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Last night "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes: The Creeping Man" aired on the Biography Channel. It started out scary but with a typical British flair for understatement. But it ended up amazingly! Charles Kay, a marvelous character actor if ever there was one, played a widower with a daughter engaged to his assistant. One morning she tells her father she has seen an intruder at her window. Her father gives her the "there-there" treatment, saying she was only dreaming because her bedroom is too high up for an intruder. But when the truth comes out, the story becomes a feat of sheer amazement, especially the end which I shall not spoil by giving it away here. All I can say is Charles Kay should have gotten the British equivalent of an Emmy for that performance. I think he even surpassed the (late) GREAT Jeremy Brett, whose Sherlock Holmes is so wonderful. Mr. Kay, if you can read this, I hope you know how much I enjoyed that scene last night and how much I've enjoyed all your works. And I wish with all my heart I could tell Jeremy Brett how marvelous I always thought he was, whether he was playing a toy soldier in 19th century Russia (Nicholas in "War & Peace,"), a martinet in "My Fair Lady" (even if he didn't really sing "On the Street Where You Live" to Audrey Hepburn) or as Sherlock Holmes. I used to think there was only one Sherlock Holmes - Mr. Basil Rathbone. Now I see there are 2. And I hope they're in heaven, talking to one another about Sherlock and talking with the "discoverer" (author) of Sherlock Holmes, namely, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Anyway, if you didn't see the episode last night, then wait until it comes back again or if you don't want to wait, then order the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. This was a marvelous episode in a truly marvelous series.
These comments apply to all the Sherlock Holmes series and episodes
produced by Granada and starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and either
Burke or Hardwicke as Watson.
Brett certainly gave the most definitive portrayal of Holmes. One must remember that Holmes, although a decent and upright gentleman had his dark side -- his conceit, impatience with people of lesser intelligence and, as a product of imperial Victorian England, he displayed traces of jingoism, racism, sexism and hypocrisy. Note that episode where he remarks on the French surname of a suspect or in the cavalier manner he uses pejoratives to refer to peoples of Asiatic origin. In another episode he tells Watson that his nemesis is "but a woman." Expecting high moral standards of others, he was nevertheless a drug addict (cocaine in the original stories by Doyle and also absinthe in the Granada series). He also used smoked opium occasionally when in disguise to track down suspects or missing persons. In one episode he was caught red-handed by Watson (the one portrayed by Hardwicke) with a syringe although it is not certain what drug it was supposed to contain, probably morphine as I doubt if heroin had already been extracted from opium at that time.
These flaws viewed in the context of the era and of the peculiar circumstances of Holmes, instead of making him out as an ogre, make him all the more human and believable. On the whole, however, Brett's Holmes is exceedingly kind, self sacrificing and high minded. He could also be quite droll and able to take jokes at his expense as when a phrenologist remarked that he would very much like to take a cast of the cranium of the very intelligent Holmes "until the original should become available." Note that he rarely collects fees and places life and limb on the line for his clients. No wonder the sophisticatedly discerning French have a Jeremy Brett society.
Between Burke and Hardwicke as Watson, one is likely to vote for Burke as he is funnier, younger and better looking. But Hardwicke better displays the character of a retired officer of the Indian (Imperial British) Army by his physical courage and readiness to use his firearm. His portrayal also brings out the difficult side of Holmes. It was to Hardwicke's Watson that Holmes unusually expresses (in a letter in Hound of the Baskervilles) deep concern and affection with such words as "there is nothing that I desire more than to have you safely back in our Baker st. lodgings." Finally, if you have seen all the episodes, watch them again and keep your eyes peeled for those delicious antiques -- porcelain washbowls, iron stoves, 19th century lamps, brass door knockers, handsome hansoms and carriages, even a pristine horse drawn red and brass fire engine with immaculate white hoses. And were those mansions, manor houses and country cottages merely sets or genuine locations? I suspect the latter. I would suggest to the English that they revise their Sherlock Holmes tours to include visits to places where Granada shot the series.
Thank goodness for the wonderful folks at Granada Television. In the
mid 1980s, they created the absolute best Sherlock Holmes ever to make
it to the big or small screen. Unlike all the previous versions, which
LIBERALLY deviated from the Conan Doyle stories, the Granada films
tried to be perfect in every detail.
Unlike the caricature of Holmes that you see in previous films where he wears a deerstalker hat, smokes a curved pipe and spouts "elementary, my dear Watson", this Holmes is true to the original character. Additionally, Dr. Watson is not the bumbling idiot as portrayed by Nigel Bruce (Bruce should burn in Hell for how he ruined this character).
The first mini-series by Granada was exceptional and Jeremy Brett was the greatest Holmes ever. The second picked up exactly where it should have as did this third series.
Intelligently written and wonderful throughout. See these films and get hooked!!
