Search Result for "basil rathbone" — 18 articles

Holmes Christmas List 2010

As happened last year, with the case of the Blue Carbuncle just chronologically around the corner again and people beginning to think about gifts, Holmes has compiled his Christmas list.

He did not get everything that was on last year’s list but this year’s list is completely new. I have provided links to and where possible.

1. Top of the list this year is the DVD of the BBC Sherlockwith a contemporary take on the classic stories set in present-day London. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as me, his loyal friend. We couldn’t be more different, but Sherlock’s inspired leaps of intellect coupled with my pragmatism forges an unbreakable alliance.

Across three, 90-minute, thrilling, scary, action-packed and highly entertaining television movies, Sherlock and I navigate a maze of cryptic clues and lethal killers to get at the truth. Holmes has come out of the fog. With sparkling scripts and unforgettable performances from the two leads, this is Sherlock for a new generation. The DVD contains all 3 episodes and the original Pilot.

Amazon UK: Sherlock [DVD] and Sherlock [Blu-ray] , Amazon USA: Sherlock [DVD] and Sherlock [Blu-ray]

2. Linked to the BBC Sherlock is this neat, compact magnifying glass that every modern Sherlock needs. Watch Sherlock in A Study In Pink to see how he uses it. All you now need is the scarf, the coat and his endearing manner with all those about him and you’re set to go sleuthing this Christmas!

Amazon UK: Eschenbach Magnifying Glass

3. The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, which I mentioned in Part 2 of Holmes on British Radio , has just been released. These are four new Holmes stories with a railway theme written by John  Taylor who wrote The Undiscovered Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. These new stories are “An Inscrutable Masquerade”, “The Conundrum of Coach 13”, “The Trinity Vicarage Larceny” and “The 10.59 Assassin”.

According to Taylor, in a drawer in my desk, I have a locked cedarwood chest containing notes referring to some of Holmes’ cases that, for one reason or another, never saw the light of day. Now, for the first time, I have decided to reveal the truth to the world. In these four thrilling stories, Holmes experiments with the science of ballistics, locates some missing gold bullion, investigates the theft of a large amount of money and solves the baffling mystery of the Stovey murder.

If all that wasn’t enough then the stories are read by the newest Sherlock – Benedict Cumberbatch. Just one question then. Why is Sherlock (Cumberbatch) reading these stories rather than me (Martin Freeman)?

Amazon UK: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, Amazon USA: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries (sorry but not available in the USA in time for Christmas but you could try The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes instead).

4. I have already reviewed this digitally-restored collection of the 14 films with Basil Rathbone as Holmes.

The multi-million pound restoration is discussed in a 5 minute featurette with Robert Gitt, Head Preservation Officer at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Along with the beautifully restored films are audio commentaries by Sherlock Holmes Expert David Stuart Davies (author of numerous books on Holmes and Rathbone) on The Scarlet Claw, The Woman In Green, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death and The Hound of the Baskervilles. There is also an audio commentary by another Holmes Expert Richard Valley (acclaimed author and publisher of Scarlet Street Mystery Magazine who in Amazon’s review is said to be currently penning a book on Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes although he sadly died in 2007) on The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Richard Valley has also provided production notes and the films are accompanied by photo galleries, movie posters and theatrical trailers.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes – The Definitive Collection, Amazon USA: The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection (different packaging in the USA)

5. Again I have already reviewed Sherlock Holmes for Dummies and despite its American bias and a couple of errors (my wife becoming Mary Marston instead of Morstan and mistaking the blue plaque above the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street for a legitimate historical plaque) it is still a handy guide to the stories, Britain as it was at that time, the characters in the stories, our portrayals in films, on television and on the stage, etc.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (paperback), Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (Kindle edition), Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (paperback), Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (Kindle edition)

6. Continuing with the guides, I have now reviewed Close to Holmes – Alistair Duncan’s popular guide to Holmes and Conan Doyle’s London.

I have already reviewed his two other books, Eliminate the Impossible and The Norwood Author.

Close to Holmes is a handy guide that will just about fit in your pocket as you explore London as it is today and how it looked in the late nineteenth century to us and to my literary agent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Alistair Duncan’s research is carefully done, as usual, and he treats us to pictures of many of the locations as they were and as they are now.

