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A Mind That Rebelled at Stagnation
January 30, 2013 3:47 PM   Subscribe

In 1984, Grenada Television produced a television series called Sherlock Holmes. The famous detective has been portrayed by numerous people including Robert Downey Jr., Basil Rathbone, and Benedict Cumberbatch, but British actor Jeremy Brett played one of the most holmesian detectives ever put to screen. Brett was known for his passion and skill as Holmes, as well as the humor and grace that he brought to the role. He was accompanied by a Watson played by David Burke, no slouch himself in accompanying the consulting detective. Granada was able to adapt 42 of Conan Doyle's stories during the show's ten year lifespan. Below is the entirety of the series on various youtube channels.

-A Scandal in Bohemia
-The Dancing Men
-The Naval Treaty
-The Solitary Cyclist
-The Crooked Man
-The Speckled Band
-The Blue Carbuncle
-The Copper Beeches
-The Greek Interpreter
-The Norwood Builder
-The Resident Patient
-The Red Headed League
-The Final Problem
-The Empty House
-The Abbey Grange
-The Musgrave Ritual
-The Second Stain
-The Man with the Twisted Lip
-The Priory School
-The Six Napoleons
-The Sign of Four
-The Devils Foot
-Silver Blaze
-Wisteria Lodge
-The Bruce-Partington Plans
-The Hound of the Baskervilles
-The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
-The Problem of Thor Bridge
-Shoscombe Old Place
-The Boscombe Valley Mystery
-The Illustrious Client
-The Creeping Man
-The Master Blackmailer
-The Last Vampyre
-The Eligible Bachelor
-The Three Gables
-The Dying Detective
-The Golden Prince-Nez
-The Red Circle
-The Mazarin Stone
-The Cardboard Box

Previously
posted by holmesian (84 comments total) 199 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eponisterical, my dear Watson.
posted by m@f at 3:54 PM on January 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I knew him as drippy Freddie Eynsford-Hill first, so I always have to do a mental double-take. But I just finished reading most of the stories for school, so I'm excited to watch these. Thanks!
posted by book 'em dano at 3:56 PM on January 30, 2013


Jeremy Brett will always be who I imagine when I read Sherlock Holmes.
posted by justkevin at 3:58 PM on January 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


He is to Holmes what Kevin Conroy is to Batman. There are many excellent versions of Holmes, but the Jeremy Brett portrayal is archetypal, for me at least.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:02 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Last year I watched all the Brett Holmes episodes on Netflix and it really was a treat. The production values are cheap (this is the BBC of decades past after all), but the acting and plot lines still hold up. Brett's Holmes is the perfect crazy genius, a man with intense energy that without an outlet produced dangerous lows. He also looked the part (sorry RDJ). As I understand it, Brett himself was diagnosed as bipolar around the time of filming and it lead him to an even deeper connection with his character.

The series only downside comes in the later episodes when Brett's health was failing. He put on considerable weight and has a sickly look that the makeup couldn't really conceal. He died shortly after finishing the series I believe.

My favorite thing about Brett's Holmes though is that he is a total dick to Watson. Not in a haha charming way or in a it's okay because he is an eccentric way. No, he is just sometimes a total dick. All one has to do is read just a couple of the stories to realize that as awesome as Holmes is, he is such an asshole as a roommate. Thank goodness Watson and Mrs Hudson were such accommodating folks.
posted by boubelium at 4:03 PM on January 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


I knew him as drippy Freddie Eynsford-Hill

I can see him now.

And maybe it's just a generational thing, but he's my image of Holmes too.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:04 PM on January 30, 2013


My favorite thing about Brett's Holmes though is that he is a total dick to Watson. Not in a haha charming way or in a it's okay because he is an eccentric way. No, he is just sometimes a total dick. All one has to do is read just a couple of the stories to realize that as awesome as Holmes is, he is such an asshole as a roommate. Thank goodness Watson and Mrs Hudson were such accommodating folks.

All the 'modernized' Holmes - Dr House, Benedict Cumberbatch, and from previews I'm guessing RDJ and the one from Elementary - play it up and part of my instinctively thinks "oh, they're just trying to make him modern and edgy". I love that that's how he is in canon.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brett was bisexual, but intensely private.

Lithium for bipolar disorder, coupled with heart trouble and 60 cigarettes a day impacted his appearance in the later shows.

posted by poe at 4:12 PM on January 30, 2013


Every single horse that appears in the Granada series was a 95th percentile beauty.
It's an uncanny contrast to almost every other aspect of the series, even the
performances of Brett himself. The horses were always gorgeous.
I've often wondered who was responsible for that consistent extravagance.
posted by the Real Dan at 4:15 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, I must see all of these. I haven't bothered to see the Robert Downey Jr. versions. Apparently Downey and Jude Law employ karate(!) in their endeavours to right the wrongs of London, and that gelled, messy hairstyle on Downey just to try to make him look taller — come on!!! I want to see a version that's more realistic and historically accurate rather than some rock video version. And Jeremy Brett looks just like the Sidney Paget illustrations from The Strand come to life.
posted by orange swan at 4:16 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You probably shouldn't watch this K-pop Sherlock Holmes video than.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:19 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


THANK YOU. The current version of Sherlock Holmes is an abomination.
posted by freakazoid at 4:19 PM on January 30, 2013


Brett is an excellent Holmes. He may even be tied for best.
posted by Nomyte at 4:20 PM on January 30, 2013


I have a tip for anyone who has to watch the RDJ Holmes movies. Before you hit play, tell yourself you are not about to watch a Holmes movie. No, you are about to watch a buddy cop movie set in some steam punk world of explosions and slow mo/speed up karate. It is a totally over the top silly popcorn movie that just happens to have characters with familiar names. Then you might actually enjoy yourself.

(But oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, the RDJ Holmes never deduces a damn thing. Every time the plot needs to advance he punches, chases, or explodes his way to the next plot point. Arghhhhhh)
posted by boubelium at 4:27 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Karate or Bartitsu?
posted by titus-g at 4:37 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


THANK YOU. The current version of Sherlock Holmes is an abomination.

Which one? RDJr, Cumberbatch, or the CBS thing?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:40 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah no the RDJ movies are fun but they Not Holmes movies. it's Victorian!Tony Stark. I am okay with that, but they are not Holmes.

Yeah pretty much every long form adaptation of Holmes softens his character up, makes him less of a dick, or makes him less of a freaking werido. The Cumberbatch Holmes is allready getting fuzzy around the edges, Dr. House got cartoonishly jerky and then had to be reigned in, and Rathbine wasn't very particularly jerky, just eccentric.
posted by The Whelk at 4:41 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Cumberbatch Holmes is too soft for you? He summons Watson from across town because he's too lazy to get up off the couch. He travels on the metro drenched in blood carrying a gory harpoon. He refers to himself as a high-functioning sociopath and from the beginning the police openly speculate that he might be/become a murderer. It goes beyond the books, in danger of going over the top.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:50 PM on January 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


I loved the Jeremy Brett version as kid because they were pretty much what I'd pictured in my head as I was reading. I can enjoy BBC Sherlock as long as I forgot it's supposed to be Sherlock Holmes. Cumberbatch is fine, but I have trouble accepting skinny Mycroft, hot Lestrade, and an Irene Adler who is not from New Jersey.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:57 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I watched these on Netflix as well. I like them almost , but not quite as much as the Basil Rathbone movies.

I am no expert on detective fiction but I used to have a theory that all fictional detectives are guided by Holmes. Almost unconsciously the creators of fictional detectives must decide if their creations are to be a Holmes or an Anti-Holmes. They must all be Holmsian CSI types or gut instinct types, that overturn stones until someone confesses or is killed, sort of a Columbo or Magnum PI shake the trees type. I'm not quite sure how Wire in the Blood Tony Hill style psychological profilers fit in, the ones that "get inside the killer's head".

I'd like a taxonomy of fictional detectives. What about Luther, or Rebus. Luther seems to commit as many crimes as he solves and Rebus seems to inflict his tortured angst on everyone around him until the perpetrator gives up.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:01 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Let's not forget the late Edward Hardwicke, who took over as Dr. Watson post-Reichenbach Falls.

This series isn't the first attempt to right the Nigel Bruce-ian wrong to Watson (although, thing is, Nigel Bruce's interpretation was influential because it was a memorable performance...)--James Mason's Watson in Murder by Decree also has brains, despite some comic moments. But overall the series was influential in tilting Watson back toward being an intelligent person capable of writing fine tales about his friend, something that shows up now in the (innumerable) pastiches as well as the TV/film versions. (My students and I spent a lot of time today talking about how Watson functions as a narrator in A Study in Scarlet, so I've got the Burke/Hardwicke Watson--who is shown concealing his own observational skills for plot purposes--on my mind.) Joan Watson in Elementary owes something to the Burke/Hardwicke Watsons.

I'm deeply frustrated by Sherlock. Partly because of the plotting (which frequently goes haywire around halfway through any given episode), partly because I've read so many Holmes pastiches/seen so many adaptations that the series just seems wearisomely derivative. And what on earth did they do to Irene Adler?! (Although I like the attractive and reasonably intelligent Lestrade. Elementary's Gregson is also refreshingly non-dumb.)
posted by thomas j wise at 5:02 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


This adaptation is one of my all-time favorite things in the world.

Some of the later episodes get incredibly out there in directorial style, which is fantastic and at the same time a bit hit-or-miss. At some point in the midperiod, say around the Red-Headed League, something happens to the productions and the episodes transform from well-appointed, nitpicker's delight adaptations to something frankly both literary and cinematic, ambitious and head and shoulders above its peers in the era.

My wife and I watched the entire run over a few months about three years ago, trying as best we could to limit consumption to one a day, and largely without watching any additional tv or film. It was a feverish experience, one I endorse.

The obvious comparison is to the by now equally long-running Poirot, and you can sort of see Brett's performance affect Suchet over time. The past three or so seasons of Poirot are showing clear evidence of a desire to meet this Holmes' bar, to my delight.

Additionally, when I happily sat down to check out the Cumberbatch/Freeman Holmes, it was with every expectation of disappointment. As soon as I realized the update had literally placed the actors in the same rooms* as the Brett series, two wars and some bumpy economic times and questionable wallpaper later, I knew I could trust the show.

*not actually the same rooms. The update chose to use the same floorplan, dimensions, and window placement and size as the Brett series. The unmistakeable similarity is absolutely intended, as there is a cottage industry of interpreting Conan-Doyle's descriptions of 221b.
posted by mwhybark at 5:07 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jeremy Brett is the Holmes I remember from childhood when they used to run the show on A&E (back it was actually Arts and Entertainment). The old incarnation of A&E is the reason why Ian McShane will always be Lovejoy to me as well.
posted by Kitteh at 5:08 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


THANK YOU. The current version of Sherlock Holmes is an abomination.

Which one? RDJr, Cumberbatch, or the CBS thing?


Cumberbatch. I didn't realize there were so many these days. Maybe abomination is too harsh. I just don't like them.
posted by freakazoid at 5:12 PM on January 30, 2013


It goes beyond the books, in danger of going over the top.

I guess it just feels weirdly grafted on to me, or maybe I spent too much time on tumblr.
posted by The Whelk at 5:14 PM on January 30, 2013


Oh, and I guess the Brett Holmes was shot in Manchester from 1984 on, and therefore in the 1984 to 1990-ish episodes there are many Madchester scenesters in bit parts and extra roles on screen. Not knowing enough about the people behind the music I can't spot 'em. But it amuses me to think that people who contributed to the creative ferment around 4AD also did so on this series.
posted by mwhybark at 5:14 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ian McShane will always be Lovejoy to me as well.

ColdChef asserts that Deep Space Nine is the same show as Deadwood, which makes McShane's Swearengen Quark.
posted by mwhybark at 5:17 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not sure about all the disdain for the RDJr Sherlock in here, but then again I like pretty much every version of Sherlock Holmes.

I kind of view Sherlock as the Batman of classic literature - there are dozens of ways to interpret him and I'm not sure any one is more valid or "right" than another, depending on the medium and the purpose.
posted by HostBryan at 5:25 PM on January 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'd like a taxonomy of fictional detectives.

There are three basic types of fictional detectives. A CSI deduces the killer's identity on the basis of meticulously gathered physical evidence. A Miss Marple believes in the inevitability of character, and identifies the killer as being the person who could have committed the crime. Type 3, the Marlowe, seeks a narrative that fits the facts. Types 1 and 2 are looking for The Answer (tm) and are generally hesitant to discuss their reasoning until they have all the facts. Marlowes are looking for a good enough explanation. They have a story that fits what they know, learn more, revise the story, repeat. The conclusion they reach is often unsatisfactory to them and to us. They often end up solving a crime only tenuously related to the one they started out trying to solve.

By this taxonomy, Holmes is 2/3 CSI, 1/3 Marple.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:34 PM on January 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


This clip is one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes adaptation scenes, hands down. That moment at ~2:00 when Holmes cannot suppress his glee at the very thought of tackling a mentally challenging case--that display of sheer, satisfied pleasure--that was when Granada Holmes won my heart.

I enjoyed the Ritchie adaptation as a fun buddy-cop-style movie, and the BBC adaptation as a serviceable modern-day version, and yet... RDJ and Cumberbatch are but pale imitations of shadows on the cave wall in comparison to Jeremy Brett.

Thanks for the links!
posted by ilicet at 5:38 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm 99% positive that at any given moment in the entire run of House, Hugh Laurie is just doing a Jeremy Brett impression.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 5:39 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jeremy Brett was the definitive Holmes, as far as I'm concerned. His performance drove all others out of my brain; they're pale shadows by comparison. I was really sad when he died.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:50 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I realize my taxonomy of fictional detectives is incomplete. There's a fourth type.

Axis 1: physical evidence (P) vs. characterological investigation (C)
Axis 2: all tied up in a neat little package (T) vs. unresolved uncertainty (U)

PT - The CSI
CT- The Marple
CU - The Marlowe
PU - The Scully

I overlooked Scullies because they're rarely lead characters. We don't blame Marlowe for not reaching ironclad certainty because human character doesn't really lend itself to crisp conclusions. Failing to make satisfactory use of physical evidence usually looks like incompetence. Arthur Conan Doyle's Lestrade taught us to see things that way.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:57 PM on January 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


Jeremy Brett is the Holmes I remember from childhood when they used to run the show on A&E (back it was actually Arts and Entertainment).

Was it on A&E or did PBS run them? Either way, the Brett Holmes was also the one I really got into first. They were really pitch-perfect.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:03 PM on January 30, 2013


Jeremy Brett will forever be my mental image of Holmes, however, Basil Rathbone will always be the voice in my head. Both were formative in my love for all things Holmesian, and I really love pairing up his adaptations with the New Adventures (radio) versions of the same cases. The results are often very illuminating in terms of what makes the plots work or not for audiences.

I've actually got the bulk of the surviving episodes of The New Adventures radio show, and I love them dearly. Unfortunately, for all the wonderfulness that was Nigel Bruce, we can blame him for much of the maligning that Watson gets in later series. Bruce played him too much as the bumbling fat man, which was a shame because Watson is a BAMF in his own right. This has started to be reclaimed in newer versions, but so many people overlook the fact that Watson was a) a trained medical doctor, b) trained at Netley as a surgeon, c) in both India and Afghanistan as part of British military action, d) considered a crack shot, and e) considered to be highly intelligent by all who knew him (even Holmes). That he has been reduced to bumbling sidekick and emotional ball of fat always upsets me.

I am fond of RDJs version of Holmes, (as well as the wonderful Law Watson) but I feel much gets lost in the comedy value the directors have felt the need to force into the adventures to get "laughs". There have been a few shining moments in the two movies so far, so I don't begrudge them too badly. (The particular bit involving The Trout in the last movie was dead the fuck on for me, as was the boxing bit in the first movie.) That said, I have not watched the Cumberbatch version yet, simply because the modern setting undoes for me any suspension of disbelief for the place of a Holmes like detective. No amount of brother being the British Government can make a place for a Holmes in the modern setting without some serious rewrites that simply do not seem to be present.

Ah well.
posted by strixus at 6:04 PM on January 30, 2013


They often end up solving a crime only tenuously related to the one they started out trying to solve.

Of course, the "this thing is bigger than all of us", " we are through the looking glass here people" type.

What about the sub -genre of detectives who create a narrative that is completely wrong. They engage in what one of my professors would have called Procrustean logic, they interperate facts in a flawed way to bolster their own internal narrative, usually some conspiracy. A Jim Garrison or a Mulder.

There is also the detective who causes most of the crimes through their own investigation. Take Lethal Weapon, they investigate one killing and cause 10 more as the perpetrator tries to escape justice.

Those may be be too specialized to be archetypes.

The more I think about Luther, the more I think the detective aspect is secondary. It is really psychological drama about reaction formation.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:12 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


strixus, if you want to see Watson as a BAMF, you should check out the modern BBC version. Because you can't spell BAMF without Martin Freeman's initials.
posted by book 'em dano at 6:14 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll check these out... thanks!

I really, really don't like the current BBC one (Was there really an episode where all the banks were going to be taken down by a usb drive or something and Moriarty had to explain to Sherlock that it wasn't really possible... or was it an insane dream?), and the Guy Ritchie movies are good-not-great.

As has been pointed out, Sherlock Holmes did actually know a martial art, and there was no 'karate' in any of the movies... RDJ practices Wing Chun in real life, and they incorporated that into the movie.

Personally, Elementary is my current favorite SH adaptation. I love the flawed characters and the more realistic situations, and Lucy Liu as Watson is all kinds of awesome. She has a real purpose and real talents, she's not just a sidekick... but she's flawed as well. The introduction of Moriarty was really great.
posted by Huck500 at 6:20 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Love the Jeremy Brett version, you can catch them most weekday afternoons on ITV 3, I think, or is it ITV 4. Brett does look dreadfully ill in the later ones but I can't say it detracts as Holmes also has good reason to be enervated.

Stylistically they remind me of that other 70s production, the BBC yearly Christmas ghost story: the MMR James ones, Lost Hearts, Whistle and I'll Come to You etc. The attention to detail and scenery, the slow unfolding, the Victoriana seen through a 70's filter (hairstyles etc). Excellent television.

Will have to check out Elementary.

And I don't like the gimmicky Cumberbatch version, with its fussy graphics and facsimile of super-logic hand-in-hand with rather dumb plot points a child would have difficulty believing.
posted by glasseyes at 6:24 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The production values are cheap...

It does seem like the budget was low (I don't actually know how the Grenada production financially compared to other English TV shows at the time), but I'm continually tickled by how much the production team did with what they had: location shooting, the set dressing and props (especially in 221B), the foggy "streets" of London. I also share mwhybark's enthusiasm for the direction. I don't know which episode, but I recall a good scene where a conversation is shot entirely in the reflection of windows. And, of course, there's the psychedelic freak-out sequence from "The Devil's Foot."

I'm currently reading The Improbable Sherlock Holmes, which I find rather uneven (though it does have a charming story where Watson visits an alternate universe and faces down an evil Holmes). Carrying me through the lesser stories is the mental image of Brett as Holmes investigating reports of UFOs and demons.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:38 PM on January 30, 2013


Carrying me through the lesser stories is the mental image of Brett as Holmes investigating reports of UFOs and demons.

Oh, you'll like Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:48 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love the Granada Holmes! It's my favorite, and a total go-to comfort watch. And that's an interesting point about the horses...I hadn't thought about it, but you're right, they really had an eye for them. I have always enjoyed noticing their Victorian vehicles, like the fire engine in The Norwood Builder; they give it proud and loving screen time.

Another adaptation I really like is actually the modern British Radio 4 version, with Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. They did all of the novels and stories, and are, as far as I know, the only version to adapt the entire canon with the same two actors as Holmes and Watson. The scripts start out good and get excellent, especially the ones by Bert Coules.

After they finished the last of the canon (and Michael Williams unfortunately passed away), they made some more pastiche episodes under the title The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, all scripted by Coules (based on throwaway references from the original canon), with Merrison as Holmes and Andrew Sachs as Watson. They're very enjoyable, and I recommend them for anyone who, like me, enjoys Holmes and well-done radio drama.
posted by theatro at 6:53 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Was there really an episode where all the banks were going to be taken down by a usb drive or something and Moriarty had to explain to Sherlock that it wasn't really possible... or was it an insane dream?)

Yes, that was a thing that happened. I forgot to add Moriarty to the list of characters I can accept only if I forget who they're supposed to be. I had kind of hoped modern Moriarty would be some pop science professor, giving Ted talks or something, instead of just a crazy dude.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:55 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad, the show was initially aired in the US on PBS under contract to "Mystery," as one might expect, and then migrated to A&E. I'm not sure if the very late period episodes ever actually aired in the US.

I don't know which episode, but I recall a good scene where a conversation is shot entirely in the reflection of windows.

This particular visual theme, of indirect and reflected images of the performers, recurs over and over again in the middle period of the series. I am certain it was used in Red Headed League and for some reason I want to say also in Speckled Band, which may actually undercut my thesis of increasing directorial ambition as the series matures.

Well, if recollect fails, one must seek evidence by practicing observation, mustn't one!
posted by mwhybark at 7:12 PM on January 30, 2013


Actually, we can talk about the many versions of Watson who seems a lot more fungible than Holmes in his depictions. Law's Watson was actually the most Holmes-y part of those movies, as I like dashing ladies man war hero Watson more than doddering Watson cause question shouldn't be "why is super-brain Holmes hanging out with this clod?" "it should be "why is this charming veteran hanging around this complete basket case?"
posted by The Whelk at 7:16 PM on January 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


oh god the BBC Moriarty is like..I think they where going for "uncomfortable in his own skin ssocial/all of Holmes' negative qualities, etc" and ended up in like "Is secretly a lizard in a human suit."
posted by The Whelk at 7:20 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love the Jeremy Brett Holmes, but goddamn he looked very, very ill in the last season. He was the quintessential Holmes, but the man was dying ffs. They should have let him go on sick leave months before they did.

.
posted by goo at 7:20 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


What annoys me about BBC Moriarty is his diction/accent. He sounds like he's talking through a mouthful of marbles; I couldn't make out half of what he's saying. I'm not sure whether that's deliberate or just how Andrew Scott talks.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:22 PM on January 30, 2013


It's like Ireland by way of ...Mars. He shoots right past creepy into Sci Fi villain.

Harris' Moritority was by the book in term of depiction but he solds it well, it helps that Harris plays quietly sinister well.
posted by The Whelk at 7:24 PM on January 30, 2013


Is this where I admit I never even thought of the House thing? House, Holmes, durrrr. (To be fair, I've only seen random episodes, but imagine my embarassment.)

