So what do we think about colouring Rathbone?

Basil Rathbone was responsible for my first experience of Sherlock Holmes. Consequently, even though I don't consider him my favourite Holmes, I have a special fondness for his films and his portrayal.

Knowing this, my wife bought me one of the remastered box sets a couple of years ago and they have been well viewed. For me, the Rathbone Holmes films are the viewing equivalent of comfort food.

Now I know they've been around for a while but I have finally got around to wondering about the colourized versions of some of the films.

Now I understand that only four of the Universal films have been given this treatment. Have any of you seen them and what do you think? Part of me fears that seeing them "artificially" coloured will impact my enjoyment of them but that could just be me clinging onto nostalgic memories. On the other hand why has the whole series not been so transformed? Is it purely a cost issue? Why were these four chosen? None of them are amongst my top five.

Questions, questions...

Written by Alistair Duncan
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  1. Certain movies were meant to be seen in black and white--"'Citizen Kane", "My Darling Clementine", the movies of film noir, Woody Allen's "Manhattan"; those movies' cinematography were designed to capture the glories of black and white. There are plenty of B-movies from the '30s, '40s, and '50s that are b&w because they couldn't afford the cost of color. If, all other things being equal, would Universal have made color Sherlock Holmes films?

    I used to be ant-colorization when the technology first came about. It is true that some films should never be touched. The technology has improved since its early days. When the Rathbone films were colorized matters. I saw "The Woman in Green" colorized on line (John H Watson Society member Alexian Gregor was interviewed on "Classic Movies with Ron MacCloskey" mms:// The colorization is fine, although it looks like an early effort. If done today, the colorization would look more "natural". If it gets young people, who don't like b&w, to watch it, fine. The colorization doesn't ruin the movie experience, but I would go out of my way to own them.

  2. I haven't seen any of these films coloured, but I have seen some colourised Laurel and Hardy shorts, and I found them really quite difficult to watch. Laurel and Hardy (and Rathbone and Bruce) are so definitive in black and white that seeing them any other way seems wrong.

  3. The four films that were chosen are the four which fell into the public domain and were therefore up for grabs for people to do with them what they pleased. I have never watched any of them, I believe they are all on YouTube to watch if you're interested.

    I am not against colourization, but I feel like certain films must stay in their original black and white format. My copy of 1940's "The Mark of Zorro" starring Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone, features the original black and white version and a colour version. I actually prefer the colour version. Don't quite know why.

  4. Depends also whether the director was using the black and white tones to help set any moods, as James mentioned. Some big outdoor adventure may be just as fun in color.