17th March, No Comments
By John Watson
She’s back with her points of view and The Woman seems to think that Elementary is getting better . . .
Episode 11 – Dirty Laundry
This episode was somewhat plot lost but not in a way that it didn’t twist totally into the unknown or unseen but because the clues leading up to it were unsubstantial. This has been a theme with many previous episodes but this one threw me more than the others have done.
When the body is found in a washing machine I did think about a sort of mafia style killing. As I have mentioned before I have watched too many TV programmes over the years and then when we met the family my suspects were getting stronger and then confused. The victim’s husband, Oliver was played by Mark Moses (Desperate Housewives, Mad Men) so I had him down as the culprit. Then we met their daughter Carly, played by Melissa Farman (Lost) and I flitted between the two as being the culprit. Throw in another suspect Geoffrey, played by Jake Weber (Medium) and I was lost as to who this would turn out to be. As I mentioned the clues seemed vague and this seemed to just fall together rather than be put together in any coherent form.
The episode is held together by Holmes, Watson and Gregson even though they are mostly sidelined for this plot. With things gearing up to episode 12 and the “M” episode, there is also how Watson will end up staying with Holmes. The next episode will hold some answers to how the rest of this season will play out.
With this review I thought I’d take a moment to look to the beginning part of every Elementary episode, the opening credits. I’m a terrible fast-forward person and I’ll admit I tend to whizz through credits in the same light but I have never done so through the Elementary opening credits.
The reason I love it? Basil The Great Mouse Detective of course!
Episode 12 – M (WARNING: FULL OF SPOILERS)
First thing about this episode sees us come across Vinnie Jones, yes the very same Vinnie Jones from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Mean Machine. He looks to be the villain of the episode and also an Arsenal fan, that becomes very prominent throughout. He also likes to hang people via a tripod device, drain their blood and dump the bodies later. Quite a nice chap!
With Gregson, Watson and Holmes at the location of the victim, Holmes is quick to deduce about the missing tripod and this time his deductions have a method. But this time it’s also because he knows the killer, from London. With Holmes knowing so much he is on hand to lead the case and feeds the past history of M. One of M’s previous victims had been Irene Adler, which still left Holmes cold by the lack at the time of his ability to capture M. His drug addiction had taken hold and he was way lower than he had previously been before. He sees this as his big opportunity to get M but Gregson is worried about him and thinks he could be the next victim. Holmes is not at all worried by this and refuses all of Gregson’s requests for protection.
When the body turns up it’s a chance for Holmes and Watson to share one of their incredibly poignant moments.
“I’m going to miss this. Maybe not this so much, but this. I think what you do is amazing”
M breaks into the house and leaves a message for Holmes. You know those newspaper letter clipping messages made with glue, one of those. Of course Holmes has security cameras placed around the place so now has a photo of M. He then can give this photo to Teddy & Co, a group of kids on the street that will do jobs for Holmes for money. Teddy finds and talks to M and comes to get his reward, only Holmes is not there so he has to tell this all to Watson – who is not amused! She is obviously less amused as she knew nothing of the cameras and confronts Holmes when he returns.
Watson rushes to Gregson for help when Holmes goes after M with the intention of torturing and murdering him. In the end it is Watson who uncovers where Holmes has taken M. As a side note there is a very funny moment involving M, Holmes and a baton. Now Holmes has M it is clear he really is out to torture him but could he really? Throughout the episode until now Jones has played M as the usual heavy thug that we know. Now is where you can understand why he was picked, sure there is the fact he has the British accent but he has a great psychotic smile. Yes, try putting that on your CV! With the two opposing each other it allows both to shine, I’m more inclined to lean to this being Jonny Lee Miller’s best moment in Elementary so far. The emotion that he goes through in his conversation with M talking about Irene is evident.
The revelation comes that M is not Moriarty but a hired help under the name of Sebastian Moran is unexpected to Holmes but maybe not us. Had Elementary not been given the full season order then this could have actually been the last episode of this series. We’ve now still got to come across Moriarty and as Moran had said:
“Moriarty said you were obsessed with puzzles but he’s the greatest puzzle you’ll ever come across”.
