Gettin’ all Sherlock Holmes on ya

First things first: despite misgivings, Lisa performed in the show last weekend. She did great, but was totally exhausted. Sugars generally staying under 200, which is a pretty dramatic change from her last few months, when any slight dip under 200 was cause for celebration.

While flipping through channels yesterday, found myself watching the last ten minutes of the Hammer Hound of the Baskervilles on a local station. Not my favorite version, but a good, solid one nonetheless. Cushing is a remarkably unsympathetic Holmes (he’s much more likable in the BBC series he did later), and Christopher Lee seems uncomfortable in the somewhat boring Baskerville role – but Hammer movies are pretty much always entertaining, and at the very least, pretty.

But what this did was kick my usual lust for Holmes back into my forebrain. I mean, I even sought out that gawdawful Asylum attempt to cash in on the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes, entitled, surprisingly enough, Sherlock Holmes. That link will take you to Chris Sims’ review of it, so I don’t have to dwell on it too long. I believe my reaction at the time of watching it was, “This is a movie deliberately designed to piss me off.” But let me quote Mr. Sims:

“Believe it or not, this was actually the first Worst of Netflix selection that I was actually looking forward to watching, for the simple fact that it’s got SHERLOCK HOLMES FIGHTING A DINOSAUR on the cover. Call me a man of simple tastes, but that is literally all I need to hear to get excited about something, and that’s before you throw in the sea monster and the dragon that are also pictured on the cover.”

Don't do it, man - you'll regret it!

Oh, if only it were worth that excitement. Now, there are some good points: they pull off a period movie on an obviously small budget quite well, and the acting is several cuts above Asylum’s usual fare. Gareth David-Lloyd’s Watson and William Huw’s Lestrade are particularly good. But the script is a pretty horrifying wreck, invents an entirely new brother for Holmes (when Lestrade says, “I talked to your brother,” I assumed he was speaking of Mycroft), and we find out Sherlock is not his first name, because David or whatever the hell it was wasn’t a good first name for a detective. It also would have been good if I hadn’t had to wait for the end credits to find out that the villain was supposed to be Spring-Heeled Jack.

We’re not even going to talk about how the history books have shamefully overlooked that London was attacked by a fire-breathing dragon in 1890.

The disc is at Half-Price Books. God help me, I should probably buy it.

Fortunately, what I did have to hand was a pre-viewed disc of the movie  whose coat-tails the Asylum job was attempting to ride: the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes. I’d seen it in the theater, of course – this was one of the few offerings that could make me overcome my complete antipathy toward what movie houses have become and get me into a comfy stadium seat. I rather enjoyed it, and spent some time defending it to my friends who were getting huffy about the obviously disrespectful tone.

Again, as with his casting as Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies, Robert Downey Jr. brings some life lessons to his portrayal of the brilliant, on-again off-again drug addict Holmes (I still haven’t seen Iron Man II, so I don’t know if they’ve alluded to Stark’s alcoholism yet); they possibly went a bit far in deflating Holmes a bit, but I still find it within Canonical limits.

Hell, yes, I'd watch this movie.

Hell, yes, I'd watch this movie.

But what I came out of the theater with was a newfound respect for Jude Law, who is an incredible Watson. I generally find my opinion of any Holmes venture rests on the treatment of Watson, and Law’s is a crackerjack. Actors cast as Watson seem to tend to be older than Holmes, which I suppose is a conceit that started with the Nigel Bruce/Basil Rathbone pairing (though Bruce was actually three years younger than Rathbone). I’m not a hardcore Holmesian enough to pull out the character’s relative ages, but the more or less contemporaneous pairing of this movie feels right. And Law is the first Watson I’ve seen since Robert Duvall to play the limp, the result of the Jazeel bullet that put an end to Watson’s military career.

No, the only problem I have with the movie is the character of Irene Adler, who has somehow become the Victorian equivalent of Catwoman. Rachel McAdams is pretty enough, but seems dreadfully miscast; then, the character is not given that much to do. I am also sorrowful that the DVD is a bare-bones affair. I would have loved to find out how much research was done for the period, and those fabulous CGI vistas of a London over a century gone.

Inevitably, there’s a sequel in the works. They’ve certainly seemed to set up a Final Problem adaptation with the shadowy Moriarty a presence in this first film, but I dare hope for a Hound of the Baskervilles, in which Sherlock vanishes for the middle portion of the story, and Watson steps to the fore as the confident, capable fellow we all know him to be. Until Holmes shows back up and starts mucking things up.

"Did he actually say we fought a dinosaur?" "Well, I believe we now know who stole my drugs, old man."

3 Comments

  1. Interestingly enough, yesterday I read “Hound of the Baskervilles” for the first time. Pretty good story, although I was able to guess the culprit early on (although for the wrong motives). Now I’ll have to watch a Sherlock Holmes movie, which I’ve never seen, other than that “Young Sherlocks Holmes” film from the 1980s.

  2. Speaking of movies that were designed to piss me off…

    Nah, Young Sherlock Holmes is pretty harmless, though I’m wagering that cutting edge CGI looks fairly dated today. If you’re looking for a gateway Holmes movie, you could do a lot worse than the Hammer Hound, though I prefer the Rathbone version. MURDER BY DECREE is another strong Holmes movie, with Christopher Plummer as the Great Detective and James Mason as Watson – though to a large degree one suspects Bob Clarke wanted to make a Ripper movie, and the easiest way was to make it as a Holmes movie.

    I could also point you to the British Grenada series featuring Jeremy Brett, who was surely THE Sherlock Holmes for the late 20th century.

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