Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Case Of The Television Detective!

Currently in my DVD player is the Granada television series Sherlock Holmes starring the late Jeremy Brett as the famous fictional consulting detective. These shows running from 1984 to 1994 are incredibly entertaining adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle's short stories and novels.

Brett as Holmes is fascinating, mercurial but oddly constant as the truly peculiar character Sherlock is. We've become so accustomed to the oddities of Sherlock Holmes that it takes a craftsman like Brett to realize it all again in a fresh way to make the strangeness resonate. Brett's Holmes is heroic, but hardly immaculate, a flawed man who is compelled to solve the mysteries which tumble his way, driven by compassion for the weak who are sometimes abused but just as often to fulfill his own cravings, excite his own bizarre needs. Brett's Holmes is charming at times, but callous at others, with no real connection save in the tiniest way to wider world which is perceived by him as a network of puzzles and not people.

The humanity of Holmes is rooted in Watson as always and in these shows David Burke and later Edward Hardwicke play that role, the man who is the conduit for Holmes to the greater population. Without Watson, Holmes would be a lost man, spinning endlessly in his own mind often numbed by drugs. Watson here, the competent if sometimes overly passionate human being is the linchpin to making Holmes an effective agent for justice in a Victorian world chock full of laws and overwrought with order.

I still regard Basil Rathbone as the definitive Sherlock Holmes. His World War II era flicks are still the celluloid Sherlock I first think of, but Jeremy Brett's interpretation of the great detective is so outstanding he challenges for that iconic status, which given the ideal matching of Rathbone to the part seemed utterly impossible before Brett's efforts.

I've long had these adventures (most of them anyway) on homemade VHS tapes, which I'd break out at school from time to time if opportunity warranted. They were perfect companions, so it's great to at long last have these stories in a clean DVD format. If perchance you've never seen these, I cannot recommend them more highly. They are a dandy departure, a proper presentation of the great cerebral detective who in modern times has been reduced to yet one more action hero.

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  1. Interestingly, Vincent Price regarded Rathbone and Brett as equally definitive in the role (and joint-favourites), but preferred the Granada adaptations as they were set in the proper era. Indeed, sir - as you point out, these episodes are marvelously entertaining.

  2. I've finished the first few seasons and I really am enjoying them. The era is so richly evoked. The producers worked hard to fill the "London" streets with all manner of interesting folk. I was struck again by the settings in The Final Problem, the mountain landscapes are magnificent.

    Rip Off


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