With Holmes still reeling and coming to terms with the fact that Moran is not Moriarty and that Moran is now telling a remade story of events to Gregson under a police interview, Holmes is reflective.
Then these words again but this time from Holmes to Watson:
“I’m going to miss this. Maybe not this so much, but this. I think what you do is amazing”
With Watson’s decision to stay not being agreed by Holmes Snr she lies to Holmes that everything is fine for her to stay. I thought it would come down to it being her decision to stay. I even said that in my review of Episode 10. As the episode ends and another thing that Elementary is good for, the music. Gil Scott-Heron’s Me and the Devil plays. This was the perfect song to end this episode.
Nods to the Canon were huge in this episode; the bees, Irene, Baker Street Irregulars (Teddy & Co) and of course Moriarty. By far the best episode so far and that’s not because the others haven’t been good enough, this one was just far more superior. Jonny Lee Miller is fast becoming my favourite Sherlock Holmes and I know that will not be a view shared by most. I think I like the more vulnerable, emotional and underlying rage within the Holmes that Miller portrays.
I have also seen that Elementary will get a two hour season finale. Moriarty finale?
Oh I hope so.
23rd December, 4 Comments
By John Watson
Episode 4 – The Rat Race
A simple missing person case soon evolves into a murder case and Sherlock is about to be tested more than we have seen in previous episodes. He is faced with a case with drugs, his addiction is laid bare and Watson is worried of any sudden relapse. The opening scene sees a worried and confused Watson with Gregson as Sherlock is missing, then she tells him about Sherlock’s past drug addiction as she is so worried about her client. Then we skip back in time to the case and it all becomes clear.
There are moments of pure Sherlock joy with the acronym ‘IMLTHO’ confusing both Watson and us, of course it means ‘In My Less Than Humble Opinion’ – who will admit to using that in texts from now on? I may have done it. Twice.
This episode brings more of the dynamic between Sherlock and Watson and also Sherlock and Gregson. With Sherlock’s insistence that Watson get back in the dating game, he helps by looking up her date online. He’s not been married because of course he still is married! Watson is also annoyed by his interference, a big brother move. Deep down he’s showing he cares and she knows that, however much it annoys her. The final scene of the episode we see a different Sherlock, a broken and fragile man telling Gregson about his drug past. Again he is laid bare, emotional and then the real twist.
Gregson knew. How could he not?
Another great episode, the case again somewhat flaky but the character development is spot on. More please.
Episode 5 – Lesser Evils
With Watson having giving up her surgical career it was time we got to see if she missed it and yes she most certainly does. The case causes her to meet up with an old friend from her surgeon days.
The case involved the pair finding serial killer ‘The Angel’ who targeted terminally ill patients in the hospital. FYI producers, if you’re going to put David Constabile (The Wire, Damages, Breaking Bad) in an episode and expect me not to shout “it was him, he did it” then you’re an idiot. You never cast a major star as the culprit so within minutes of them entering I had the crime all tied up and Sherlock needed to catch up. They also let the camera follow the janitor around and focus on him, it was all just way too obvious.
The other side story with Watson helping her friend with a case showed that she can still do medical cases but she is tied to her past. But she seemed more resolute by the end, maybe Sherlock and Watson can be good for each other.
An ok episode, I enjoyed the Watson side story but the main plot was weak. Good to see David Constabile though, although a bit obvious…
Episode 6 – Flight Risk
Possibly the best episode of Elementary yet, with an enticing plane crash investigation that of course is not what it seems. The case sadly then falls away again but luckily there is a very good side story emerging – Watson has arranged to meet Holmes Snr.
Sherlock is adamant that he won’t go as his Dad will not meet them, Watson is absolutely sure that he will after conversing with him throughout her stay with Sherlock. Watson goes to dinner and meets Holmes Snr but a few questions in and it is clear this is not him. Sherlock hired an actor to pose as his father as he knew he would cancel and he didn’t want to disappoint Watson.
After Watson has discovered that Allister is not Holmes Snr she soon discovers that he is an old friend of Sherlock’s and has many stories from his drug fuelled days. We also get to hear a woman’s name mentioned.
