In the Shadow of Rathbone: Roger Moore in Sherlock Holmes in New York

holmes-basil-rathboneWas it wise to cast Sherlock Holmes with an actor so well known for playing suave spy James Bond in the movies and, before that, suave thief Simon Templar on TV’s The Saint? Was it wise to cast Dr. John Watson with an actor so well known for playing suave agent John Steed on TV’s The Avengers?  Do Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic yet hardly suave characters stand a chance of being seen when played by actors famous for other roles almost as iconic? These are questions likely to arise when sitting down to watch Sherlock Holmes in New York, a made-for-TV movie first broadcast in 1976.

There certainly are wince-inducing missteps in this film. Several of them. Still, the casting of Roger Moore as Holmes and Patrick Macnee as Watson — along with the mystery written by Alvin Sapinsley — are fun enough to compensate. Overall, Sherlock Holmes in New York is an enjoyable, if decidedly minor, addition to the post-Rathbone parade of Holmes films.

Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Roger Moore in Sherlock Holmes in New York”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: Jeremy Brett in The Master Blackmailer (1992)

holmes-basil-rathbone

Basil Rathbone was Sherlock Holmes to a generation who saw his 14-film series, originally released between 1939 and 1946. To a later generation, one who watched the 1984-1994 Granada television series of canonical adaptations, Jeremy Brett remains Sherlock Holmes.

I was not among either generation, so I come to The Master Blackmailer, one of five movie-length installments of the Granada series, with no particular predispositions. Still, it’s difficult not to focus on the levels and swerves in Brett’s interpretation of the great detective — even in this complicated, wonderfully shot adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.”

vlcsnap-2016-07-17-16h50m53s968Shining in Sherlock’s Shadow

For those who think of Holmes as the “calculating-machine” Watson describes in The Sign of Four, Brett’s unexpected, flamboyant hand gestures and even trilled r’s can seem overdone and stagey. If such a thing can be, the actor was cursed with a magnificently deep voice, one ideal for the stage but a bit distracting on the screen. And what’s the deal with Holmes treating Mrs. Hudson with such eruptions of disdain?

Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Jeremy Brett in The Master Blackmailer (1992)”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes

holmes-basil-rathbone“I told Watson, if I ever write a story myself, it will be to correct the million misconceptions created by his imaginative license.”

Sherlock Holmes, portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen, makes this statement in Mr. Holmes (2015), a film directed by Bill Condon and based on Mitch Cullen’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind. On one level, that line says much about the film. Viewers learn “the truth” about Holmes as he, in his retirement, struggles to recall and recount his final case. Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes (2009)

holmes-basil-rathboneWhen Sherlock Holmes (2009) originally hit the big screen, it ruffled feathers for putting a very action-packed spin on the cerebral, methodical detective. It was simply too much re-imagining for some, especially for Holmes purists.

Perhaps some of those feathers have settled. In this outing, Holmes must debunk a series of supernatural illusions to unravel a complex murder plot, just as he does in The Hound of the Baskervilles. In fact, when considered in light of this very popular novel, the film’s virtues become a bit easier to notice. Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes (2009)”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: Rupert Everett in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking

holmes-basil-rathboneIt might have been titled A Study in Compulsion. It might feel like it was written by Raymond Chandler. Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (2004) attempts to bring a sharp-edged realism to the mean — and terribly foggy — streets of London by presenting Holmes relapsing into drug addiction, chain-smoking “coffin nails” instead of his charming pipe, and investigating a string of murders motivated by sexual perversion.

Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Rupert Everett in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: James D’Arcy in Sherlock

holmes-basil-rathboneI had read far from pleasant things about Sherlock, a.k.a. Sherlock: Case of Evil, (2002) on the Web. I hoped I would see something worthwhile in it that others had missed. But no. Mostly, I saw a lot of men’s hairstyles that looked very anachronistic. I’m pretty sure Victorian England wasn’t witness to so many men with hair shoulder-length and longer, ponytails, and even a mullet.

Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: James D’Arcy in Sherlock”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: Richard Roxburgh in The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002)

holmes-basil-rathboneEvery decade or so, film makers like to take the Hound for another walk around the moor. This 2002 television movie offers a very moody adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. As with almost any filmed version of the canonical works, some changes are made. Some are clever. Some come off as mistakes.

Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Richard Roxburgh in The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002)”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: Charlton Heston in The Crucifer of Blood

holmes-basil-rathboneCasting Charlton Heston as Sherlock Holmes might seem like a great way to make a terrible film. As it turns out, it’s fun to watch this Hollywood legend, not really known for his versatile acting, take on the role.

What left me with a sour taste after watching The Crucifer of Blood (1991) was the dissonance between the story and its canonical source — and the dissonance between the ages of story’s romantic leads.

Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Charlton Heston in The Crucifer of Blood”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: Matt Frewer in The Royal Scandal

holmes-basil-rathboneGallivanting ’round the Web, I read several unsavory reactions to the series of four TV films featuring Matt Frewer as Sherlock Holmes. They include The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four, The Royal Scandal, and The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, all made for the Hallmark Channel between 2000 and 2002.

Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Matt Frewer in The Royal Scandal”

In the Shadow of Rathbone: Michael Caine in Without a Clue

holmes-basil-rathboneWhen American playwright/actor William Gillette sought permission to have Sherlock Holmes get married at the end of a play he was writing, apparently Arthur Conan Doyle responded: “You may marry him or murder him or do whatever you like with him.” This is sometimes seen as a sign of Doyle’s ambivalence, if not scorn, towards his most popular creation.

Continue reading “In the Shadow of Rathbone: Michael Caine in Without a Clue”