1965’s A Study in Terror is a somewhat uneven, albeit very enjoyable, Sherlock Holmes adventure. With it’s foggy atmosphere and Eastmancolor aesthetic, it feels very much like a Hammer film – ironic, considering many of the Sherlock Holmes films of the 50’s were Hammer productions.The film starts very suddenly, leaping quickly into action. A bit too quickly, as there is no time allowed for atmosphere or tension to be built up. These first few moments are some of the most poorly executed in the film, with the opening act feeling very unfocused – both tonally and narratively.
By the time we arrive at the demise of the story's second victim (about 10 minutes in), there is much more atmosphere. The viewer is treated to fog-filled alleyways and excellent cinematography, climaxing in a superbly shot death scene. It’s at this point that A Study in Terror really finds its legs. The rest of the runtime from that point is visually interesting and generally well-acted.
On a performance level, the best is that of the primary character – Sherlock Holmes – brilliantly portrayed by John Neville. He captures all the best elements of the icon. He is funny, witty, and imminently watchable. His rapport with Dr. Watson is deeply entertaining – as good as Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law's in the modern incarnation.
The format of the film itself feels like a hybrid of Italian and British cinema. The staging of the murders feels very much like a classic giallo, while the procedural elements feel undoubtably British. You’re left with a movie that alternatively rockets ahead at full speed and screeches to a slower pace every few minutes – enough to give the viewer cinematic whiplash.Nevertheless, it never ceases to be watchable and not once dips to deeply into monotony. The third act is a bit of a mess, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome and become tedious.
Overall, A Study in Terror should be a welcome addition to any movie lovers shelf. There’s plenty to love.Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray release looks very solid, with beautiful packaging and slip cover, as well as an excellent transfer of the film itself. My only gripe is the lack of any special content on the disc other than the film itself.
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