I have to wait a week? OH COME ON!
Episode 7 – One Way To Get Off
After the wait for this episode after the revelation at the end of the previous episode, it’s clear we are not going to get a quick explanation. Sherlock is now ignoring Watson and she desperate for answers heads to his rehab place and despite no luck from the doctor she finds more luck from the groundsman whom Sherlock shared an interest with -bees.
He also gives her some letters that Sherlock had left from Irene. Watson then obviously chooses to give them to Sherlock who then stuffs them in the blender. Watson is forced to give up asking about Irene. I’m so disappointed!
Whilst all this is going on there is also a case and this time the writers got this spot on. Finally! Gregson looks back into an old case after a serial killer seems to be repeating. He looks back into the old case and is worried that maybe he caught the wrong man and when he finds out that his partner at the time had planted evidence to frame their suspect, Gregson is forced to admit that he was wrong. Sherlock’s relationship with Gregson has been steadily growing and this time we see how much Sherlock respects Gregson. Sherlock finds out that the right person was arrested at the time and there is a new serial killer, Wade’s son. He had wanted to get to understand his father and the only way he could see that was a possibility, was to become him.
With the case all sorted it causes Sherlock to reflect. He mentions Irene
“I did not take her passing well”
She can’t be dead, can she?
Episode 8 – The Long Fuse
Here we have another episode which looked into the developing relationship between Sherlock and Watson. They are looking for a sponsor for Sherlock as Watson’s six week stay is coming to an end. Sherlock is his usual unhelpful self as he is unhappy with all the candidates until he finds a carjacking ex-con only because he’s sure she will dismiss him. She doesn’t and Sherlock is forced to admit that he is going to lose Watson
The case this episode is about a bomb that goes off several years after being planted. Sherlock must find out who planted it and he has to meet a flirty PR executive who he enjoys meeting with. Now if I told you that she was played by Lisa Edelstein who was of course Cuddy in House and much the same as Episode 5 it was obvious the main star was the guilty party. Otherwise this case was enticing and well thought out, the casting was the major problem.
Now with Sherlock accepting his new sponsor, Alfredo (Ato Essandoh from the movie Blood Diamond) and even suggesting they test car security systems as part of his job, it seems we might get a new regular cast member. At the moment there are only four main characters; Sherlock, Watson, Captain Gregson and Detective Bell so Alfredo would be a welcome addition.
With Watson’s time coming to an end my mind has already been wandering as to how the writers will keep her there. Is Sherlock going to have a relapse? Will she just end up staying on?
Episode 9 – You Do It To Yourself
We’re back to the case being the real side point of the story and Sherlock’s deducing skills are back to the ridiculous. I think if the series is going to progress more in the minds of Sherlock Holmes fans it needs to make the cases and the deducing skills needed much more realistic. That aside, this week we’re back focusing on Watson as her ex-boyfriend has been arrested and accused of a hit-and-run. He also a recovering addict seems to have fallen off the wagon before the accident and Watson confides in Sherlock but doesn’t tell him all the details.
Sherlock can of course find all the information that is needed and the case is indeed solved. Watson admits that she knew Liam (her ex) before he started using drugs and she gives a very good performance as she says how much she longs for someone she used to know. When Watson decides to go and wait for Liam at the rehab facility, even though she told him she wouldn’t, Sherlock arrives. She tells him that he doesn’t need to stay and he says “I have nowhere else to be. Not tonight”. The scene and the way they are sat on the bench shows their need for each other’s companionship and also how far their characters have developed through the episodes so far.
A very good episode but the cases have to get better but I can understand why this series is proving to be more successful than critics would have you believe.
Episode 10 – The Leviathan
Finally a case that has Sherlock confused and also quite energised to resolve the case that you can’t help but get swept away by it. ‘The Leviathan’ is the Fort Knox of bank vaults but somehow it has been robbed. The case itself is quite complicated and I would certainly confuse myself and you if I tried to explain it so you really have to watch it for yourself.
