Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 2 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#8 – Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943)

  Score: 57/100
Holmes must prevent Professor Moriarty and the Nazis from stealing a new super bombsight.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Lionel Atwill, and Kaaren Verne
First Release: 12 February 1943 (# 4/14)
Run Time: 68 minutes
Based on the story "The Dancing Men" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: The screenplay uses the dancing men code from Conan Doyle's original story but little else.  Dennis Hoey makes the first of many appearances in the series as Inspector Lestrade.  The film's director, Roy William Neill, would go on to direct the remaining 10 Holmes films in the series.  While most critics generally agree on the ranking for this film, some place it much lower.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released October 28, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 1 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Widely available on other DVDs but with poor picture/sound quality
Top 10


The Woman in Green - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#9 – The Woman in Green (1945)

  Score: 43/100
Professor Moriarty spins a web involving hypnotism, blackmail, and murdered women.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Hillary Brooke, and Henry Daniell
First Release: 27 July 1945 (# 11/14)
Run Time: 68 minutes
Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: The movie includes a few elements from "The Empty House."  Hillary Brooke makes her fourth appearance in the series, playing a different character each time.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released January 27, 2004.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 3 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Widely available on other DVDs but with poor picture/sound quality
Top 10


Terror by Night - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#10 – Terror by Night (1946)

  Score: 33/100
Holmes investigates a murder and the theft of a cursed diamond on an express train to Scotland.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Alan Mowbray, and Dennis Hoey
First Release: 1 February 1946 (# 13/14)
Run Time: 60 minutes
Adapted from a Story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: The movie uses some elements from the Conan Doyle story "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax."  Dennis Hoey makes his last appearance in the series as Inspector Lestrade.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released January 27, 2004.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 3 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Widely available on other DVDs but with poor picture/sound quality
Top 10


Pursuit to Algiers - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#11 – Pursuit to Algiers (1945)

  Score: 33/100
Holmes protects a Prince marked for murder on a ship from England to Algiers.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Marjorie Riordan, and Rosalind Ivan
First Release: 26 October 1945 (# 12/14)
Run Time: 65 minutes
Based on the Characters Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: The ship in the movie is named the Friesland, likely in honor of Watson's reference in "The Norwood Builder" to "the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives."  This film has less critical consensus than others, with some placing it several positions higher.  In fact, it actually tied for tenth on this list and only dropped out of the top ten due to a tie-breaker.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released January 27, 2004.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

DVD Best Value – in the highly recommended Double Feature Edition
Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 3 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Sherlock Holmes in Washington - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#12 – Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)

  Score: 26/100
Holmes battles Nazi agents to recover secret war documents.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Marjorie Lord, and Henry Daniell
First Release: 30 April 1943 (# 5/14)
Run Time: 71 minutes
Based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: The first two Holmes films from Universal incorporated some elements from Conan Doyle stories, but this was the first to not credit a specific tale.  George Zucco, who played Professor Moriarty in the 1939 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, appears in this film as a different character.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released October 28, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

DVD Best Value – in the recommended Double Feature Edition
Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 1 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#13 – Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)

  Score: 25/100
Holmes faces a Nazi saboteur who announces his attacks in radio broadcasts.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Evelyn Ankers, and Reginald Denny
First Release: 18 September 1942 (# 3/14)
Run Time: 65 minutes
Based on the story "His Last Bow" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: Rathbone's third Holmes film and the first to be made by Universal.  It was also the first of his Holmes films to be set in the then-modern day 1940s, and begins with a title card explaining that he is ageless and will be solving problems of the present day.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released October 28, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

DVD Best Value – in the recommended Double Feature Edition
Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 1 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Dressed to Kill - Rathbone DVD

Single-film version
DVD at Amazon

#14 – Dressed to Kill (1946)

  Score: 22/100
Holmes must decipher the secret of three identical music boxes to prevent a massive fraud.

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Patricia Morison, and Edmond Breon
First Release: 7 June 1946 (# 14/14)
Run Time: 72 minutes
Adapted from a Story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Details of the Universal Pictures Holmes series
Restored by UCLA

Film Notes: This was Rathbone's last Sherlock Holmes film and the last in the series by Universal Pictures.  The man who directed 11 of the 12 Universal films, Roy William Neill, died six months after the film's release.

