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Sherlock is back! May 6, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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We’ve decided that May is Sherlock Holmes month here at Poor Richard’s Almanac. Yesterday, Silence Dogood found a new Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Mulholland Books, 2011), at our local library. And tonight, the second season of “Sherlock” launches on PBS.

For Holmes fanatics like Silence and our friend Ben (who has actually penned a Holmes novel himself), this is very heady stuff. First off, Mr. Horowitz is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and his novel has been authorized by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate, the first time they have ever leant their imprimatur to a non-family member. We’re looking forward to a wonderful read. And tonight’s episode of “Sherlock” brings the World’s Greatest Detective together with his archenemy, Professor Moriarty, and “The Woman,” Irene Adler.

Mind you, we had a few issues with the series’s first season. We really enjoyed the wonderfully-named Benedict Cumberbatch—a name straight out of Dickens—as Holmes (though we still think he’d better as Dr. Who) and Martin Freeman as Watson. And we loved whichever of the show’s creators (alas, we forget which one it was) as Holmes’s older brother Mycroft. We thought the way the show depicted Holmes’s thought process was nothing short of brilliant, and we appreciated the way they kept the element of humor that made the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films so entertaining, but this time made sure it wasn’t at Watson’s expense.

On the other hand, we found the Moriarty woefully weak—a fatal flaw in any Holmes effort—and the plots far too transparent. We’re hoping for better things from this season, though we have our doubts about the decision to turn poor Irene Adler from an actress into a dominatrix. Thing is, she was the actual victim in “A Scandal in Bohemia,” rather than the king who enlisted Holmes’s efforts at protecting his reputation from her. It will be interesting to see if the same holds true in “A Scandal in Belgravia”!

Holmes lovers, check your TV listings and let us know what you think!


Without a clue. November 8, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts that our friend Ben and I are, we’re happy to watch any incarnation of the Great Detective, even if it’s just so we can complain endlessly afterward. Such has been the case with the most recent scripting of the Holmes oeuvre, “Sherlock,” appearing on PBS’s “Masterpiece” program here every Sunday night at 9 p.m. OFB and I have our quibbles, but overall, we’ve been enjoying the series (even though we feel that Benedict Cumberbatch is miscast as Holmes; see OFB’s earlier post, “Elementary, my dear Sherlock” for more on that).

But sometimes, we feel that a reinterpretation of Holmes can be more fun than the original. Such is the case with “Young Sherlock Holmes,” and such is the case with the marvelous and often overlooked “Without a Clue.” “Without a Clue” rewrites the Holmes canon in an unfortunately believable way: The real sleuth, Dr. John Watson, aka “the Crime Doctor” (played with great panache and humor by Ben Kingsley) has created a fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, to take the credit for his crime-solving so that he can get a prestigious appointment to the board of a conservative hospital that would never approve of his unorthodox sleuthing.

But Dr. Watson doesn’t get the job, and his public—his only source of income at this point—is clamoring to meet the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Watson does what any normal man would do: Hire an out-of-work actor to play Holmes. But he meets his match in the drunken, gambling,womanizing Reginald Kincaid (played delightfully by Michael Caine). Determined to rid himself of the bumbling, annoying, self-aggrandizing Kincaid, Watson attempts to persuade Inspector Lestrade (another great performance by Jeffrey Jones) and his clients that he is the real sleuth, to general ridicule. (Even his publisher at The Strand won’t let him reveal the truth, since it would destroy the lucrative Holmes franchise.)

So Watson is once again forced to accept Kincaid’s “help” as he battles his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty, to save the Empire from ruin. The result is elementary: A good time is had by all. “Without a Clue” is one of the best Holmes movies ever. We urge you to rent it from Netflix or your nearest Blockbuster; we think you’ll be hooked. The game is definitely afoot!

                    ‘Til next time,


Sherlock Holmes alert! May 21, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben was thrilled to see that there’s finally going to be a new Sherlock Holmes movie, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson. Mind you, there are a couple of problems. First, it’s not going to be released until Christmas. And second, from what our friend Ben saw in the trailer, it’s not exactly the Sherlock Holmes of Conan Doyle, but more like Sherlock Holmes meets the Three Musketeers, James Bond, and Inspector Clouseau. And with Guy Ritchie directing, our friend Ben has to wonder if there won’t be a bit of Madonna in his Irene Adler. But whatever the case, after Jeremy Brett, it has to be a relief.

I know, I know. “Everybody” loves the Jeremy Brett interpretation of Holmes. “Everybody” thinks it’s the definitive interpretation. Well, not our friend Ben. I’d have described Brett’s Holmes as reptilian, with those glittering, inhuman eyes staring out from all those twitches. Brett’s Holmes is cold, unlikeable, all surface brilliance with nothing at the core. Sadly, this had come to be a standard interpretation of Holmes well before Brett’s star turn in the role. Much as I love Basil Rathbone, his Holmes, though considerably more workmanlike than Brett’s manic interpretation, was also essentially cold. And he knew it: I once read an interview in which Basil Rathbone proclaimed that he did not like Sherlock Holmes, and for that reason. I suspect that Jeremy Brett would have said the same. His Holmes was not only cold, but old.

Given that moviegoers have become used to seeing an, ahem, “mature” Holmes, it’s easy to forget that Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’s creator, portrayed him as a young, vigorous man. He’s in his twenties when we meet him for the first time, and in his twenties and thirties through most of the action. Think about this for a minute, and how it would change your perception of Sherlock Holmes’s behavior if you considered him in the light of, say, the latest crop of interns at your office, or perhaps a young doctor doing his residency at the local hospital, or a contestant on “American Idol.”

And here’s something else to think about: The Holmes of Conan Doyle is the quintessential Arthurian knight, the shining star of the Round Table. He defends damsels in distress; he fights for his Queen with a pure heart. His inherent purity, the unassailable morality at his core, is what draws Dr. Watson’s admiration and loyalty, even in the face of Holmes’s surface weaknesses and the trials of his eccentricity. People who have seen the Holmes of the screen probably think of him in terms of his brusqueness or outright rudeness to, for example, the King of Bohemia, and certainly he didn’t suffer fools—or deception or pomposity—gladly, or at all, if he could avoid it. But there are numerous examples in the stories where he is gentle, patient, and kind, especially towards women and the poor and suffering. His behavior in these instances can best be described as tender, hardly a word most people would associate with Sherlock Holmes.

In fact, our friend Ben is convinced that it is the moral steadfastness, the essential goodness, of Sherlock Holmes that has made him an enduring icon for well over a hundred years, long after his methods of detection have become so familiar they fail to enthrall, his eccentricities can be explained away by modern psychology, and his famous “seven per cent solution” has ceased to shock. It is the man himself, not the surface glitter and showmanship, that continues to draw us, as it drew Dr. Watson, long after other fictional detectives have mouldered away on their library shelves.

Robert Downey Jr. is both a fine actor and a warm man, and our friend Ben hopes he brings some of that warmth to his interpretation of Holmes. I admire him and his costar Jude Law very much, so of course I’m looking forward to the new film. But I’m still waiting for the definitive Holmes, waiting for someone to cast Johnny Depp in the role before he gets too old. Please, directors! Don’t make me wait too long.