Thursday, July 18, 2019
Book and Reading

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is perhaps the best filmed version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, showcasing Holmes’s dazzling brilliance without ignoring his unnerving intensity or drug dependencies. First aired on Britain’s Granada Television in 1984, the series offered perfect casting (David Burke, replaced later in the run by Edward Hardwicke, played Dr. Watson as Holmes’s sturdy companion and chronicler rather than as a buffoon), marvelous period music by Patrick Gowers, and a running time of almost an hour per story, which allowed superior detail and faithfulness to the original source.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes marked the beginning of the long-running series. Highlights of these 13 episodes include “A Scandal in Bohemia,” which introduces Irene Adler (Gayle Hunnicutt), whom Holmes uncharacteristically describes as having “a face a man might die for”; the chilling locked-room mystery “The Speckled Band”; the introduction of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Charles Gray) in “The Greek Interpreter”; and “The Final Problem,” in which Holmes confronts his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty (Eric Porter) at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. The five-disc boxed set is a great bargain compared to previous VHS releases, although bonus features are limited to English subtitles and galleries of Sidney Paget’s famous illustrations. The series would continue on Granada with The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes as well as the stand-alone treatments of The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The 1939 film starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce was based on the stage play by William Gillette and was not a direct adaptation of the book.

Sherlock Holmes is such classic mystery storytelling; you can almost hear the creaking doors and the creeping footsteps as you move from tale to tale. Sherlock Holmes as a kid and, now as a twenty-something, the stories strike something deeper in me. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave the world the classic setups, the classic twists, the classic surprises. You read the Sherlock Holmes stories and, even though mystery stories have been around forever in fables and tall tales, you feel as though the adventures of Holmes and Watson are pioneers in the best of the modern kind.

It’s hard to keep up and guess the endings, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never gives you enough. So, neither readers nor characters can outwit the great Sherlock Holmes.

The tales are so old world in tone, but so contemporary in devices. The foggy atmosphere of a thieving London gives way to the shadows and the rumors that make up the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (who, by the way, is a wonderful narrator and sidekick).

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