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I'm a great fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and the Granada TV series starring the magnificent Jeremy Brett, but The Last Vampyre is among the worst Holmes adaptations ever made. The story has almost nothing to do with Conan Doyle's The Sussex Vampire, and Holmes just doesn't belong in a Hammer-type supernatural setting. His milieu was the real, material world of late-Victorian London, to which he could apply his supremely rational mind. Also, in a long career of strange roles, Roy Marsden never played a less plausible role than he does here. On another tack, it's sad to see Jeremy Brett looking as ill as he does here - he could almost pass for a vampire himself. It might have been kinder to retire the series and the star a year or two before this unworthy addition to series was made.
I am not in the habit of sending in my opinion, but I am such a fan of
Conan Doyle's storytelling that I felt compelled.
The Sherlock Holmes productions with Jeremy Brett have always had a most impressive attention to authenticity, whether filming or adapting the writings of Conan Doyle. (The adaptations of almost all the other episodes were true to the characters of Holmes, Watson and the rest of the casts, and were sheer pleasure to watch.) This episode is a serious travesty to the original story, The Sussez Vampire. A very compelling story was totally ruined by the farrago of nonsense in this adaptation. It was presented as Northange Abbey on drugs. I have no idea why such a silly script was ever even considered. Other than to be able to say you saw this, please just fast forward over it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the last two seasons of the Jeremy Brett "Sherlock Holmes" stories
several two hour versions were written that were not really that good.
Only one, THE MASTER BLACKMAILER, proved well done, because it
illustrated the effects of the blackmail on society victims. It also
was helped by Robert Hardy's performance as Charles Augustus Milverton,
the subject of the story. But the version of THE MAZARIN STONE
(actually combined with THE THREE GARRIDEBS), and the insane version of
THE NOBLE BACHELOR called THE ELLIGIBLE BACHELOR demonstrated the
obvious: whatever the weaknesses of his stories at their worst, as in
the final collection, Conan Doyle was better at writing his stories
than a bunch of screenplay writers for television.
THE LAST VAMPYRE is another failure (I've given it a "5" for some of the performances, but just for that). It is based on a story called THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE. Please note Conan Doyle used the modern spelling of the word, not the spelling of the 17th or 18th Century. THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE is a unique story in the Holmes canon because it is the only time that Conan Doyle decided to take his best know creations (Holmes and Watson) and have them deal with the supernatural. The story was published in the 1920s, but it may have been written earlier. Doyle had a habit of writing stories and putting them aside if he felt them inferior to his best work, but by 1921 or so he was committed to his personal crusade to such an extent that he did not really care if the stories he handed out were so good as his best anymore.
The irony of this attitude is that by 1921 Conan Doyle was committed to his support of "spiritualism" and other forms of "occult" issues. It is with this in mind that the basic contradiction of this story pops up. Homes and Watson get a letter from one Robert Ferguson, an old school chum of Watson's, who is upset at recent activities in his home. He has caught his second wife apparently sucking the blood of their baby son. He is asking Holmes to look into it. Naturally Holmes has to look at all possible explanations, and asks for the volume of his research files dealing with the letter "V" for "Vampire". Soon we get a look at how he files things (one "Victor Lynch" is filed under "V", as is Holmes' account of the "Voyage of the "Gloria Scott"", which is the subject of an earlier story by Watson). Finally he finds the entry for "Vampire". He reads a bit of it to himself, and one can see him get annoyed. He flings down the volume of his files, and calls the material rubbish. Finally he tells Watson that his detective agency has its feet on the ground and is not swayed by such nonsense.
See what I mean? How could the Conan Doyle of 1921 have written such a sensible comment, and still championed the "occult"? Unless, of course, the creative Conan Doyle somehow managed to separate himself from the crusading Conan Doyle. We'll probably never quite know how this happened.
The story goes into Holmes and Watson visiting the Fergusons, observing the lady of the household, her love for the infant, and the activities of others in the house, including the older half-brother of the baby Jackie. Eventually Holmes figures out what is the truth in the situation, and suggests a sensible solution to Ferguson.
Now aside from the Fergusons and Holmes and Watson, no other plot line was dragged into this story. It concentrated on the problem, the investigation, the solution, and the way to eradicate the problem from reoccurring. While not the best story in the Canon, THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE was a good story and a reasonably intelligible one.
Not so THE LAST VAMPYRE. The screenplay writers suggested that there was an outside influence on the perpetrator - a mysterious man who has moved to the Sussex village the Fergussons live in. The man (Roy Marsden) always wears black, and rarely appears in the daylight. He is from a family with a sinister reputation in the village, involving "vampirism", and when he is confronted by one of the villagers he stares at the man, who suddenly is vomiting up blood and dies.
Now that interesting incident never appeared in Conan Doyle. It might have appeared elsewhere, but it has nothing to do with the story called THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE. Nor does the subsequent fate of Marsden's character, or of two of the principles in the story. In fact it becomes a kind of ridiculous updating of some lesser Jacobean tragedy with all kinds of corpses littering the stage. The conclusion ends with a character going insane and dying as a result. Believe me, the original conclusion was far more calm, and - as said before - much more sensible.
I haven't read the story in a long time, but I do remember it being
better and a little more interesting, even if I preferred other
Sherlock Holmes stories. This adaptation while not absolutely awful was
Starting with the good things the visual detail is excellent as always and the production values are top-notch. The music is beautiful and haunting, and the acting is not too bad, it's been better but it was certainly one of the better assets of this mystery. Jeremy Brett does look ill here, but he is solid as Holmes, while Edward Hardwicke is a dignified Watson and Roy Marsden is decent in his role.
