Douglas Wilmer gave a career-defining performance as the Baker Street sleuth in the classic 1964-1965 BBC TV series, Sherlock Holmes, which is now getting its first-ever UK DVD release from the BFI. The 4-disc set includes a number of special features, including two reconstructions of lost episodes, five audio commentaries, and an interview with Douglas Wilmer (who turned 95 in January).
Bearing a striking resemblance to the original Sidney Paget illustrations, Douglas Wilmer’s portrayal is possibly the closest to Conan Doyle’s original vision, and by playing him as ‘unsympathetic, vain and dangerous’, he’s widely regarded as ‘the only actor who ever got it right’ – although I do think Peter Cushing was also spot on when he took on the role for 16 stories in 1968. In 2012, Wilmer’s iconic status within the Holmes’ pantheon was cemented when he turned in a cameo appearance in the second series Sherlock story, The Reichenbach Fall, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Conan Doyle’s incumbent sleuth.
The first story in the 1960’s BBC series, The Speckled Band, was originally produced as part of the 1964 drama strand, Detective, but 12 cases followed, beginning in January 1965. Alongside Wilmer, Nigel Stock played Holmes’ loyal companion, Dr John Watson – a role he continued to play alongside Peter Cushing in 1968, while the supporting cast included Peter Madden as Inspector Lestrade and Derek Francis as Mycroft Holmes.
The roll call of guest stars includes some of Britain’s greatest character actors of the stage and screen, including Peter Wyngarde and Jennie Linden in the dark and disturbing The Illustrious Client; Patrick Wymark and Sheila Keith in the Gothic melodrama The Copper Beeches; Trevor Martin (aka the first stage Dr Who) in the three pipe problem mystery, The Red-Headed League; Anton Rodgers in the opium-tinged The Man with the Twisted Lip; and Joss Ackland and Roger Delgado in the final story, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax.
Available everywhere and online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop