Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Sign of Four (1983)

Sy Weintraub’s other Sherlock Holmes production isn’t quite as good as his version of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, but it’s certainly worth watching if you’re a Holmes fan, and now it’s available in a new Blu-ray and DVD release courtesy of Second Sight.

Rich Thorley Walters gets delivered a map. The shock of it makes him immediately take to his bed, where he informs his two sons firstly that he has a fabulous treasure hidden in his attic, and secondly that it doesn’t all belong to him. That’s about all he tells them because he’s scared to death by a one-legged Joe Melia who appears at the window.

Meanwhile, at good old 221b, Cherie Lunghi has turned up to show her enormous diamond to Holmes (Ian Richardson again, and very marvellous he is too) and Watson (David Healy who, like Donald Churchill in HOUND seems to be suffering from a bit too much of the Nigel Bruces). She also needs them to accompany to a rendezvous that has been organised via mysterious message. Will one-legged Joe and his mad carnivorous dwarf Tonga (seriously) get the treasure, or will Holmes save the day? 

Like I said above, THE SIGN OF FOUR isn’t as good as HOUND, and actually feels a fair bit cheaper (I have no idea if it is or not). Desmond Davis doesn't give the proceedings quite the same vigour Douglas Hickox did, and while Harry Rabinowitz gives us some quite serviceable music, he’s no Michael J Lewis. The same stock footage from Billy Wilder’s PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES turns up again (!) and the film relies more heavily on Ian Richardson’s Holmes to carry it all through (which he does admirably, by the way).

Second Sight’s disc comes with a commentary track by David Stuart Davies. He’s very interesting to listen to, and has a measured delivery that means it’s no effort to have his company for 90 minutes as he tells you plenty of tidbits of information about the film. The transfer is a little bit lower quality than HOUND. Oh, and the aspect ratio for both these films on disc is 1.85:1. They were originally shot for television and imdb cites their aspect as 1.33:1. The change in ratio isn’t noticeable on HOUND but on SIGN OF FOUR the tops of people’s heads are cut off just enough to make it bothersome for the aspect ratio purists out there. 

That said, if you're a Holmes fan don’t let that put you off. Both SIGN OF FOUR and HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES are well worth getting, and as I said in my review of HOUND, it’s a shame there weren’t any more of these. 

Second Sight are releasing Desmond Davis' version of THE SIGN OF FOUR on Blu-ray and DVD on 25th April 2016

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