Also, the detective taxonomy is excellent. Maigret & Archer (my faves) are both Marlowe-Marples. But how about Peter Wimsey?
posted by dame at 7:26 PM on January 30, 2013


House-Watson is interesting cause they basically had to fuse Watson and Mrs. Hudson which made that dynamic so, so much stranger.
posted by The Whelk at 7:29 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love the first series with Burke as Watson. Two early middle aged men living like college bachelors, visiting Mycroft at the Diogenes club, running around 19th century London solving crimes, and back to 21b Baker street, "which one will it be this time, Holmes, cocaine or morphine?"
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:40 PM on January 30, 2013


I personally prefer Mitchell and Webb's depictions.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:40 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


RDJ Holmes never deduces a damn thing.

That's historically accurate (or, if you prefer, canonical) then; Doyle's Holmes never deduced anything, either, although he kept referring to his near-continual inductions as such.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:41 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Marina Sirtis makes an appearance in "The Six Napoleons." Her lines are in impassioned Italian, if there wasn't enough enticement already.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:57 PM on January 30, 2013


That's historically accurate (or, if you prefer, canonical) then; Doyle's Holmes never deduced anything, either, although he kept referring to his near-continual inductions as such.

Holmes doesn't distinguish between logic's formal definitions of deduction and induction because he uses the general definition of the term meaning only to arrive at conclusions through the use of reason.
posted by boubelium at 8:32 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


My current favorite Holmes adaptation is Elementary as well. I think Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock is the perfect balance between asshole, weirdo, and decent human being. BBC Sherlock seems to forget that last bit with Cumberbatch's Sherlock. I mostly end up amused and entertained while watching BBC Sherlock, but once the episode is over, all I can think is "Christ, what an asshole."
posted by yasaman at 8:41 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jeremy Brett was the great Holmes of our age. RIP.

The original archetypical Holmes was Basil Rathbone, and is probably still the go-to Holmes for people older than a certain age.

Many of the visual elements that are traditionally associated with Holmes were first introduced by Rathbone. The deerstalker hat is never mentioned in the Conan Doyle books... (also, check out Rathbone's super-fantastic Poe readings.

I recently was given Nicholas Meyer's Seven Percent Solution for Christmas - something I remembered fondly from my youth. It stood up extremely well and provides a very different picture of the truth behind Holmes, without conflicting with a shred of the "canon".

I am very impressed by the BBC's Sherlock, frankly. There's a lot to like - for example, the fact that they're constantly captioning people on the fly, so you can see what they see on their text messages, for example, or to show Holmes' chain of deductions without him having to boringly go through it.

And particularly the cliff-hanger that ends season two. I won't reveal anything, but it's absolutely devilish - it makes you doubt every single episode that has happened until this point. It's so intricate and devious, and I still can't figure out how they're going to get Holmes out of it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:15 PM on January 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Was it on A&E or did PBS run them? Either way, the Brett Holmes was also the one I really got into first. They were really pitch-perfect.

I saw them on Mystery!, so certainly PBS at some point. Jeremy Brett is my quintessential Holmes as well. When I finally saw a Rathbone Holmes I was really disappointed. Not manic enough, not earthy enough. I really liked the way Jeremy Brett could go so easily from cold and calculating to a sort of joyful bloodlust as Holmes closed in on his prey.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:33 PM on January 30, 2013


Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce convinced me they were Holmes and Watson when I was young. Everyone else now (Jeremy Brett and Engelbert Humperdinck or whatever) will always be actors dressing up and playing Holmes.
posted by pracowity at 12:11 AM on January 31, 2013


Just being a nerd here but despite it being actually called Bartitsu in real time it is actually referred to as Baritsu in the single instance that Holmes refers to it.
posted by longbaugh at 12:15 AM on January 31, 2013


But how about Peter Wimsey?

I would class him as the narrative-to-fit-the-facts style ("When you know how, you know who.") Five Red Herrings is pretty much just this, purely, with some additional showing off of railway timetables smeared on top. (My love for Wimsey knows no bounds, but man, Five Red Herrings was really, really hard going.)

I really like the Cumberbatch Sherlock, though I honestly expected to hate it, but I can only deal with Irene Adler by using the method recommended for the RDJ Holmes -- just pretend that she's some lady or other who Sherlock has to deal with, and she just happens to have a familiar name. Because The Woman cannot be fully embodied outside of the written stories; it is not possible for a mortal to inhabit The Woman and it is definitely not possible for that weird concoction of a character to be The Woman. Holmes, though archetypal, is able to feel real, but Irene...just isn't. (In some ways I feel a little bit the same about Harriet Vane, although I really did love Harriet Walters' portrayal. In my own head, she's so big and different and wonderful and everything else, no one else's interpretation could be quite right.)