Both Sherlock and Watson have in recent episodes really developed as a team and when Watson’s family arrives in town it’s time for Sherlock to meet them. Of course he goes early to the arranged dinner to the surprise of Watson and at the end her mother realises that Watson is enjoying her time with Sherlock. Watson has always felt that her family were disappointed that she gave up her surgeon job and did not like her companion job but they just want her to be happy. Now that they have seen that she is with Sherlock they are also happier.
This really could be how Watson will stay with Sherlock, she is enjoying being with him.
Despite his rudeness and his quirks they have much common ground laid already with more being revealed each episode. They are still opposites in many ways and I do like how Watson is given more of a stand out part on her own, I feel I know her more than Sherlock. He still intrigues me and I still want to know more about Irene.
Definitely the best episode so far and hopefully many more to come after the Christmas break. I can also see that Episode 12 is titled “M.”
Could it be Moriarty?
I hope to have more for you in the New Year! Amazon are now listing the Season 1 DVD but no release date yet . . .
17th November, No Comments
By John Watson
About this time each year I try to get Holmes to compile his wish list for Christmas. Usually at the top of his list is a request for me stop bothering him with such nonsense and to start rewriting my records of his cases to stress the science of deduction instead of the romantic approach he believes I always use.
Undeterred I have persisted and gleaned from him this list of what he regards as passable though he insists he cannot be cluttering his brain with all this nonsense when he has cases that must be solved.
He seems to have some regard for the BBC Sherlock Series and in this vein he has shown an interest in Sherlock – The Casebook though he did throw it across the room when part way through it (I think it was at the section on ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ – he can be very brusque when anyone else refers to ‘The Woman’). There is now a box set of both series of Sherlock if anyone still hasn’t seen them or just want to pour over every detail of ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ looking for the obvious clue that Steven Moffat says everyone has missed. I doubt that I could persuade him to let me put the Sherlock Calendar up though Mrs Hudson might (she particularly likes the “I am not your housekeeper” from the Mrs Hudson in the series and is thinking of getting Holmes a mug inscribed with it!)
The renewed interest in Holmes generated by the Sherlock series has resulted in even more ‘guides to everything about Holmes’. I did not think any more were needed but Holmes thinks the two from Nick Utechin – Amazing and Extraordinary Facts – Sherlock Holmes and Roger Johnson’s and Jean Upton’s – The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany as providing fresh insight.
Now we also have a Sherlock version of Cluedo using characters and locations from the BBC series.
I would add Sherlock’s Home – The Empty House as we still need funds to secure Undershaw although we have won some of the key battles there!
This is a much shorter list than usual but there are a lot of interesting books due to be published in the New Year and at some point we may get a DVD of Elementary (Holmes seems to think that Watson being a woman is particularly apt – I have no idea what he means!)
9th November, No Comments
By John Watson
More from “The Woman” . . .
Elementary Episode Two – While You Were Sleeping
I feel I should start each of these reviews by saying that Elementary is an adaptation of Watson’s chronicles and should not be directly compared to the Canon or the BBC TV series Sherlock. Comparisons do exist but I did enjoy the pilot and I also found the second episode to be enjoyable.
Sadly the plot of this episode is probably as weak as that of the pilot. Clues seem to be guessed rather than deduced but I am enjoying seeing the relationship between Holmes and Watson develop. This episode gave us Watson meeting up with an ex-boyfriend and of course Holmes meddled and found himself told off by Watson. He is finding out more about her, what pushes her buttons and she has found out that nothing can be kept from him!
Miller’s Holmes is still quirkier than other portrayals and this episode seemed more ‘House’ in style. The addiction meetings were a good reminder of Holmes’ past and we know he has kept this secret from Captain Gregson. There is still more to why he left London. Will we ever find out what happened? Will Moriarty make an appearance?
Right now Miller and Liu are keeping me returning to watch for more, other characters are extremely weak compared to these two. I’m not sure if that is the point but other programmes survive because of a good cast, take Monroe in ‘Grimm’ or Kalinda in ‘The Good Wife’. That’s why I hope Moriarty could make an appearance to spark up some more intrigue and develop the story more.
