• Study In Terror, A



    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: April 3rd, 2018.
    Director: James Hill
    Cast: John Neville, Donald Houston, John Fraser, Anthony Quayle, Barbara Windsor, Judi Dench
    Year: 1965
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    The Movie:

    John Neville stars as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation in James Hill’s 1965 film, A Study In Terror, a well-made picture that puts Sherlock Holmes against Jack The Ripper himself! Set in the London of the 19th Century, the story begins when a mysterious package is delivered to 13 Baker Street, the residence of the world’s greatest detective.

    This ties into a string of murders happening in the Whitechapel district which, Holmes quickly realizes, all involve streetwalkers. Inspector Lestrade (Frank Finlay) and his men are stumped – they’ve been unable to come up with any real leads and as such, the ripper remains on the loose. Holmes and Dr. Watson (Donald Houston) are drawn into the case, naturally, and Holmes quite rightly figures there will be more murders to come.

    Eventually, his masterful powers of deduction brings Holmes and Watson to various locations at which point they start to put together the pieces of the puzzle and hope to guess the identity of the killer before he kills yet again.

    Written by Donald and Derek Ford (both of whom wrote The Black Torment and Primitive London, not to mention a host of British television throughout the sixties) rather than adapted from a pre-existing Doyle story, this is a pretty enjoyable mystery that never tries to reinvent Holmes but seems content to stick to the formula that has made him so popular throughout the years. As is the norm in the mysteries he solved, his powers of deduction and reasoning are almost superhuman and constantly Watson flabbergasted, but it’s all good fun. Director James Hill, who also did quite a bit of TV including The Saint and The Avengers and who directed Peter Sellers in Trial And Error, controls the pacing well and keeps the tension thick. Production values are solid – we get good costumes, nice sets and good cinematographer from Desmond Dickinson (the man who shot Trog!) complemented nicely by a strong score from composer John Scott (who did Inseminoid and Yor: The Hunter From The Future to name only two of his nearly two hundred credits!).

    As far as the acting goes, John Neville is really quite good in the lead. He plays Holmes really well, bringing the right mix of arrogance and brilliance to the part, making us wonder whether he’s solving the case because London is in danger or because he wants to be able to brag about it! Donald Huston is fun as Watson, his mouth perpetually agape at his partner’s endless, brilliant moves while Frank Finlay does a fine job as the police inspector desperately in need of Holmes’ help. It’s also neat to see a young Judi Dench show up in a supporting role in the film as well as appearances from recognizable character actors like Anthony Quayle and Robert Morley.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Mill Creek brings A Study In Terror to Blu-ray on a 25GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. This definitely could have been cleaned up a bit more than it has been, there’s some obvious minor to moderate print damage evident throughout the movie. Compression could also be better, though artifacts aren’t constant. Detail certainly rises above DVD levels and color reproduction is decent. Black levels are okay too, as are skin tones. This isn’t a bad looking picture – some scenes look quite good, as a matter of fact - just imperfect and a bit less than reference quality.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is decent enough, if a tad shrill in spots. Dialogue can be a little bit on the thin side but the track is well-balanced and free of any hiss or distortion. This isn’t the most enveloping or engaging sound mix you’re ever going to hear but it gets the job done without any major issues. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    There are no extras on the disc, just menus and chapter selection. The release does come packaged with a slipcover, however.

    The Final Word:

    A Study In Terror is fine entertainment even if it doesn’t exactly reinvent Holmes in any significant way. There’s decent suspense and intrigue, good performances and solid production values throughout, all of which combine to make this a pretty enjoyable picture. Mill Creek’s barebones Blu-ray looks and sounds decent enough given the price point that it’s being offered. This is a fine upgrade over past DVD editions.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!