Amazon UK: Close to Holmes (paperback), Close to Holmes (Kindle edition), Amazon USA: Close to Holmes (paperback), Close to Holmes (Kindle edition)

7. The second edition of Christopher Redmond’s Sherlock Holmes Handbook sums up this Canadian scholar’s lifetime expertise about Holmes. The first edition appeared in 1993 and this new edition catches up on new films and books and the advent of the Internet.

It is still one of my favourite guides providing a summary of each story in the Canon, the characters in the stories, the cases I chose not to publish, our rooms at 221B, Holmes’s methods and so on. In the section on Crime and Punishment, as well as a summary of British law (and law enforcement) as it was then, there is a summary of other detectives’ work before, during and after Holmes’ career.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes Handbook, Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes Handbook

8. The exhaustively annotated, ten-volume edition of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Edgar Award winner Leslie S. Klinger ends with The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes.

As is well known, Holmes’ adventures have inspired a vast body of literature. Since the 1920s these “writings about The Writings” have contributed fascinating new insights into the stories, enhancing the pleasure of reading them.

This final volume of The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library covers more “adventures” of Sherlock Holmes than those that are contained in the sixty tales. This deposit of extra-Canonical material is known by Sherlockian scholars as The Apocrypha.

Amazon UK: This volume is not yet listed by, Amazon USA: The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes

9. Until Benedict Cumberbatch came along most people hailed Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Holmes as the best ever.

Bending the Willow, David Stuart Davies wonderful tribute to Jeremy who said that he wanted his interpretation of Holmes to “bend the willow, but not break it.”

Apparently a second edition of this fascinating and perceptive study is available but I have not yet seen it. The second hand copies listed on Amazon are quite expensive so it may be worth contacting the publishers direct.

Amazon UK: Bending the Willow, Amazon USA: Bending the Willow

10. Finally the Sherlock Holmes film. This was originally top of the list but I am now undecided about this as my initial enthusiasm for it has dissipated in the wake of the BBC Sherlock. I now wonder if anyone will really be able to capture what Holmes and I were up to in Victorian times. Some of the liberties taken with the Canon now begin to jar – such as Holmes appearing never to have met my future wife when in reality we both met her at the same time in 221B at the start of The Sign of The Four. Still, it is a very enjoyable film and the new one in production has Leslie Klinger advising them and with the addition of Stephen Fry as Mycroft this should help to ensure greater fidelity.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes [DVD], Sherlock Holmes [Blu-ray], Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes [DVD], Sherlock Holmes [Blu-ray]

This was, as I predicted, a bumper year of Holmes books and other paraphernalia following the Sherlock Holmes film and Sherlock TV series and with follow-ups to both in production yet another bumper year may be soon upon us.

Sherlock Holmes – The Last Act

I  was invited to see Roger Llewellyn in David Stuart Davies’ play “Sherlock Holmes – The Last Act“. This was a somewhat daunting prospect for me. The play is set in 1916 and Holmes has come back to our Baker Street rooms from his cottage is Sussex following his two years of retirement.

What has brought him back? My funeral!

Roger Llewellyn is the only person in this play though through his marvellous virtuoso performance we get to meet me (my middle name is apparently Horatio and I speak with a Scottish accent), Mrs Hudson (first name Martha and sounds like Janet from Dr Finlay’s Casebook) plus Lestrade and many others. He changes accent and persona quickly and with ease and there is much humour from David Stuart Davies skill with the Canon. The second half is somewhat darker, delving, with much conjecture into Holmes’ early life. Mysteriously, The Hound of the Baskervilles appears in the play after references to The Final Problem and The Empty House when it should be earlier but it suits the mood of the second half. I will not spoil your enjoyment by telling you how it ends but I hope you will be moved – I was!

David Stuart Davies wrote this play after seeing Roger Llewellyn’s first theatrical encounter with Holmes in an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. He wrote this solo drama specially for Llewellyn and the show premiered at The Salisbury Playhouse in 1999, won five stars at Edinburgh, was selected as one of The Top Ten Fringe Plays, and has toured world-wide ever since with over 550 performances so far!

