Most Wanted: Sherlock Holmes

James Bragington

Personally we do not think that either the “legitimate” drama or the picture drama can recapture for us the first fine careless rapture we felt when we came upon these stories in their original version. But we are firmly of opinion that in visualising what is, at its finest, a purely literary pleasure, viz., a high-class detective yarn, the screen has hitherto proved itself a superior medium to the stage.
The Kinematograph Monthly Film Record, November 1914

The BFI is hoping to kick-start a hunt for a copy of a lost Sherlock Holmes film dating back to 1914. It’s a silent movie directed by one George Pearson, based on A Study in Scarlet and starring unknown actor James Bragington – he of the spooky face, above.

By way of clues, the BFI says:

A Study in Scarlet was shot at Worton Hall studios and on location in the summer of 1914. Cheddar Gorge in Somerset and Southport Sands in Merseyside stood in for the Rocky Mountains and the Utah plains. Reviewers praised Pearson’s clever handling of the film’s settings, finding the opening scenes of the Mormons crossing the desert “very beautiful”.

So, get up into your attic and start looking. And while you’re up there, the BFI Most Wanted lists a grand total of 75 British films which have gone missing during the past 100 years. Along with A Study in Scarlet, it has a few interesting crime titles including:

  • Too Many Crooks (Laurence Olivier, 1930)
  • The Crooked Billet (Adrian Brunel, 1929)
  • Two Crowded Hours (1931 Michael Powell’s first film: a “very good little murder drama”.)
  • The Vulture (1937: “Slapstick comedy about over-keen amateur detective Cedric Gull.”)


About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
This entry was posted in Classic mystery book review, Film/movie, Information Received, Sherlock Holmes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Most Wanted: Sherlock Holmes

  1. The BFI has managed to recover several ‘missing believed lost’ films over the years, so there is always hope and many of Powell’s earlier ‘quota quickies’ did emerge and were in some cases well-worth the effort.


    • westwoodrich says:

      I left the article unsure as to what people should actually be looking for. Is it those old circular cans of film?


      • You’d ber surprised how many cans of 35mm film really do turn up in people’s sheds, lofts etc – and it’s worth pointing out that original film prints and negative produced before 1951 were made on a base of cellulose nitrate, the same stuff as gunpowder cotton, so should be handled with extreme care (I say this as someone who trained as a film archivist, so I’m not kidding)


      • westwoodrich says:

        And if somebody opened a can to have a look, would the film be wiped?


      • Well, ahem, ‘wiped’ one would use for magnetic formats like audio and video tape – it might turn to dust. More seriously, if it gets too hot they can spontaneously combust and re really hard to put out as they have their own oxygen supply trapped in the emulsion (they can literally burn underwater).


  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    What an interesting modern-day treasure hunt, Rich. Thanks for sharing.


  3. TracyK says:

    I wish them luck. Recovering lost films is a worthwhile project and I would love to see the ones you have listed here.


  4. Well, they’ve discovered a lot of missing Doctor Who over the years, so let’s keep our fingers crossed!


  5. Pingback: «élémentaire, mon cher Watson» | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

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