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Monday, 14 March 2011

Will the real Sherlock Holmes please stand up

Today I watched the DVD of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes -this is the second time I've seen the movie, since I originally caught it on it's cinema release. I remember thinking that this wasn't really Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, but that it was a good film. Watching it on DVD I'm not so sure and felt the film did tend to drag in the middle section. Also I'm not convinced all that fast editing and jump cuts benefited the movie. It certainly didn't feel like Sherlock Holmes. On the plus sides some of the shots of Victorian London were superb and this is the case even on the small screen.

It started me thinking of the recent BBC series Sherlock starring  Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes. Now the BBC series was set in the modern day and did away with one of the most iconic Holmes accessories, his pipe. Think of Holmes in profile and you see that pipe and deerstalker. And yet the BBC series, to me, felt more like traditional Holmes than the Ritchie movie.

Of course for the definitive version of Sherlock Holmes then it's a fair bet that Jeremy Brett came closer than anyone else in the  Granada TV series - Brett even looked like the character as drawn by Sidney Paget. And everything about the show was wonderful - the acting, the production values, the writing. This was Doyle's character brought to faithful life.

Basil Rathbone though is another favourite of mine, but in all fairness some of his movies were as unlike Doyle as the Guy Ritchie movie. And yet for some peculiar reason the Rathbone films seem more like real Holmes movies than the Guy Ritchie one - least, to me they do. Why is that? Is it because I grew up watching reruns of the Rathbone movies on TV and that I probably knew the Holmes character through those films, before I ever read the original stories? I'm not saying I dislike the Ritchie movie because I don't, but I've definitely revised my opinion since watching it for a second time.

Peter Cushing also played a great Holmes for the BBC, as well as in the two movies he did with Hammer Films,  but as much as I admire this series it is still Rathbone I see in my minds eye when I think of the screen Sherlock Holmes. Even more so than Jeremy Brett who I know was a far more faithful Holmes than Rathbone.

Maybe it's a generation thing and future viewers will see Robert Downey as the definitive Sherlock Holmes, though somehow I doubt this.

Sherlock Holmes, least the TV and film version, is like James Bond - we all have our favourites and speaking of James Bond, we musn't forget that Roger Moore also played Sherlock Holmes in the TV movie, Sherlock Holmes in New York. I've never seen this myself but from what I've read, I haven't missed much.

There have of course been many other actors who have taken a stab at the part - in face ever since William Gillete (Doyle's own favourite) trod the boards with his Sherlock Holmes plays, actors have been clamouring to play the part. From the plausible Christopher Plummer to the unlikely Charlton Heston.

So who is the perfect Sherlock Holmes?

Damned if I know.


John Cox said...

I'm a Brett man myself. And I agree with you that the BBC series feels more like Holmes that the Ritchie film, even though I enjoyed the film.

Brian Drake said...

I had no expectations with the Ritchie movie. I liked it a lot and thought it was very well done for a "Victorian" action movie, and the Moriarity set up in the end was nice. I thought it was done very well. Roger Moore as Holmes? I would be curious to see that, but I have a feeling it would feel to me like James Bond and Simon Templar were pretending to be Holmes.

I tried to watch "Dressed to Kill" once but as soon as I saw some of the actors get into a car I turned it off.

The one original Holmes movie I want to see is from the '60s, where he takes on Jack the Ripper. I forget the title. As of a few years ago it wasn't available but I haven't search lately.

Do you have an opinion of the OTR series (the American one, I guess) and some of the newer audio plays, a lot of which are original stories. I think Imagination Theater has the exclusive license to do new Holmes material, and they always do a good job. There is so much out there for the Holmes addict that you will never lack for entertainment!

Tom Roberts said...

For whatever my five cents is worth, I thought everything about the Richie movie was DREK. And that is the politest way I can put it. Utterly a waste of film and time. The directing was insipid (and annoying to say the least) with all the fast cuts. If it does not add to the storyline, and the viewer is aware of it (the fast cuts that is), then it only detracts from the story. Gave me a headache. I couldn't wait for it to be over.

I truly have nothing nice to say about the film. Sorry.

My one exclusion to the above statement was the Hans Zimmer score, which was okay given what we have come to expect from him. He is a very conscientious craftsman and always turns out an admirable job.

I too, am a Brett man.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the BBC series and looking forward to the next three episodes which was mentioned just this week on a PBS rebroadcast of "A Study in Pink". Great pains have been taken to incorporate gems of reference to the original stories without making them trite or kitch. Watch closely in the backgrounds and you'll catch even more references than what comes up in the dialogue.

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

All - I think what I'm trying to say is that Ritchie's movie wasn't a Sherlock Holmes film. That guy on the screen was more a Holmes parody.

Brian - I have long enjoyed the BBC radio Sherlock Holmes - they have done many over the years but the Charlton Hobbs series was a fave.

Tom - I'm actually in one of the episodes of Sherlock - the one with the oriental circus.

Robert said...

Actually, "Sherlock Holmes in New York" was quite entertaining.
There's also the hilarious "Without a Clue," which I've mentioned on my blog.
Having said that, I agree with the consensus that Brett is THE Holmes, although Cushing is a close second.

Anonymous said...

I personally never saw the Ritchie film. I could tell from the trailers that it was not true to form. Having written several Pseudo Holmes stories, I feel more aquainted with the doctor and the detective than the average reader. I would have to say, that Brett portrayed him acurately. His is the only picture that comes to mind when I picture Sherlock. He was his incarnate.