The play explores the mind of the real man – not the thinking machine. An unexpectedly passionate and secretive man, with a cutting sense of humour (as I know all too well!)

Stripping away the infamous clinical façade, Holmes reveals fears, weaknesses, and the devastating consequences of the dramas of his formative years. The whole being ‘deduced’ from the ‘clues’ in the Canon.

Following the success of this play, Davies wrote a second Sherlockian venture “Sherlock Holmes – The Death and Lifewhich was premiered at Guildford in March 2008. This play deals with Arthur Conan Doyle tiring of what he sees as the intolerably arrogant Sherlock Holmes, and suggests that he created the malevolent Professor Moriarty to dispose of him. But the author’s dangerous strategy, combined with his passion for raising the spirits of the dead, has rather more bizarre and dramatic consequences than he bargained for!

Audio versions of both plays are available (see the links above).

David Stuart Davies has written extensively about Sherlock Holmes. His non-fiction books include:

His fiction books include:

  1. Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair (1991)
  2. The Tangled Skein (1995)
  3. The Scroll of the Dead (1998)
  4. Shadow of the Rat (1999)
  5. The Veiled Detective (2004). Explores the relationship between Holmes, myself and Professor Moriarty
  6. The Games Afoot (2008)

He is the editor of several collections for Wordsworth & Collectors Library including:

He has written and narrated commentaries for the digitally re-mastered Basil Rathbone Holmes films.

If you get the chance to see it, please do. You will laugh and you may cry but you will not be disappointed!

The Definitive Sherlock Holmes

With all the current debate about who is the definitive Holmes (Rathbone, Brett or Cumberbatch?), I thought it was worth reviewing Basil Rathbone’s fourteen films as the Great Detective which have been carefully restored in The Definitive Collection.

These films updated elements of the Canon to the early part of the 20th century (except for the first two which remain in the Victorian era and were the first films to portray us in Victorian times) in a similar way to the 21st century updating that has taken place in the BBC Sherlock series.

The fourteen films (in order of release) are:

  1. The Hound of the Baskervilles, based on the story of the same name. As this was Rathbone’s first film as Holmes, and he wasn’t as well known as Richard Greene (who played Sir Hennry Baskerville), he only achieved second billing! In The Definitive Collection, this film also has an added commentary version by David Stuart Davies providing lots of useful background to the film, the script, the actors, the scenery, the clothes, the music (or lack of it!) and to Rathbone’s portrayal.
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was supposedly based on the stage play by William Gillette but little of the original plot remains apart from the conflict between  Holmes and Moriarty. This film also has a version with a commentary by Richard Valley (wrongly credited to David Stuart Davies on the DVD packaging).
  3. Sherlock Holmes and The Voice of Terror is based on His Last Bow.
  4. Sherlock Holmes and The Secret Weapon is inspired, rather than based on, The Dancing Men.
  5. Sherlock Holmes in Washington
  6. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death is based on The Musgrave Ritual and there is a version with audio commentary by David Stuart Davies (the packaging this time saying it is by Richard Valley). This film brings back the familiar dark mystery for Holmes to solve.
  7. The Spider Woman starts with the demise of Sherlock Holmes (similar to The Final Problem) and is followed by his surprise return (as in The Empty House). The following story is then based on elements from The Sign of Four and The Devil’s Foot. The theatrical trailer is included on the DVD.
  8. The Pearl of Death is based on The Six Napoleons. Again the theatrical trailer is included.
  9. The Scarlet Claw uses the device of a killer using a supernatural entity to cover up his crimes borrowed from The Hound of the Baskervilles. This has an audio commentary by David Stuart Davies and the theatrical trailer is included.
  10. The House of Fear is based on The Five Orange Pips. The theatrical trailer is included.
  11. Pursuit to Algiers. This is based on the affair concerning the steamship Friesland that I mentioned in The Norwood Builder.
  12. The Woman in Green is an adaptation of The Empty House but also includes elements from A Case of Identity and The Final Problem plus the first appearance of the Persian Slipper first mentioned in the Musgrave Ritual. This film has a version with an audio commentary by David Stuart Davies.
  13. Terror by Night is loosely based on The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax and the Blue Carbuncle. This includes the theatrical trailer.
  14. Dressed to Kill. This was known as Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Code in the UK. The theatrical trailer is included.

