Old-School Sherlock Holmes Given New Life Thanks to Babelgum

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[show=sherlockholmes size=large]Sherlock Holmes is one of those timeless characters whose incarnations have been numerous — from a literary icon to an animated mouse to a swashbuckling superhero in the upcoming Robert Downey Jr. film.

But yesterday, Babelgum uploaded four original Sherlock Homes adventures from the 1940s, three of which star the man many consider to be the gumshoe’s ultimate portrayer, Basil Rathbone. While technically feature-length films, the actual runtimes range from one hour to an hour and 11 minutes (being a feature meant something different back in the day, apparently).

While relocated temporally from the Victorian era to the 1940s, these mysteries still offer an interesting contrast to Guy Richie’s action-packed update (especially as previewed by Your Geek News). The Sherlock Holmes of this era was cerebral, wry, and quick to explain things both obvious and unobvious, and Rathbone is perfect in the role.

How’s the viewing experience? Well, while we’ve all gotten spoiled by recent advances in streaming HD video, the grainy black-and-white footage doesn’t suffer nearly as much on the small screen as it would broadcasted on TV. And given that the runtime isn’t much longer than watching an hour of TV on, say, Hulu, it turns out to be relatively palatable.

However, a bit of advice — skip A Study in Scarlet. Not only is it slow to start, with Holmes himself not making an appearance until at least six minutes into the video, but it’s also the one installment not featuring Rathbone — instead, Reginald Owen stars, and there is simply no comparison. The use of the title A Study in Scarlet is also regrettable, as the plot of the mystery has nothing to do with the first, and arguably one of the most popular, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales. Which is, of course, the comparison against which all adaptations are levied — and rarely live up to.

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