DVD Notes (single-film version):
MPI Home Video released January 27, 2004.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles, UCLA restoration

Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 3 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Widely available on other DVDs but with poor picture/sound quality
Top 10


Key to Entries for the Movies

Top 10


Series Details for the Sherlock Holmes Movies

 

Fox Holmes Series Details

Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Format: Black and White
Sound: Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Directors: Sidney Lanfield (Hound); Alfred Werker (Adventures)
Writers: Ernest Pascal (Hound); Edwin Blum and William Drake (Adventures)

 

 

Universal Pictures Holmes Series Details

Distributed by: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Format: Black and White
Sound: Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Directors: John Rawlins (Voice of Terror); Roy William Neill (all others)
Writers: Besides Conan Doyle, thirteen others received writing credits for the series.  Bertram Millhauser wrote the screenplay for five of the films, including three of the top four Universal movies.  The best Universal film, The Scarlet Claw, had a screenplay by Edmund L. Hartmann and Roy William Neill based on a story by Paul Gangelin and Brenda Weisberg.
Top 10


Double Feature and Boxed Sets of Sherlock Holmes DVDs

While other collections of Rathbone films do exist, the ones below (and The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection) are generally considered to provide the best picture quality and extras.  Scores in this section only apply within a collection type.  The Double Feature DVDs are a better value than the 4-DVD Boxed sets, but they do put two movies on a single disc.  I recommend getting the Double Feature DVDs.

 

 

Double Feature: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes / Scarlet Claw - Rathbone DVD

Highly Recommended
DVD at Amazon

Sherlock Holmes Double Feature: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Scarlet Claw


Two-film score: 100/100.  This is clearly the overall best Rathbone DVD, including two of the top three Rathbone Holmes films plus extras at about the price of a single movie.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released September 15, 2009.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
(Although the cover art is in color, both films are in their original black & white.)
The Scarlet Claw restored by UCLA

Both films on one DVD, listed below in the order of their original release (# refers to ranking).
#  1 – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
#  3 – The Scarlet Claw

Extras:
Audio commentary by Richard Valley for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Audio commentary by David Stuart Davies for The Scarlet Claw
Theatrical Trailer for The Scarlet Claw
Photo Gallery for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Double Feature: Hound of the Baskervilles / Pursuit to Algiers - Rathbone DVD

Highly Recommended
DVD at Amazon

Sherlock Holmes Double Feature: The Hound of the Baskervilles and Pursuit to Algiers


Two-film score: 66/100.  Although scoring somewhat less than the next entry, this DVD includes the second-best film, which is set in the 1890s and is based on the classic original novel.  That makes it an excellent choice and value.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released September 15, 2009.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
(Although the cover art is in color, both films are in their original black & white.)
Pursuit to Algiers restored by UCLA

Both films on one DVD, listed below in the order of their original release (# refers to ranking).
#  2 – The Hound of the Baskervilles
#11 – Pursuit to Algiers

Extras:
Audio commentary by David Stuart Davies for The Hound of the Baskervilles
Photo Gallery for The Hound of the Baskervilles

Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Double Feature: House of Fear / Pearl of Death - Rathbone DVD

Recommended DVD
at Amazon

Sherlock Holmes Double Feature: The House of Fear and The Pearl of Death


Two-film score: 75/100.  This DVD offers two of the better-rated Rathbone Holmes films and thereby outscores the double-feature Hound.  But if you must choose, go with the classic Hound and get that one first.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released December 8, 2009.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
(Although the cover art is in color, both films are in their original black & white.)
Both films restored by UCLA

Both films on one DVD, listed below in the order of their original release (# refers to ranking).
#  4 – The Pearl of Death
#  7 – The House of Fear

Extras:
None, but the DVD menu does include some fitting background music and dialogue by Rathbone and Bruce.

Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 2 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Double Feature: Spider Woman / Voice of Terror - Rathbone DVD

Recommended DVD
at Amazon

Sherlock Holmes Double Feature: The Spider Woman and The Voice of Terror


Two-film score: 49/100.  Get it if you need either of these films, but if you're buying a number of the Rathbone movies, consider the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released December 8, 2009.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
(Although the cover art is in color, both films are in their original black & white.)
Both films restored by UCLA

Both films on one DVD, listed below in the order of their original release (# refers to ranking).
#13 – Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
#  5 – The Spider Woman

Extras:
None, but the DVD menu does include some fitting background music and dialogue by Rathbone and Bruce.

Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Double Feature: Sherlock Holmes Faces Death / S.H. in Washington - Rathbone DVD

Recommended DVD
at Amazon

Sherlock Holmes Double Feature: Sherlock Holmes Faces Death and Sherlock Holmes in Washington


Two-film score: 49/100.  Fine if you need either of these films, but if you're buying a number of the Rathbone movies, consider the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released September 14, 2010.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
(Although the cover art is in color, both films are in their original black & white.)
Both films restored by UCLA

Both films on one DVD, listed below in the order of their original release (# refers to ranking).
#12 – Sherlock Holmes in Washington
#  6 – Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

Extras:
Audio commentary by David Stuart Davies on Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