After the bees in the pilot, the ending of this episode has Holmes with his trusty violin. This felt more forced than placed into the story however I did find myself smiling. The episode plodded along but the crimes aren’t too difficult to solve and you don’t find you get a real “solved it” moment. I like the way Holmes and Watson are developing but the show needs a sudden influx of oomph from somewhere.
Elementary Episode 3 – Child Predator
First off, finally we have a plot that twists and turns that the previous episodes had severely lacked. Producers tried to throw us off with the topless Miller at the start of the episode with the character himself admitting he had a shirt somewhere!
Holmes and Watson are engaging more as characters by each episode and this one gave us the more emotional side to Holmes. The story is far darker than the previous plots, psychopaths, child abuse and serial abduction. The park scene with kidnap victim Adam was one of the real moments of the episode, just him and Holmes. You feel that Holmes has met someone with many traits the same as him and this is what made this case more intriguing.
Holmes is more emotional in this episode but still remains high with his ego and intellectual snobbery also taking centre stage. I think having the female Watson also brings more emotion to a story like this and I think it helped bring the two closer than previously before. Watson isn’t in the background, she’s as important as Holmes is. They have developed a partnership and it’s continuing to keep me coming back each week to see more.
Also have we met Moriarty? Adam (not Worth, his surname is Kempler) is as smart, possibly smarter, as Holmes and these two could easily be pitted against each other again. If this was the case he would be a younger Moriarty and maybe this would be the brilliance of it. As I have mentioned before the show needs another of the main characters to help guide through this series and it’s between Moriarty and Mycroft for making an appearance I think.
This series has finally started to find its feet, roll on Episode Four!
1st November, No Comments
By John Watson
As the limitations of my army pension and Mrs Hudson’s reluctance to have a satellite dish fitted to 221B prevents me from seeing the latest incarnation of Holmes and I on the small screen, I have asked someone of more independent means, whom we will refer to for the moment as “The Woman”, to review the “Elementary” series, starting with the pilot episode (which I have managed to see myself).
Finally ‘Elementary’ hit UK screens this week after months of suspense and already it has picked up mixed reviews in the US. The very popular and successful BBC series ‘Sherlock’ is always uttered in the same breath, the Robert Downey Jr films get muted noise. ‘Elementary’ was never going to be ‘Sherlock’ and whilst the wait for Season Three is agony, ‘Elementary’ takes us on a different interpretation of the great detective Sherlock Holmes.
There are three big changes to the Sherlock Holmes adaptations we have seen before.
The first major change is Joan Watson played by Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, Ally McBeal) who is hired by Holmes Senior to babysit Sherlock after his rehab. She makes the perfect accompaniment to Sherlock’s insulting and rude behaviour. Having a female Watson makes me think there will be a romantic will they-won’t they storyline building.
Have I been watching too much American TV?
I like the female aspect despite this being against everything written before, it’s a new angle that has had me intrigued and Lucy Liu was a superb casting.
The second change is no 221B. Sherlock is now in New York and there is no Mrs Hudson either. I guess Joan is enough “woman” for Sherlock.
The third change, the man himself – Sherlock Holmes. He’s a tattooed, unshaven, unkempt scruff but somehow made me think of Captain Jack Sparrow with his way of doing things. Jonny Lee Miller (Hackers, Trainspotting, Dexter) makes a good Sherlock and despite certain odd un-Sherlock behaviours he is very likeable. I found the baseball score guessing scene very silly as he had no basis for making that prediction. His physic powers are very strong in ‘Elementary’. He also brings new sex appeal to the character and is frequently seen shirtless, not that I was complaining!
After reading a few reviews before of this I wasn’t expecting much from the pilot, however I found it to be enjoyable and I didn’t let my eyes leave the screen for one minute. The programme was fast paced and missing a part of it would have been hard to keep up with, or so I had thought. The crime they need to solve is over complicated and doesn’t need to be. When it had finished I had thought it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I had missed parts of the middle section but anyway this was just the first episode.