As well as the extras mentioned above The Definitive Collection also carries a “featurette” about the painstaking restoration of these films and how some missing elements were carefully replaced. Each film is accompanied by production notes by Sherlock Holmes devotee Richard Valley (who sadly died in 2007) and a photograph gallery.

Those who are critical of Nigel Bruce’s portrayal of me in these films should not forget that up until this point, Watson had either not appeared alongside Holmes or had been relegated to a minor role. Nigel Bruce ensured that from then on, Holmes would have his Watson and that it would always be a two-handed performance as it had mostly been in real life!

I hear of Sherlock everywhere [GREE] – American Radio Part 1

In the USA, broadcasts of Sherlock Holmes radio adaptations began eight years earlier than in Britain with William Gillette playing Holmes and Leigh Lovel as Watson in The Speckled Band in 1930.

This first ever radio broadcast of a Sherlock Holmes story was followed a week later with another actor, Clive Brook, playing Holmes and again with Leigh Lovel as me in A Scandal in Bohemia, and then a week after that by The Red-Headed League.

There then began and almost continuous stream of adaptations through to 1950.

Adventures-of-Sherlock-Holmes-Gordon-Lovel.jpg1933 – Richard Gordon took over the role of Holmes from Clive Brook. With Leigh Lovel as Watson they recorded 59 of the 60 stories in the Canon only leaving out The Valley of Fear and missing out on the record set by Clive Merrison and Michael Williams 50 years later. Many of the other stories they recorded are new or based on my unrecorded cases.

1934 – Luis Hector took over the role of Holmes for 12 new stories.

1935 – Harry West took over the role of Watson for 37 episodes which were a mixture of new stories and stories from the Canon.

Two interesting facts about these series are that they were all written or adapted by Edith Meiser and that they were all announced by one Joseph Bell!

1939 – Reprising their popular roles from their two 20th Century Fox films, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce appeared as Holmes and Watson in over 200 episodes over six years. They covered 50 stories from the Canon and many new stories.

1945 – Edith Meiser was replaced as the writer by Denis Green, Bruce Taylor and Anthony Boucher in what was to be Basil Rathbone’s last series as Holmes. As I have recorded elsewhere, Rathbone felt that his association with Holmes was getting in the way of other work (echoes of Arthur Conan Doyle here!)

1946 – Tom Conway took over the role of Holmes whilst Nigel Bruce stayed as Watson. In this series of 39 episodes there are only seven tales from the Canon.

1947 – John Stanley took over as Holmes and Alfred Shirley replaced Nigel Bruce as Watson for 39 shows with Edith Meiser returning as the writer with usual mixture of stories.

1948 – Ian Martin became Watson for the first show of a new series of 39 shows and was then replaced by Oliver Wendell Holmes. To avoid any confusion caused by someone called Holmes playing Watson he assumed the stage name of George Spelvin. Again a mixture of tales but this time written by Howard Merrill and Max Ehrlich.

1949 – George Shelton takes over the role of Holmes and Ian Martin was back as Watson for 23 stories. This was followed by what was the last series on American Radio with 39 stories starring Ben Wright as Holmes and Eric Snowden as Watson. Denis Green was the writer for this series.

The heyday of Holmes on the radio in the USA was coming to an end. But there are a few loose ends to tie up in Part 2 coming soon!

I hear of Sherlock everywhere [GREE] – British Radio Part 1

When I started to look into Holmes on the radio I expected to be able to cover it in a single post. However, the amount of material available proved to be too large and, although broadcasts of Holmes stories started in the USA (1930) before those in Britian (1938), I have decided to start with Britain first where, almost exclusively, the stories have remained close to the Canon.

So, there were five individual broadcasts of Holmes stories between 1938 and 1948.

