3rd July, No Comments
By John Watson
“The best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made” said Rex Reed of the New York Daily Times. I might want to argue with that as Basil Rathbone in The Hound of the Baskervilles takes a lot of beating. But this is certainly one of the best.
Christopher Plummer plays a slightly warmer Holmes but I think he overdoes the theatrical garb of deerstalker, Inverness cape and Meerschaum a bit. James Mason is one of the best screen versions of me being more intelligent than most, although towards the end of the film there is a humorous moment involving me chasing a pea across my dinner plate! The friendship between us comes across well.
The scenery is superb with excellent views of London. Few people realise the stark contrast between the grandeur of the area north of the river and the squalor to the south of the river and the East End in particular.
Holmes’ involvement in the Ripper murders in 1888 has never been made public and so fictional accounts number almost as many as the theories about who Jack the Ripper actually was. The title of this film is an indication of who, it is suggested, is the culprit. Holmes deductive powers are not much in evidence in the film (except for the mystery of the grape stalk) and the real clue to his identity comes from Mary Kelly, the last of his victims, not long before she is gruesomely murdered. The puzzle as to why the five victims were so mutilated is explained in the film along with the prior cause of all five murders. These were not the only murders around this time (and place) and the reason why these five in particular were murdered, and maybe why Elizabeth Stride’s murder may not have been by the same person can be explained by the story in this film. The book on which the film is based, The Ripper File, by Elwyn Jones and John Lloyd is itself based on their six, 50 minute documentaries on the subject.
The film, which about two hours long, is fairly evenly paced and builds to a dramatic climax about fifteen minutes before the end. The last part of the film is a classic denouement with Holmes giving an excellent speech and no quarter despite the standing of those present.
This new version, on DVD, is a great improvement on earlier releases in terms of quality. There are no “extras” though on the DVD.
15th February, 1 Comment
By John Watson
In “A Study in Scarlet”, I told about my being attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers which was an infantry regiment of the British Army. It was the Fifth Regiment of Foot when it was formed in 1674 but was renamed in the reorganisation of 1881 so that when I wrote up the story I used its new name.
Before I could join the regiment, the second Afghan war broke out and I began my duties in Kandahar. I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Royal Berkshire Regiment and I served with them at the battle of Maiwand on July 27th, 1880. Our brigade of 2,500 men were massacred by ten times that number of savage Afghan tribesmen. I was badly wounded right at the start of the battle whilst tending the first man who was hit. I was eventually sent back to England, ending up in London, and eventually meeting Holmes and residing in 221B Baker Street for many years.
It is rare for anyone to attempt to fill in the apparent gaps in my lifeas attention is more frequently directed at Holmes but in Watson’s Afghan Adventure I attempt to explain to Holmes how I became an army doctor, served with the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers and how a treasure map and the death of a close friend brought me to the battle of Maiwand and on to 221B Baker Street.
Kieran McMullen’s account starts one April when Holmes had concluded two cases that I have yet to chronicle and I had returned to Baker Street just missing Murray, my orderly, who had called with a box containing some items recalling our time together in Afghanistan. This led to me to explain to Holmes what really happened.
McMullen’s account continues with a summary of my early life, my qualification as a doctor, and my decision to join the Army. Then the mystery of my wounds and what is contained in the box that Murray left for me in Baker Street begins to unfold.
The fateful battle of Maiwand rounds off the story and McMullen has clearly carried out some detailed research here. Many of my fellow officers, including Surgeon Major Preston, are mentioned here. It was Preston who decided that I should return to England. My own recent research into the battle of Maiwand on a recent visit to Berkshire corroborates most of McMullen’s detail though I suspect few would understand the geography of the area and the frequent use of arabic terms for weapons, soldiers and tribes. The actual battle was far more bloody than even Mc Mullen’s account relates and perhaps I should write my own account of what happened that terrible day.
I will leave you to find out how the mystery of Murray’s box resolves itself.
29th July, 3 Comments
By John Watson
There were three reasons why I began writing again after all this time. One was the battle to save Undershaw, once the home of my literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That battle seems almost lost.
The second reason was the Robert Downey Jr film “Sherlock Holmes” which still seems to divide opinions as to whether it used or abused the image of Holmes.
The third reason was the brave step by the BBC and the Dr Who team to bring Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century. This all started when Mark Gatiss, one of the creators, writers, and executive producers of the series was called in by the BBC in 2002. The BBC were thinking of doing a Sherlock Holmes Christmas Special and knowing Mark was a Holmes “purist” they asked for his advice. Nothing came of it but later on he began to discuss with Steven Moffat (the other creator and also one of the writers and executive producers) how they might bring Holmes and I into the modern day.
Well! I write after the three Season 1 episodes have been broadcast (both in the UK and the USA) and the DVD has been released. The series appears to have been a great success receiving critical acclaim from even the most traditional Holmesians.
Each episode contains a number of Canonical links to look out for.