However, the direction is a little too stodgy, but I have to say the biggest let downs were in how the story was told, the pacing and the script. The pacing is very pedestrian here, consequently the story is quite uninteresting and dull, while the final solution didn't do anything for me as it was too predictable. The writing was disappointing too, it was quite turgid and clumsy, with occasional flashes of intelligence and sophistication.
Overall, watchable but disappointing. It is worth watching for the production values and the acting, but the story and writing could have been much more. 5/10 Bethany Cox
Ridiculous meandering around the possibility that Roy Marsden's
character might be a vampire like his forebears a century earlier -
only the Granada team could pull this off. The fact that they do, make
an entertaining tale and make the ending plausible, just goes to show
the level of thought that went into these adaptations.
I just couldn't resist 'Ghosts need not apply.' Hilarious. And Keith Barron is good as the bereaved father with the tempestuous wife from foreign lands. No need to sing the praises of this Holmes and Watson - both an absolute joy to watch. The feature film length episodes complemented the short TV episodes perfectly.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's fair to say this season of feature length episodes was a little
hit and miss, after reading the novel I always wondered how The Sussex
Vampyre would translate into television. A unique story from the pen of
Conan Doyle, so different in many ways, fair to say they altered the
original text greatly, for dramatic effect I can only assume. The
opening is fantastic, has the feel of a movie about it, and the
production values are excellent as always. Maybe a story that's a
little far fetched for some mystery fans, but a nice drama for
Halloween. There is a quality to it, that somehow wasn't in the next
offering 'The Eligible Bachelor.'
Brett and Hardwicke are fantastic as usual, at total ease with each other. In deed you actually get to see just how good a Doctor Hardwicke made as Watson. Maurice Denham, Juliet Aubrey and Keith Barron are all great, but it's Roy Marsden that steals the show, one of the best villainous actors I can think of, he's great, and that hair!!
Far from the best, but I disagree with the mainly negative reviews, it is well worth a look, they went for something a little different, and for the most part they succeeded, even with a little supernatural silliness. 7/10
I guess the powers that be behind the Granada Holmes series didn't have enough of a story to tie up two hours when adapting the Sussex Vampire from the original canon. It sort of pulls the characters from the story and some of the basic plot, but beyond that, it is an entirely new plot. It's also exceedingly dumb. At least it banks on a group of characters who live by all sorts of foolish bits of knowledge, it drags Peru into the mix again, and proves that Holmes still rejects the supernatural as an explanation for murderous intent. I could see that the the series was coming to an end when the producers decided Conan-Doyle just wasn't up to the task.
This fourth Sherlock Holmes film from Granada is a loose adaptation of the short story titled "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire." Although the plot seems erratic at times and is difficult to follow, it still manages to hold your attention. In this story, Conan Doyle reveals his fascination with the occult as well a social commentary on how public and mass hysteria can create the illusion of something supernatural, when in fact it is something normal and natural - and easily explained. The production values are first class and the music by Patrick Gowers is dark and beautiful. The supporting cast is strong with Roy Marsden as Stockton. Jeremy Brett is still solid as Sherlock Holmes (even with his ongoing illness) and Edward Hardwicke makes an equally solid Watson. The film is overwrought but not the worst in the series either.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A stranger with piercing eyes moves into a small village and bad things
begin to happen. A child dies. A dog is paralyzed. Young women show up
with two small bloody marks on their necks. Holmes and Watson are call
in, and it all gets very confusing.
It hasn't got anything to do with Conan-Doyle's "The Sussex Vampire." It looks instead like an attempt to make a traditional horror film with settings like foggy graveyard, bare ruined estates, a mysterious tree, a crippled boy, a stake through the heart of a staring corpse. Holmes seems to suffer an hallucination while the stranger with the exopthalmia cackles like a maniac a few feet away.
The stranger has learned the power to cloud men's minds, and women's too, from time he spent investigating mysteries of the Peruvian Indians. Something like that. There seems to be an infinite number of subplots involving mothers and maids.
It's a hash. You can find some quietly amusing nuggets in it. Holmes is at his desk, fiddling around with chemical junk, test tubes, and a bunsen burner and has asked Watson to read him any interesting items in the morning paper. "There is a new trend in women's headgear," reads Watson, and something goes poof and a small cloud rises at Holmes' desk, followed by an instant cut. The location shooting was as good as the best of any of the episodes and the acting isn't bad, except for Jeremy Brett's somewhat swollen features, a result of both age and the congestive heart failure from which he was suffering.
I just don't know why it was made.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a long-standing fan of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories and four
novelettes--I have read them all many times--I found nearly all of the
video adaptations starring Jeremy Brett to be outstanding, with just a
few only very good and a couple of them below that. If DVDs wore out
the way VHS tapes did, mine would be ready for the fire that consumed
the poor Stockton's worldly possessions at the hands of the villagers
following his death in "The Last Vampyre." What a sorry production--not
from any technical standpoint, given that everything else was its usual
superb self--but because of the meat-axe butchering of a wonderful
story, hacked and bludgeoned beyond recognition to fill two hours.
When someone is as good as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was at this particular thing--no one ever was better at detective fiction, and many would say he was unequaled--it is an unforgivable offense to go beyond the reasonable necessities of converting a written work to a visual work. This exceeded those bounds by orders of magnitude and is especially offensive in dropping Holmes into supernatural ridiculousness that anyone familiar with him knows to be completely alien to the character.
They should have changed the characters slightly, added a few pratfalls and some trick bubblegum, and called the movie "Pee-Wee's Great-Grandfather's Big Adventure."
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