Here are my other highlights of the first episode:
- Sherlock knowing Joan’s father had an affair because he had googled it
- He keeps bees
- Joan’s comments about there being no mirrors in his house “I think you know a lost cause when you see one”
- The episode ended with the Elvis Costello song “Watching The Detectives”
I’ve often noticed a TV programme’s popularity can be assessed in recent times via several modes of social networking. The most popular source is from micro blogging site Tumblr. Doctor Who, Merlin, Sherlock and even Downton Abbey are particularly popular amongst the Tumblr community. Elementary is probably not yet at the height of those mentioned yet but there is certainly enough evidence to believe that it’s more popular than people would have you believe.
‘Elementary’ has been extended to a 22 episode run and despite many critics writing this off and many fans also doing the same I still believe there is space for both ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Elementary’ and they should be reviewed separately. I would however, like to be able to look at both Sherlock and Watson in ‘Elementary’ and know they were those characters, right now you could name them anything and I’d believe you.
But my last point and one for you to think over – did Miller’s Sherlock remind anyone else of Matt Smith’s Doctor Who? Enjoy your second watch of the pilot to see if you agree.
I hope to persuade “The Woman” to review other episodes throughout the season.
7th September, No Comments
By John Watson
Now, I could consider myself the real Sherlock Holmes Companion, but this book, subtitled “An Elementary Guide”, could be confused with the CBS Television Series! But no, this lavish book by Daniel Smith, is a marvellous compendium consisting of four main parts, interleaved with each other throughout the volume.
There are synopses of each of the 56 short stories and the 4 long stories that comprise the Canon. There are essays on specific aspects of Holmes’ world including his role as a detective and scientist, what he does to relax, his place amongst other investigators, his politics, his appearances on stage, screen and radio (not in person, of course!) and his legacy.
There are interviews with those whose life has become intertwined with his, including three actors who have played me – Philip Franks on the stage and both of Jeremy Brett‘s Watsons – David Burke and Edward Hardwicke, Bert Coules (responsible for the only complete set of radio recordings of the Canon with the same actors playing Holmes and me throughout), Douglas Wilmer who played Holmes on television in the mid-1960s (annoyingly not available here on DVD), Caleb Carr (who’s book “The Italian Secretary” I have yet to read) and Catherine Cooke who looks after the Sherlock Holmes Collection in my local library.
Finally, there are profiles of the key characters in the stories including Holmes and me, Mrs Hudson (with a mention of our lodgings), Scotland Yard, Professor Moriarty, The Strand Magazine and of course my dear friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who made all this possible.
The cover carries an illustration from a theatrical poster for H A Saintsbury‘s portrayal of Holmes in William Gillette’s play “Sherlock Holmes” in which a young Charlie Chaplin played the part of our page boy, Billy. There are many interesting illustrations throughout the book.
Daniel Smith, who confesses to having more film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles than he knows what to do with, began reading about Holmes in The Speckled Band when he was nine around the same time as Jeremy Brett was appearing as Holmes on television. He should be proud of the work he has put into this book.
Posted in Books
13th July, 2 Comments
By John Watson
A recent article on the Baker Street Blog caused me to look through my commonplace book in which I kept my correspondence and cuttings from The Times concerning whether there should be an exhibition dedicated to Holmes, in the public library in St. Marylebone the district of London that includes Baker Street as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951.