A Study In Pink – Pilot Version (herafter referred to as [PILO])
The pilot version of “A Study In Pink” appears only on the DVD. More details to follow.
Episode 1 – A Study In Pink (hereafter referred to as [PINK])
[PINK] is based on my first story [STUD] where I first met Holmes, settled into 221B Baker Street with him and became involved in the case of Jefferson Hope. [PINK] recreates our first meeting and our decision to share diggings. It then picks up a singular element of the Jefferson Hope case – the use of identical pills, some with poison and some without to exact revenge on men who has wronged him.
This episode makes the occasional references to other stories in the Canon. One of these was to a case that I have alluded to but never written up. This was the case of Mr James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world, which I mentioned in [THOR]. James Phillimore is the second of the apparent suicides in [PINK] and we see him before he dies going back to get his umbrella!
One of Holmes’ laconic messages, sent as a telegram to summon me in [CREE] was “Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient come all the same”. This is sent as (two) text messages by Holmes in [PINK].
When I meet Stamford in the park, I am holding a coffee cup with the word “Criterion” on it. This is a reference to the original meeting in [STUD] which took place in the Criterion Bar which in [PINK] has now become a coffee bar!
Billy, who greets Sherlock and me as we enter the cafe was the name of our page in the original stories.
The cabbie in [PINK] is called Jeff Hope – in [STUD] he was Jefferson Hope.
You may also notice the website that Sherlock uses to find the fourth victim’s phone number is called “Mephone” – a skit on the “iPhone”. Get it?
Episode 2 – The Blind Banker (hereafter referred to as [BLIN])
[BLIN] contains references to [DANC] in the use of a cipher and to certain elements of [SIGN] in that the murders are committed in closed (locked) rooms by someone with excellent climbing skills.
The pace and flow of this episode is different to Episodes 1 and 3 and has a different writer. Allusions to the Canon are few but Sherlock’s laziness rather than untideness are starting to get to me along with his complete disinterest in my interest in women.
My unsuccessful attempt with a self-service till in a supermarket is probably something that will ring true for many people.
This episode is better than most reviews say it is. It is best watched in isolation rather then straight after Episode 1.
Moriarty has the final word!
Episode 3 – The Great Game (hereafter referred to as [GREA])
[GREA] is based mainly on [BRUC] and [FIVE]. But there are snippets from all over the Canon.
The episode begins with a lesson on English that so many of us older citizens may think overdue. Then, after the credits we have the modern equivalent of Holmes using a pistol to “adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V.R.” though this time it is a “smiley face” that is done in “bullet-pocks” (from [MUSG]).
Sherlock is bored and my blog of “the taxi-driver” case gets a bit of a critical review before the discussion about his understanding of the rotation of the Earth and the way he jealously guards access to his hard drive, brain or lumber room as he calls it in [STUD]. This develops to the point where I have to leave “to get some air”.
A massive explosion follows but when I return Mycroft is there trying to get Sherlock interested in the Bruce-Partington Program. A civil servant called Adam West has been found dead and is suspected of stealing the plans (compare this to Cadogan West in [BRUC]). Note the competitive deducting by Sherlock (lilo) versus Mycroft (sofa) as to where I slept at Sarah’s.
Lovely quotation from Sherlock as we go off to see Lestrade – “Where would I be without my blogger?” similar to “I am lost without my Boswell” in [SCAN]. Then the envelope addressed to Sherlock that was in the strongbox recovered from the scene of the explosion is said, according to Sherlock, to be Bohemian stationery (another link to [SCAN] and possibly [CREE]). The writing on the envelope is said, by Sherlock, to have been done with a Parker Duofold pen with a Meridian nib – the very pen that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used.
There then follow four more problems for Sherlock to solve before he eventually solves the Bruce-Partington Program problem and the there’s a confrontation with Moriarty that is straight out of [FINA]. The cliff hanger ending is a Reichenbach Falls reprise alongside a swimming pool rather than above a waterfall.
We must wait until next year for an [EMPT] solution!
This was the first of the three episodes to be produced, after the pilot and may explain why [PINK] is so “polished”. [GREA] does not have the pace of [PINK] but is similar in style.
Unlocking Sherlock (only on the DVD)
“Unlocking Sherlock” explains the making of the series. More details to follow.
The DVD was released in the UK on August 30th with all three episodes (the first and third with commentaries by those who produced them), the 60 minute pilot which has not been broadcast and “Unlocking Sherlock” about the making of the series.
In the USA the DVD was released on November 9th, two days after the last episode aired on the PBS network. The USA DVD has the same content as the UK DVD.
Season 2 will start on January 1st 2012 with A Scandal In Belgravia [SCAN] followed a week later by The Hounds of the Baskerville [HOUN] and the week after that by The Reichenbach Fall [FINA]. After each title I have given the main Canonical story that appears to be the main basis for the episode though, if Season 1 is anything to go by, these will not be the only references! Viewers in the USA will have to wait until May 2012.