Jeremy Brett is ( possibly next to William Gillette, Basil Rathbone or Arthur Wontner ) the greatest Holmes portrayer of all time. He, with Edward Hardwicke (son of Sir Cedric) make the stories come alive with actors just like the characters. If you love Holmes, try to catch this on TV (I'll admit it's not always on).
The fascinating Granada series with the incredible Jeremy Brett as the master sleuth Sherlock Holmes continued well into the 1990's with episodes pertaining to the later life of the great detective. The stories, in read form, are quite fascinating and when brought to the screen, they were, as always carried over with care and panache.
I just love anything to do with Sherlock Holmes, and while the Casebook
of Sherlock Holmes isn't quite as good as Return or Adventures, it is a
wholly creditable series, with superb acting and precise period detail.
The episodes are superbly adapted, yes maybe with a few liberties, but they are splendidly done all the same. The camera work is sensitive and brooding, and the period detail never fails to be splendid and precise. And I have to mention the music- the main theme is as I keep saying beautiful and also haunting, with rich background scoring.
The acting is of high calibre- Holmes is a very complex character, and while there are one or two subtle differences, Jeremy Brett is the perfect Holmes and by far the definitive one. Edward Hardwicke is just as superb as Watson; while David Burke is more humorous and younger, Hardwicke's the one I am admittedly more familiar with, and the truer of the two to the Watson in the books.
All in all, fascinating and splendidly done. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This third volume in Granada's Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy
Brett, maintains a lot of the quality of the previous volumes though
one can tell that it is starting to fray somewhat. Still, if you are a
fan of the original Holmes stories or Brett as Holmes there is
enjoyment to be found in it.
Jeremy Brett is back again as Sherlock Holmes. This time he looks heavier with features that are thickening due to the congestive heart medicines that he took. Although, Brett no longer has the lean look he had before, he still has the same grace and energy that he usually brings in his performance as Holmes. Edward Hardwicke makes an ideal Watson as he has quickly become comfortable in the role.
However, the makers began to have a difficult time picking any remaining Holmes stories that were worth adapting (it also decided to expand short stories into two-hour feature films). The tales are quieter, less energetic this time but are as still involving as ever. "Sloscombe Old Place" and "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" are surprisingly good. "The Illustrious Client" for me is the most entertaining with a villain sicker than Professor Moriarty. " The Problem of Thor Bridge" is also a gem as it is a mystery with truly superb solution at the end.
The photography and locations are beautiful, the music is excellent, and the sets, props, and costumes are handsome as well. Even though, the producers were working on a tighter budget and did not have the luxuries they had during the early days. Yet with this volume it gives you a sense that the times are changing as the series is starting to move from the Victorian Era to perhaps the Edwardian Era.
"The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes" is a step down from the first two volumes yet it is not half bad. Despite missing the more the colorful Holmes elements, the episodes are engrossing with fine acting and evocative atmosphere which is what you would expect from Sherlock Holmes adaptations of this type. While not brilliant, this turned out to be the last good Holmes volume from Granada.
My only problem with this series was that three short stories('The
Master Blackmailer', 'The Last Vampyre', and 'The Eligible Bachelor')
were expanded into feature-length, rather than the standard hour-long
format, when it wasn't really necessary. In the case of 'The Eligible
Bachelor', I felt that for the only time in the whole overall series,
the creators stumbled, since I felt it was bloated and tedious, with
unwise changes to the story.
Fortunately, I did like the other two expanded adaptations, and the regular episodes were equally superb, so I can't complain there, I just wish that for "Casebook", the producers remembered the old saying "If it isn't broke, don't fix it!" The team of Brett & Hardwicke are still superb though, which is to be expected.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Brett, as Holmes, is as good as ever, though his features were
thickening because of the medicines he was taking for the congestive
heart failure that finally led to his early demise. Hardwicke is at
least as good as Burke was in the earlier episodes.
But the Casebook was a gallimaufry of stories published late in Conan-Doyle's career, when he was losing interest in Sherlock Holmes, partly because of divided interests.
The lack of imagination sometimes shows up. No surprising new characters are introduced -- no Mycrofts. "The Illustrious Client" shows us none of Holmes genius. "The Creeping Man" seems like a slapdash horror story that could have been put together by Hammer Films.
"Boscombe Valley", however, is up to earlier standards and the production of "Shoscombe Old Place" revives a familiar theme and infuses it with some humor that was absent in the story as written.
By the time of its publication, 1927, Watson was no longer sharing digs with Holmes and his life and practice had to be interrupted from time to time in order for him to participate in Holmes' cases. So, less often does Watson sit around the breakfast table observing his companion with casually curious eyes. The easy camaraderie of the early stories is missed.
All is not lost, of course. "The Problem of Thor Bridge" is as good as anything else. And, for better or worse, Holmes seems to have settled down to a somewhat less quirky existence. No more seven-percent solutions.
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