  1. Silver Blaze with Frank Wyndham Goldie as Holmes and Hugh Harben as my good self was the first on 12th April 1938.
  2. The Boscome Valley Mystery with Arthur Wontner (Holmes) and Carleton Hobbs (Watson) on 3rd July 1943.
  3. The Speckled Band with Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Holmes) and Finlay Currie (Watson) on 10th May 1945.
  4. Silver Blaze (again) with Laidman Browne (Holmes) and Norman Shelley (Watson).
  5. The Speckled Band (again) Howard Marion-Crawford (Holmes) with Finlay Currie (again as Watson).

Of note here are Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley as Watson. In 1952 these two actors were to become the best known players of Holmes (Hobbs) and Watson (Shelley) on British radio. Also of note is that Sir Cedric Hardwicke is the father of Edward Hardwicke who played me alongside Jeremy Brett‘s TV Holmes.

No recording of any of the above broadcasts are known to exist.

Carleton Hobbs as Holmes and Norman Shelley as Watson started on the 15th October 1952 in the BBC Children’s Hour programme with 17 stories from the Canon.

Three were broadcast in 1952 [NAVA, FIVE, BLUE]. On 3rd Jauary 1953 they appeared in an “adult” adaptation of the William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle play called simply “Sherlock Holmes”.

The BBC Children’s Hour programmes continued in 1953 with two more stories [3STU, REDH], two more in 1954 [NORW, BRUC], four in 1955 [MISS, COPP, FINA, MAZA] and finally six in 1957 repeating some that had previously been broadcast [NAVA, FIVE, BLUE, REDH, 3STU, FINA].

A six-part adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles was broadcast in 1958 and then in 1959 a series of six programmes were broadcast [TWIS, BERY, BLAC, COPP, NOBL, SHOS]. Another series, of seven shows, was broadcast in 1960 [STOC, NAVA, GREE, CARD, LADY, ENGN, ILLU]. These were all new scripts, adapted by Michael Hardwick and did not repeat the Children’s Hour broadcasts.

In 1960 there was a 90 minute presentation of The Valley of Fear and then in 1961 a 30 minute Black Peter followed by a 90 minute The Hound of the Baskervilles before a series of seven programmes running into 1962 [EMPT, REIG, RESI, CHAS, BLUE, THOR, PRIO]. Continuing in 1962 was a new series of eight programmes [SPEC, SILV, MUSG, GOLD, MISS, ABBE, DEVI, MAZA] followed by a 90 minute A Study In Scarlet.

There was a repeat of The Speckled Band at the end of 1962 and of The Missing Three-Quarter and The Musgrave Ritual at the start of 1963 followed by a 90 minute The Sign of the Four.

A series of ten shows were aired in 1964 [ABBE, MAZA, SOLI, BRUC, 3GAR, NORW, SUSS, REDH, 3GAB, RETI] some repeating earlier broadcasts. A five-show series of repeats [3GAR, NORW, SUSS, REDH, 3GAB] ran over the end of the year into 1965.

A nine-show series ran in 1966 [SCAN, FIVE, SIXN, BOSC, CROO, WIST, DYIN, SECO, FINA] but it was 1969 before a final series of six episodes [DANC, IDEN, BLAC, REDC, LION, LAST] was broadcast.

Ten repeats were broadcast in 1969 [REDH, RETI, COPP, SIXN, 3GAR, GREE, SUSS, BOSC, FIVE, FINA] but that was the last of the Hobbs and Shelley portrayals. In the whole period from 1953 to 1966, 56 of the 60 stories from the Canon were produced. Only The Yellow Face, The Gloria Scott, The Creeping Man and The Veiled Lodger were not performed.

Recordings of many of these broadcasts can be found at the Sherlock Holmes Adventures Podcast (subscribe by iTunes to get them all) and, of course, there are the twelve recordings recently released by the BBC.

Early in the Hobbs and Shelley era (whilst they were still producing the Children’s Hour versions), Sir John Gielgud (Holmes) and Sir Ralph Richardson (Watson) appeared in a series of twelve shows in 1954 that started with “Dr Watson Meets Sherlock Holmes” – an adaptation of Charles Augustus Milverton. This was followed by SCAN, REDH, BRUC, IDEN, DYIN, SECO, NORW, SOLI, SIXN, BLUE and FINA (in which Orson Welles played Moriarty!) Four additional shows [SPEC, SILV, GOLD, EMPT] were produced but only aired in the USA following the other twelve in 1955. Many of these shows can be found at the Sherlock Holmes Adventures Podcast and also on Sherlock Holmes A Baker Street Dozen (most are also available as MP3 downloads).