It all began when News in Brief in The Times of Friday October 27th 1950 stated that the councillors of St. Marylebone opposed the suggestion by the borough library committee that a Sherlock Holmes exhibition should be staged in the public library as a contribution to the Festival. The leader of the council said that the borough had “many things to show off about without Sherlock Holmes”  (click on any of the cuttings to see slightly enlarged versions).I was moved to write to Alderman Dean but instead wrote to the editor of The Times the same day . I doubted that Holmes would have seen the article and also doubted that he would have risen to his own defence. I believed that many of the visitors expected from abroad would find such an exhibition of interest and I suggested, with indignation, that they should reconsider their decision. This provoked a good deal of interest with Councillor Sharp inviting me to a meeting of the library committee the following Tuesday . Sharp informed me that no final decision had been made and asked if any of Holmes personal effects might form the basis of just such an exhibition and indicated that he might have been one of Holmes’ clients and that he already possessed one of his violins! Although Councillor Vernon  says he supported the idea of giving Holmes his appropriate place as an illustrious former resident of the borough, a letter from a Mr Back  suggests that Vernon “spoke so slightingly” of Holmes. Back even suggested that I try to persuade Holmes to open the exhibition which was about as likely as the life-size statue of Silver Blaze that Back suggested. Arthur Wontner, one of the actors who played Holmes at the cinema also added his support  and Mycroft got involved but only to point out that he thought my memory was failing.  One of our former clients wrote to say that she thought my letter was a forgery as she believed that my first name was James  and a colleague also added support.  The following day I was surprised to find that Mrs Hudson had also written to The Times  castigating Madame Tussaud’s round the corner for not having our effigies amongst its exhibits. Also in that day’s edition it was finally confirmed that a Sherlock Holmes Exhibition would be mounted in library as part of the Festival.  They mistakenly refer to Conan Doyle as Holmes’ chronicler rather than as my literary agent. In a letter to The Times on November 4th, Oscar Meunier, who made the bust of Holmes that was used to trap Sebastian Moran, and was, by then, living in London, stated that Holmes had asked him to ensure that no likeness of either of us or any of those he brought to justice should be perpetrated by waxen images.  Nevertheless I conveyed the good news about the exhibition to Holmes personally that day along with the copies of the cuttings from The Times that I have included here. He was touched by this tribute but alas many of the relics of our cases that many hoped would form part of the exhibition were destroyed in that mysterious and disastrous fire shortly after the end of the war. In reporting in The Times that Holmes had warmed to the idea, I also replied to Mycroft and Kate Whitney.  I was surprised to see that Lestrade had added his voice to the chorus of approval though reading it now more carefully I see that the inspector is getting his own back.  The Times editorial of November 7th sums the whole story up rather well and adds that should the Marylebone councillors feel in the future that they are “getting a little over-confident” in their powers that someone should kindly whisper “Baker Street” in their ears in a similar way to how Holmes asked me to whisper “Norbury” in his!  But the final word I will leave with Dame Jean Conan Doyle, dear Arthur’s daughter, who offered to provide much material for the exhibition. 
Posted in Uncategorized
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.
4th June, 2 Comments
By John Watson
How this came about remains a matter of some dispute. A certain Aubrey B Watson, LDS, FDS, D.Orth. held a number of documents that came into his possession via his late uncle, Dr John F Watson, whom he says was a Doctor of Philosophy at All Saints College, Oxford. This itself is very puzzling as there is no All Saints College at Oxford although there is an All Souls College.
His uncle, whom I can assure you is in no way related to me, made a study of my life and background because of our similar names, and, his nephew insists, became an authority on me, though I can find no record of this. However, a lady called Adeline MacWhirter, approached the said uncle, saying she was related to me on my mother’s side, though again I cannot confirm this as my mother had passed away in Australia before I returned to England after being invalided out of the Army.
MacWhirter apparently told this other Dr Watson that she had inherited my old battered tin dispatch box, the one I mentioned in The Problem of Thor Bridge, which I had deposited at my bank, Cox and Company at their branch at 16 Charing Cross. I have regretted on many occasions mentioning this fact as too many people have alluded to this treasure chest as the source of their many fanciful stories about Holmes and I. She told this Dr Watson she had inherited the box and believing her to be honest and respectable, he bought the box for an undisclosed but apparently large sum in 1939.
Dr Watson says he made copies of all the originals for safe-keeping and deposited the dispatch box at his own bank. This bank, he says, received a direct hit “in 1942, at the height of the Blitz” and the box’s contents were destroyed. Again, some of these details imply some doubt as to the validity of the claims as the Blitz in the Second World was was from 7 September 1940 to 10 May 1941. Also, it is not clear to which bank he is referring as my dispatch box was safe in the vaults of Cox and Co, which incidentally, merged with Lloyds Bank in 1923, the year after The Problem of Thor Bridge was published in The Strand magazine.
It is from these “copies” that Thomson has published in this latest selection of cases entitled The Secret Archives of Sherlock Holmes.