In addition to the detective types/archetypes, as well as the sidekick/co-detective types, how about the Actual-Police-as-Foil? They seem to fall into three classes: those who are stupid and bumbling and hate Our Hero[ine], those who are intelligent so naturally welcome Hero[ine]'s help, and those who are intelligent but always sigh a little bit at the sight of Hero[ine]. Any others? (And I wonder where a character like DCS Foyle falls, as he's both the legitimate police, and the independent detective hero?)
posted by kalimac at 1:02 AM on January 31, 2013


Jeremy Brett is my ideal Holmes, and I love those adaptations dearly - just as I love the early David Suchet Poirots.

kalimac, Five Red Herrings is the one Wimsey I never managed to finish. Have tried several times; I just can't do it.
posted by andraste at 2:04 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread is an outstanding example of why we need shorted term limits on copy rights. Look at the extra joys that having an accessible source has brought!
posted by bystander at 2:43 AM on January 31, 2013


BBC Moriarity, with his tantrum-throwing and childish behavior, reminds me of a six-year-old girl. Like Hit Girl trapped in the body of an erudite metrosexual actor, or something.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:23 AM on January 31, 2013


Oh, I must see all of these. I haven't bothered to see the Robert Downey Jr. versions. Apparently Downey and Jude Law employ karate(!) in their endeavours to right the wrongs of London,

Holmes was in canon a bare knuckle fighter and master of 'Baritsu' (a misspelled version of Bartitsu). And things that you'll miss like the deerstalker never actually appear in the Sherlock Holmes books - they were in the illustrations and became iconic. If you go right back to the books there is a very good case that RDJ and Jude Law have produced the most accurate Holmes and Watson so far.

I want to see a version that's more realistic and historically accurate rather than some rock video version.

If you want a realistic and historically accurate version of Holmes, stay away from the books. Holmes as written was a pulp hero. If you want a version true to the books, Downey and co with the baritsu and bustling London went right back to source rather than to that which is thought. Brett is pretty much the definitive version of the popular culture version of Holmes rather than Holmes-as-written.
posted by Francis at 3:49 AM on January 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-defence is quite a fun read, and cheap as chips from the book people (linked) if you have other stuff to order to make it worth the shipping.
posted by titus-g at 3:59 AM on January 31, 2013


Many of the visual elements that are traditionally associated with Holmes were first introduced by Rathbone. The deerstalker hat is never mentioned in the Conan Doyle books

Similarly, some of the characters are a big part of the cultural Holmes despite only making minor appearances in the books. Irene Adler was in one Conan Doyle story (and mentioned in 3-4 others); Professor Moriarty was in two (and mentioned in 5 others).
posted by kirkaracha at 7:04 AM on January 31, 2013


Brett solidified my love of all things Holmesian. He really was the quintenssential Holmes for me, and I appreciated the more true to written form of Watson as opposed to the bumbling Nigel Bruce version. I would always take down my dad's copy of the Annotated Sherlock Holmes and read the story aftewards. But I loved watching the Rathbone movies with my parents (along with the Charlie Chan movies), debating the merits of the original stories set in appropriate historical time (Hound of the Baskervilles) against those set during contemporary war-time London (Woman in Green). It makes me a little nostalgic.
posted by ElleElle at 8:39 AM on January 31, 2013


Many of the visual elements that are traditionally associated with Holmes were first introduced by Rathbone. The deerstalker hat is never mentioned in the Conan Doyle books...

The deerstalker thing predates Rathbone by decades; William Gillette, who appears to have liked Sidney Paget's illustration of Holmes in a deerstalker for "Silver Blaze," popularized it as Holmes' go-to headgear in his hit play Sherlock Holmes (1899). Most of SH's iconic accessories go back to Gillette.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:23 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Most of SH's iconic accessories go back to Gillette.

or, um, Paget.
posted by jfuller at 10:23 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


My love for Wimsey knows no bounds, but man, Five Red Herrings was really, really hard going.