Also part of the 4-DVD Vol. 1 Collection
Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume 1 - Rathbone DVD

DVD at Amazon

The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume 1

  Four-film score: 58/100
This four-DVD set includes the first four Rathbone Holmes films from Universal Pictures and some extras.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released October 28, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
Films restored by UCLA

Each film is on a separate DVD, listed below in the order of their original release (# refers to ranking).
#13 – Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror  (Score: 25/100)
#  8 – Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon  (Score: 57/100)
#12 – Sherlock Holmes in Washington  (Score: 26/100)
#  6 – Sherlock Holmes Faces Death  (Score: 68/100)

Extras:
Audio commentary by David Stuart Davies on Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
Production notes by Richard Valley (16 page booklet)
Photo and Poster Gallery

Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume 2 - Rathbone DVD

Recommended
DVD at Amazon

The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume 2

  Four-film score: 100/100
This is clearly the best of 4-movie boxed sets, with four of the top five films from Universal.  It consists of four separate DVDs for maximum picture quality and includes some extras as well.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released November 25, 2003.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
Films restored by UCLA

Each film is on a separate DVD, listed below in the order of their original release (# refers to ranking).
# 5 – The Spider Woman  (Score: 69/100)
# 3 – The Scarlet Claw  (Score: 90/100)
# 4 – The Pearl of Death  (Score: 80/100)
# 7 – The House of Fear  (Score: 63/100)

Extras:
Restoring Sherlock Holmes by Robert Gitt, UCLA Film and Television Archive (featurette, 5 min.)
Audio commentary by David Stuart Davies on The Scarlet Claw
Production notes by Richard Valley (16 page booklet)
Photo and Poster Gallery

Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume 3 - Rathbone DVD

DVD at Amazon

The Sherlock Holmes Collection Volume 3

  Four-film score: 44/100
This four-DVD set includes the last four Rathbone Holmes films from Universal Pictures and some extras.

DVD Notes:
MPI Home Video released January 27, 2004.  Region 1 (US and Canada only)
Full Screen, Black and White, Mono, optional English subtitles
Films restored by UCLA

Each film is on a separate DVD, listed below in the order of their original release (# refers to ranking).
#  9 – The Woman in Green  (Score: 43/100)
#11 – Pursuit to Algiers  (Score: 33/100)
#10 – Terror by Night  (Score: 33/100)
#14 – Dressed to Kill  (Score: 22/100)

Extras:
Audio commentary by David Stuart Davies on The Woman in Green
Production notes by Richard Valley (16 page booklet)
Photo and Poster Gallery
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle interview (excerpt from 1927 Movietone film)

Also part of the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Boxed Set
Top 10


Ranking and Scoring Process Details

This list is based on many hours of research both on the Internet and at libraries.  Internet sources are convenient but have many limitations.  For example, the Rathbone films at Amazon and Yahoo have only a small number of user reviews, and thus can be swayed by just a few people.  The IMDB is better, but printed reviews, especially those by informed critics who are not trying to sell something, can be even more valuable.

 

After considering half a dozen ways to combine various reviews, I determined the best approach was to select a set of the most credible sources and then apply a weighted voting scale to their choices.  This is similar to the approach described in my December 1999 Baker Street Journal article "The Best of the Best" to determine the best Sherlock Holmes stories.

 

Since there are 14 Rathbone films, a source's highest-ranked choice got 14 points and the lowest-ranked choice got 1 point.  Ties split the points for the associated ranks.  I added the points for all sources for each movie, and the movie with the highest number of points was ranked first on my list.

 

I then computed a "score" for a movie by dividing each movie's point total by the number of points received by the highest-ranked movie and multiplying by 100.  That provides a score of "100" for the highest-ranked film and makes it simple to compare the relative positions of the others.

 

For double features and boxed sets, I added the raw points for each movie in the set and used the total to establish a relative score for the two-film or four-film collection.  Note that this score only reflects the movies in the set; it does not account for any extras or packaging.

 

Scores only apply to similar items.  You can compare standalone films to other standalone films, and double features to other double features, but the scores don't let you compare a double feature to a 4-movie collection.

 

I also checked all the sources for outliers – movies that some important source rated well above the overall rank.  When it seemed appropriate I've listed these possible exceptions in the film notes for each entry.

 

Top 10


More Information

Now that you have the best Basil Rathbone DVD and movie information, including the ten best Basil Rathbone DVDs, check out some related pages on this site about the following topics:


Information about an excellent book about the Basil Rathbone Holmes movies

A Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes Film Festival at the Stanford Theatre

The 10 Best Sherlock Holmes Gifts and Recommended Recent Releases and Publications

The Best Sherlock Holmes Stories

The Top 10 Sherlock Holmes Quotations

 

 

 


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