They include following cases:
- The Conk-Singleton Forgery
- The Stray Chicken
- The One-Eyed Colonel
- The Three-Handed Widow
- The Pentre Mawr Murder
- The Missing Belle Fille, and
- The Watchful Waiter
Those of you who are familiar with my stories will know that the Conk-Singleton forgery case was around the time of the case of The Six Napoleons so I can confirm that some of the details of this case are correct.
Again those of you who are familiar with my stories are aware, I do not as a matter of policy, confirm or deny the validity of any stories purporting to be details of actual cases that Holmes was involved in as that might betray confidences that I have sworn to maintain. All I can say is that if you read the details of these seven cases you will find them as one other reviewer has put it “properly detailed and convincing, the dialogue natural, and the narrative style fluent and immaculate” as if they were, in fact, written by yours truly.
Have a read yourself and see if you agree . . .
The other books produced by June Thomson include the following which are all being produced as new editions this year:
- Holmes and Watson
- The Secret Journals of Sherlock Holmes
- The Secret Documents of Sherlock Holmes
- The Secret Notebooks of Sherlock Holmes
29th April, 1 Comment
By John Watson
So begins the Introduction to Amanda J Field’s book, England’s Secret Weapon, about the wartime films in which Basil Rathbone played Holmes.
This book provides a fresh insight into the performances that, for many, made Rathbone “The Definitive Holmes“.
Field is a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and a volunteer at the Portsmouth Museum where she is helping to catalogue Richard Lancelyn Green’s immense collection of memorabilia. Field is a film historian and the book is principally concerned with where the fourteen films fit within the times they were made and the films genres they represent.
But before that she provides a wonderful introduction to Holmes on the screen.
Holmes had been portrayed in various media (books, radio, films, etc.) for over forty years with at least twenty-two other actors taking on the role, each one adding something of their own to my original description, a deerstalker hat (drawn by Sidney Paget in an illustration in The Boscombe Valley Mystery), a calabash pipe (added by William Gillette), etc. But it was Basil Rathbone’s portrayal that for many became, and has remained, the standard against which all others are assessed. At the same time as these films were produced, Rathbone and Bruce continued to play us on the radio, with the result that Rathbone was more often referred to as Holmes by the general public than by his own name. I have referred to these radio broadcasts in my series about Holmes on the radio and in reviews of these broadcasts as issued in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volumes I, II and III.
Field’s analysis provides some interesting insights.
Firstly that each film used 221B as a sort of “time capsule” to represent the certainty surrounding Holmes and everything he stands for and we would retreat into the relative safety of our lodgings when necessary before venturing forth again to do battle with the foe. In discussing this with an associate, he drew a parallel with the BBC Doctor Who series in which the Doctor can always retreat to the Tardis for safety. There is also scenes in each of the films where there is a contrast between what the characters are wearing to reflect their different beliefs. For example, in The Hound of the Baskervilles where Dr Mortimer is meeting Sir Henry as he disembarked, Mortimer is wearing Victorian costume and Sir Henry is wearing more contemporary clothes.
Secondly she questions the assumption that Twentieth Century Fox had lost interest in Holmes after making The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, both set in Victorian times. It may have been more to do with the money-making aspirations of Arthur’s sons Denis and Adrian (who have been described as “spendthrift playboys”) than any lost of interest.
Most interesting of all is the separation of the fourteen films into four key themes:
- The Victorian setting of the first two films – The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
- The war-themed films of 1942 and 1943 – Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon and Sherlock Holmes in Washington
- The gothic films – Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, The Scarlet Claw, and The House of Fear
- The appearance of the female villain – Spider Woman, The Pearl of Death, The Woman in Green and Dressed to Kill
These four groupings show an initial desire to bring Holmes to the screen in his normal historical settings and then to use his values as propaganda during the Second World War – cleverly keeping 221B within the Victorian setting to emphasise this. Then moving into horror as an escape from the war and finally recognising the changes in the role of women and their place in society following the war.
Her analysis shows there is much more to be read in these films than I had before realised, so I plan to view them again soon.