Heh. Five Red Herrings is one of my favorites, after The Nine Tailors and Gaudy Night. I love the way the pace of the village is reflected in the pace of the book. Dorothy L Sayers really has a knack for landscapes being invoked by the writing, which is why I love The Nine Tailors best of all. It's really such a sad book about the difficulty of working class life out in Fen country, and really the wealthy people don't have it much easier. There are long stretches of waiting and boredom in the narrative, punctuated by the changing of seasons and catastrophic events. The comforting bright light throughout is the church and how it brings all classes of people together and the symbolic and fuctional role that sturdy piece of ancient architecture plays in a landscape that is constantly at the mercy of nature. It even begins with Wimsey burying the nose of his modern, expensive, state of the art automobile in a ditch during a snowstorm. Five Red Herrings instead begins with the democratic nature of fishing in a village in Scotland. Wimsey, having taken up residence in this village is also brought to a more level state of exisitence with his neighbors. Instead of outsourcing his investigations to Parker and Bunter, he rides his bike and sits in artists' studios and essentially spends a leisurely time investigating all his neighbors, richer and poorer. all the suspects, no matter their class are equalized by being artists and being potential murderers. Everyone fishes, everyone paints, everyone rides a bike, and I think that is reflected in the repetitive nature of the narrative. Wimsey has to tease out the important differences that will set one criminal apart, and what it all hinges on are those great democratizers, bicycles and trains.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:01 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-defence

Baritsu is of secondary importance. Holmes' primary method of self defense was asking Watson to bring a revolver.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:13 AM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's funny how many people (here) have particular issues with the three recent Holmes interpretations... and nearly every complaint is actually something in the stories. Holmes really was ADHD in the stories; he really did get into physical fights; he really was kind of a dick to Watson while basically being in bro-love with him; his method of "deduction" never really was deduction; he really was always eccentric and odd, and not just because of his intelligence.

I suggest people stop getting wrapped up in their own *personal* interpretations of this character and pay attention to what the character was really like: Downey, Cumberbatch, and Miller hit the nail on the head more often than not. Brett's performance was great, but, in their own ways, so are these other three.
posted by grubi at 11:50 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's what makes it so fun! The character has slipped the surly bonds of his own story to become this thing, like Batman, and they're constantly being poked and tweaked with.
posted by The Whelk at 11:52 AM on January 31, 2013


But my point is that none of these four mentioned are significantly less "canon" than each other: they all hit the major points (and a fistful of the minor points) pretty damn well. I think people got stodgy performances in the 1940s stuck in their heads and forget that Holmes was more than a REALLY SMART DUDE WITH A PIPE.
posted by grubi at 11:56 AM on January 31, 2013


or, um, Paget

OK, to be more precise: the notion that SH would walk around at all hours in a deerstalker and Inverness cape is Gillette; Paget knew when and where SH would wear such a thing (not in London!). The calabash pipe is also Gillette.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:45 PM on January 31, 2013


I kind of view Sherlock as the Batman of classic literature - there are dozens of ways to interpret him and I'm not sure any one is more valid or "right" than another, depending on the medium and the purpose.

I totally agree, except the Guy Ritchie Holmes movie sucked, at least the first one. Not less valid, just too much suck.

The Granada series is fantastic, and Brett is so ingrained in my mind as the ultimate Holmes that I forget that not everyone has seen it.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes is good too if you’re into that sort of thing. Based on the book series by Hugh Green.
posted by bongo_x at 5:06 PM on January 31, 2013


I was put onto a weird seventies flick called "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" by a Dangerous Minds post last, um, fall. Directed by Billy Wilder, you know, the guy behind "Some Like it Hot", of all people.

It was not as interesting as I had hoped.

Also, in poking around Wikipedia pursuant to this post, I learned of a Russian TV series, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson", which sounds interesting.
posted by mwhybark at 9:00 PM on January 31, 2013


Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century was really fun.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:06 PM on January 31, 2013


You've ruined me, ruined me I say! How am I ever going to get any work done? Oh wait, I'm unemployed...The game's afoot!
posted by BillW at 3:48 AM on February 1, 2013


Another adaptation I really like is actually the modern British Radio 4 version, with Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. They did all of the novels and stories, and are, as far as I know, the only version to adapt the entire canon with the same two actors as Holmes and Watson. The scripts start out good and get excellent, especially the ones by Bert Coules.

Thank mathowie someone mentioned Clive Merrison and Michael Williams. A 'best Holmes' discussion that doesn't mention Merrison is like a 'best band' discussion that talks about the Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Beach Boys and the Clash, but somehow omits to even consider The Beatles.

Of course people will have different favourites (my personal preference for Merrison over Brett is due, oddly for Holmes, to a deeper emotional depth to the character), but leaving his Holmes out of the discussion altogether is very curious.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:10 AM on February 9, 2013


A 'best Holmes' discussion that doesn't mention Merrison is like a 'best band' discussion that talks about the Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Beach Boys and the Clash, but somehow omits to even consider The Beatles.

So, perfectly legitimate then?
posted by bongo_x at 10:37 AM on February 9, 2013


Holmes scholar files suit to put Sherlock unambiguously into the public domain
posted by homunculus at 12:23 PM on February 16, 2013


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