There was also a one-off production of The Sign of Four in 5 weekly episodes in 1959 with Richard Hurndall as Holmes and Bryan Coleman as my good self.

In 1967, nine shows with Robert Langford as Holmes and Kenneth Baker as Watson were heard in South Africa on the South African Broadcasting Corporation. These are included here because they were dramatised by Michael Hardwick and probably used the same scripts as the Hobbs and Shelley series. They included SUSS, RETI, 3 GAB, ILLU, COPP, NOBL, BLAN, REIG, and THOR and can be found on the internet.

In 1974 there was a one-off programme with Robert Powell as Holmes and Dinsdale Landon as me in A Study In Scarlet. This is available in two parts in the Sherlock Holmes Public Library.

Then in 1978 there was a series of thirteen programmes [REDH, MUSG, SILV, NAVA, PRIO, CHAS, COPP, BLUE, REIG, SOLI, SIXN, ABBE, LADY] with Barry Foster as Holmes and David Buck as me. These were, as I understand it, the first to be recorded in “binaural stereo”. Also, as far as I know, these are not commercially available but the Sherlock Holmes Adventures Podcast has recently started transmitting them.

My next post will cover the remainder of Holmes on British Radio including a couple of humorous series, one with (supposedly) Holmes grandson, Stamford Holmes and the other about the Holmes “Newly Discovered Case-Book”, a series entitled “The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes“, a series of twenty four stories from the Canon produced for British Airways and finally the first complete coverage of the Canon in the series produced by Bert Coules. Then I will move on to Holmes on American radio including the long running series with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Two volumes of Basil Rathbone as the “high strung crime solver” and Nigel Bruce as his “phlegmatic assistant” have been released on CD.

Each volume contains 12 stories, some with Canonical connections, marked below with a “C” if they are based on actual stories or with an “R” if they are merely cases that I mentioned in the stories.

Volume I comprises:

  1. The Unfortunate Tobacconist [R]
  2. The Paradol Chamber
  3. The Viennese Strangler
  4. The Notorious Canary Trainer [R] [L]
  5. The April Fool’s Day Adventure [L]
  6. The Strange Case of the Uneasy Easy Chair [L]
  7. The Strange Case of the Demon Barber [L]
  8. The Mystery of the Headless Monk [L]
  9. The Amateur Medicant Society [R] [L]
  10. The Case of the Vanishing White Elephant
  11. The Case of the Limping Ghost
  12. The Girl with the Gazelle [L]

Volume II comprises:

  1. The Case of the Out of Date Murder [L]
  2. The Waltz of Death
  3. Colonel Warburton’s Madness [R]
  4. The Iron Box [L]
  5. A Scandal in Bohemia [C]
  6. The Second Generation [L]
  7. In Flanders Fields
  8. The Eyes of Mr Leyton
  9. The Tell Tale Pigeon Feathers
  10. The Indescretion of Mr Edwards
  11. The Problem of Thor Bridge [C]
  12. The Double Zero

From October 1939 to July 1947 Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred in 220 episodes (though Bruce missed one due to illness). By 1947 Rathbone wanted to dissociate himself from the character of Holmes. Neverthe less he remains so closely associated with him that many still regard him as “the definitive Sherlock Holmes”.

Nigel Bruce continued for another two series with Tom Conway as Holmes.

These recordings include war-time announcements, original narrations and commercials for the shows sponsors.

There is a book by Ken Greewald who has taken some of these radio programmes and written them up as short stories. As well as the stories on the the CDs above (which I have marked with [L], the book also contains these three cases:

  • Murder Beyond the Mountains
  • The Case of the Baconian Cypher
  • The Case of the Camberwell Poisoners

The book is called “The Lost Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and has a picture of Nigel Rathbone on the cover. The book is out of print but a second hand copy should be easy to come by. I appear to have written a short introduction to the stories in the book!

