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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: King of Blackmailers (1980)

Priklyucheniya Sherloka Kholmsa i doktora Vatsona: Korol shantazha (original title)
Mycroft Holmes hands Sherlock Holmes the case of the Master Blackmailer.

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(short story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" from volume "The Return of Sherlock Holmes"), (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview:
Vasiliy Livanov ...
Vitali Solomin ...
Rina Zelyonaya ...
Valentina Panina ...
A woman
Borislav Brondukov ...
Boris Ryzhukhin ...
Boris Klyuev ...
Anatoliy Podshivalov
Svetlana Kryuchkova ...
Agata
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Mycroft Holmes hands Sherlock Holmes the case of the Master Blackmailer.

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Crime | Mystery

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1980 (Soviet Union)  »

Also Known As:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: King of Blackmailers  »

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1.33 : 1
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Sherlock Holmes does battle with a capitalist who victimizes the poor
18 October 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Now, I'll acknowledge that my title is something if a cheap reference where this production is concerned, and henceforth I'll stay away from inventing political implications for it.

As a Sherlock Holmes aficionado I'd long heard the series of Soviet TV films that "The King of Blackmailers" belongs to praised as one of the best versions of Holmes put on film. Now, thanks to the magic of the internet, I've had a chance to view one of the films, and I can't say I think people were exaggerating very much.

Vasili Livanov might not be the very greatest Sherlock Holmes I have ever seen, but he is legitimately excellent in the role. He makes a very good-humored and genial but also quiet and in-command Holmes, and harnesses a huge amount of screen presence. It's just an excellent and absorbing performance, and one that very subtly but thoroughly humanizes Holmes. For all Liavnov does for Holmes, though, I can't say I have seen a better Watson than Vitali Solomin. He injects a certain vitality and enthusiasm into the role so that we can really understand how this Watson has turned his cases with Holmes into a series of widely popular magazine stories -- especially in the scene where he returns to Baker Street to describe Milverton's house to Holmes.

The two of them have an excellent chemistry together as well, and this, along with the writing, infuses most of their scenes together with a wit and humor that's quite wonderful and also serves as relief from the tension of the rest of the story.

The adaptation, which inserts Sherlock's brother Mycroft Holmes into a version of Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" works very well, and keeps the suspense and adventure in a story that, in fact, revolves more around Holmes almost being implicated in a crime than solving one.

The direction is also to be commended -- frequently spooky, tense, and unsettling, with uneasy stillness used to great effect. The whole thing looks, gorgeous too, with very lavish sets and location work. I admire how seamlessly the Victorian England of Sherlock Holmes' world was creating in the Soviet Union using all Russian-speaking actors, and I'll be watching as many English-subtitled entries in the Lenfilm Holmes series with Valili Livanov as I can locate.


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