Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sherlocks Everywhere

If Conan Doyle is the father of modern mysteries, then his creation of Sherlock Holmes has sired a host of legitimate and illegitimate children of late.

There is Elementary, Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes the movies, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, The Great Mouse Detective, and the Sherlock Holmes series of television shows and movies which starred Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone, William Gillette, Arthur Wontner, Nicholas Rowe, Robert Stephens,  Nicol Williamson, Christopher Plummer, Roger Moore,Frank Langella, Matt Fewer, Robert Downey Jr., and Peter Cushing, just to mention a few. Gene Wilder was even Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother.  So why?
Christopher Plummer with  James Mason and Robert Downey Jr. with Jude Law
play Holmes and Watson
Holmes has become so famous that many thought him to be real.  When the 221B Baker Street, Holmes' fictional address,  was actually created as an address in the 1930s, the Abbey House immediately began getting mail and answering it for the great fictional detective.  I don't know of many fictional creations that has seen so many incarnations. I know that you probably don't know all the names above, but all have played some version of Holmes.  Roger Moore was referred to as the worst casting of Holmes while Matt Fewer of Max Headroom fame made four television movies.  Robert Stephens stared in a horrid film called The Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes and Nicol Williamson, some of you may remember him as Merlin in Excalibur or as the over the top Macbeth you saw in your high school English class, played the Sherlock Holmes who had to be weened from his cocaine addiction by an elaborate ruse by Watson to get him to Sigmund Freud in the Seven Percent Solution.  Suffice it to say that many an actor has dawned the cape and deerstalker hat.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Basil Rathbone
Jeremy Brett

Arguably, the best of the best of the performers were Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and the modernized version Bendict Cumberbatch. If you are a true devotee of the stories, the series Sherlock, available on Netflix, is true genius and oddly true to the original Holmes.  I grew up with having discovered Holmes through Basil Rathbone on old movies on TV and I will always hold a spot in my heart for these films, even though for the most part they do not follow the plot, the character remains true.  The most accurate was the Jeremy Brett series.  I could literally follow the dialog in the show in the printed original story.  The shows even for a time tried not to use the deerstalker hat which was actually an addition of a Strand Magazine artist and not part of the original Doyle descriptions.  Brett, who was a masterful actor, captured the subtle details of the character better than any before or since.  Cumberbatch plays a little different kind of Holmes.  His, of course, lives in modern London and is a "functioning sociopath." What is fun about Sherlock is that while remaining true to the stories, the writers have modernized Holmes to a detective for the 21st century while remaining true to Doyle and allowing for a bit more accurate form CSI style science.
Lucy Lui and Johnny Lee Miller
Watson and Holmes
I must admit I enjoyed the Robert Downy Jr. Holmes even though it is a complete re-imagining of the stories by loosely basing the plot and characters on the original work, but while the movies are well acted and entertaining, they are not really Holmes stories.  The second movie which is actually closer to using one of the original stories also is the better movie for having used the idea from the story entitled "The Final Problem" This also brings me to the attempt to both modernize and Americanize Holmes and the series Sherlock, Elementary.  It has already be attacked as an unsanctioned knockoff, but having seen both that is not really true.  As Cumberbatch, who is a friend of Miller, pointed out that there have been at least 70 other Holmes before them.

Elementary started with some promise, but it has become less and less Holmes in any sense of the name and more and more about a series that has borrowed the names of Watson, a caretaker and x-surgeon, and Holmes, a recovering addict, and ignored any relation to the plots of Doyle or even trying to remain true the icon that is Sherlock Holmes.  Instead, we have a tattooed former addict who has moved to New York where he solves crimes while dealing with his own demons and wondering about Watson's hidden demon that has driven her from being a practicing surgeon.  Holmes in the series is more of a Monk driven by obsession and anti social behavior than capturing Holmes.  I had high hopes for Elementary and it is a good show if you just let go of the idea that it has little to do with Doyle's consulting detective.

And I still do look forward to the third installment of the Robert Downey Jr. Holmes.