Good old Watson [LAST]

I had an entirely different title in mind for this post until I saw the film and realised that this was the first time I had seen a decent portrayal of myself on the silver screen. Although David Burke and Edward Hardwicke had done a good job in the Granada Sherlock Holmes series, in films nothing had been done to replace the bumbling Nigel Bruce Watson alongside Basil Rathbone’s almost definitive Holmes.

Here, in the “Sherlock Holmes” film, we at last have in Jude Law a Watson that is quite faithful to The Canon complete with my nagging war wound and a Mary Morstan almost as pretty as the real thing.

Robert Downey Jr. is a somewhat quirky Holmes and as Alistair Duncan has pointed out they have replaced his use of narcotics with alcohol. Although Holmes enjoys a drink, he never drinks to excess as the effect of alcohol would deaden his senses. Whatever you and I think of his use of cocaine and opium the effects of these drugs are entirely different.

The problem with Holmes is that he is to many people a cold fish (as in the scene in the film in the restaurant with Mary and I) and any accurate portrayal would satisfy only a true Holmesian. Much in the same way that Holmes accuses me of glamourising his cold, calculating approach, Downey makes Holmes accessible and understandable and maybe a little more fallible that Holmes would like.

Irene Adler [SCAN] is often used as a device in the portrayal of Holmes to give him human frailties. In this film Irene is under the influence of Moriarty [FINA] who we never see – presumbly as Brad Pitt had better things to do! If there is a sequel Professor Moriarty may return. What happened to the alluring shots of Irene Adler that appeared in some of the trailers I do not know.

Lestrade, as usual, came in for one of Holmes jibes when Lestrade conjectured that in another life Holmes could have made a great criminal and Holmes retorted that Lestrade could have been a great policeman.

Mrs Hudson appeared but briefly and there is therefore little to say.

The only other character from the Canon was McMurdo [SIGN] the one-time prizefighter who was porter to Bartholomew Sholto at Pondicherry Lodge and therefore also known to Mary Morstan. It was in The Sign of Four that I first met Mary.

There was another “character” whom the film’s writers chose to include and that was Gladstone the bulldog presumably an oblique reference to the “bull pup” I mentioned in A Study In Scarlet when I first met Holmes.

Also, the film’s depiction of the mess that Holmes’ untidy habits engendered at 221B Baker Street was all too accurate!

With all this in mind I would raise Alistair Duncan’s scoring a notch or two. What was from the Canon was reasonably accurate and the film’s evocation of Victorian London was superb. The film was great fun and Downey appeared to be enjoying his role – a bit like someone trying on a new pair of shoes for the first time. It may take a while for him to walk comfortably in the footsteps of The Great Detective.

On other small but interesting point. A lot of young people were in the audience when I saw the film and that means that maybe a few people are becoming aware of Holmes for the first time.

So hang on. This promises to be a great ride if the makers of this film have the courage to continue from this stirring start.

Holmes Christmas List 2009

With the case of the Blue Carbuncle just chronologically around the corner and people beginning to think about gifts, here are ten possibilities for your Christmas list.

1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes – the Canon is an essential part of any Holmes libary and this edition is a real bargain.

2. Dust and Shadow – my own account of the Ripper killings.

3. The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – stories that I’m not sure are really true!

4. Sherlock Holmes Handbook– a new edition of this essential handbook.

5.Eliminate the Impossible: An Examination of the World of Sherlock Holmes on Page and Screen – a fascinating examination of Holmes’ world from the author soon to bring us a book about my literary agent’s time in Norwood.

6.The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 and Volume 2 – Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce radio shows. Witty, fast-paced, and always surprising, these great radio plays are as fresh as when they first premiered and feature perfect sound.

7. Sherlock Holmes’s London – a recreation of the London Holmes and I know.

8. Sherlock Holmes Calendar 2010 – how could you manage without this?

9. Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography – pure guesswork of course!

10.Sherlock Holmes Handbook: Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective – seems as though this gives the whole game away!

This is only the start of what promises to be a bumper year of Holmes books and other paraphernalia as the Sherlock Holmes film creates a renewed interest in the world’s first consulting detective. There’s even going to be a Sherlock Holmes for Dummies!

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