Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Top 10 Greatest Television Sherlock Holmes (Of All Time) Part I

It's time for television to get its time in the limelight since it was removed entirely from my last Top 10 list. This time I look at the best of the best when it comes to television shows, episodes and TV movies. Keep in mind that this is of course all subjective, and I hope to defend a few of my choices when we get 'round to them. So, let's plunge right in!

#10 - A Royal Scandal (2001) - Okay, so the controversy starts already! I'll say it now: I like Matt Frewer's Sherlock Holmes. So often he's put down for being an unworthy footnote in the history of Sherlockian entertainment, but he is judged too harshly. Sure, his first outing in 2000's The Hound of the Baskervilles was a bit too over-the-top, but it seemed pretty clear to me that Frewer was having an absolute ball playing Holmes, and that carries through in this made-for-television movie.

By the time that Frewer starred in A Royal Scandal, he'd toned down his theatrical performance a bit, and I'd say that his performance here is his most down-to-earth and humane. An extremely clever combination of Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia and The Bruce-Partington Plans, the complex plot showcases Holmes and Irene Adler as well as a group of German spies and a pretty villainous Mycroft Holmes. Frewer's performance is grand, in particular the fine scene in which he relates to Watson how he was duped by Miss Adler in the past. Speaking of Watson, Kenneth Welsh is an excellent Watson, oneof the finest in most recent years, but a sadly overlooked one. His firmly grounded performance helps to reign in Frewer's Holmes, making their chemistry on screen all the better. Though it may be Sherlockian heresy to say that I like all of Matt Frewer's Sherlockian turns, A Royal Scandal stands out as one of the best.

#9 - The Master Blackmailer (1994) - I was never fond of the feature length Granada Sherlock Holmes stories. In my mind changing the formula which worked so well was tampering in a domain in which they did not belong. It did not help that Jeremy Brett was beginning to show signs of failing health as Granada attempted to switch formats, so when the series needed a leading man to carry off the switch successfully, it did not have one. Yet, The Master Blackmailer is easily the best of the feature-length TV films, and a fine example of Granada's high quality, even in its later years.

The real star of The Master Blackmailer is Robert Hardy as Charles Augutus Milverton, the titular blackmailer. Hardy's performance is excellent, wonderfully evocative of Doyle's original descriptions. The screenplay supplied by Jeremy Paul is equally well done, managing to expand on Doyle's original (arguably slim) story and transforming it into a two-hour television film. Yet, most of the plot details from Doyle's original short story are contained, and very little is actually altered when it comes to the movie's plot. Add to this Jeremy Brett, who still manages to show he could still be on top form, along with the ever likable Edward Hardwicke as Watson, and you have a recipe for an extremely well-written, well-acted television film.

#8 - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet (1968) - A while back I reviewed this series (or what's left of it) on a whole, and though I came away with some mixed feelings, it is for the most part a good Sherlockian effort. The highlight for me was without doubt the adaptation of A Study in Scarlet. By eliminating both the introductory stages of the novel and the American flashback, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes managed to condense the mystery into an hour, with surprising good results.

The scenes never feel rushed, though there's a lot of plot to include, and Peter Cushing carries it all. His performance is toned down from his last turn in 1959's The Hound of the Baskervilles, but his softer, more gentle Sherlock Holmes is still a pleasure to watch. He has excellent screen chemistry with his Watson, Nigel Stock, which greatly enliven the episode. The examination of the crime scene features it's dialogue almost verbatim from Doyle's original, and Cushing pulls it off brilliantly, spouting out some of the episode's finest lines: "Rache is German for revenge." Though this show ran the gambit in terms of quality, A Study in Scarlet is a quality episode, and a surprising one in that it was the first time the story had been filmed since 1914.

 #7 - Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (2004) - I can hear you all sputtering in front of your computers: "But...you reviewed this and gave it 2 stars out of 5! How can this possibly be on the top 10 list?" Well, I've had a change of heart. It doesn't happen a whole lot, me being the person so fixed in my ways that I am. Yet, on a recent re-watch of Case of the Silk Stocking, I was struck by how hasty my judgment had been before, and how much merit this made-for-television movie really deserves.

Sure, the plot is more likely to be found on an episode of Law and Order than Sherlock Holmes, but the cast performs very well. Rupert Everett's Holmes is a melancholic thinking man, and it is perhaps at first jarring to see the great detective portrayed as quiet individual. Ian Hart makes for a fine Dr. Watson, and he plays off well opposite Everett. It's a shame that the two men couldn't share more scenes together. Again, in terms of plot, it is a little odd to find Holmes and Lestrade analyzing the psychosis of the murderer in order to track him down, but if you're willing to go along with it, than it works. At least it's detective work of a kind, and in another time, Sherlock Holmes would have made an excellent criminal profiler. Is Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking perfect - no. But should every DVD copy be found and destroyed - good heavens no! It is a well though-out change of pace, and every once in a blue moon, there's nothing wrong with that.

#6 - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982) - My recent discovery of the much-loved Russian Sherlock Holmes series of the 1980's was one of the most spectacular finds in recent memory. While the entire series was filmed with much love, the efforts of cast and crew seem at their highest when it came to this adaptation of Doyle's most famous work. Remaining doggedly faithful to the source material, this adaptation of Hound is a Sherlock Holmes TV movie of epic proportions, cramming so much plot into its 2+ hours. Plot aside Vasily Livanov is in top form as Holmes, and Vitaly Solomin carries much of the film on his own as Dr. Watson, and he proves to be one of the best Watson's in screen history.

The atmosphere is brilliantly created, the lonesome Russian countryside, though not exactly an exact fit for Dartmoor, evokes a great deal of mystery and isolation. This is reinforced by a haunting soundtrack, and a truly creepy hound, which sadly only appears on screen for the briefest of time. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a real gem for any Sherlock Holmes fan, due mostly to its strong adherence to Doyle's source material. Yet, the adaptation does not drain the life from the story, which makes this an incredibly entertaining movie too. Next time I'm in the mood for Hound and I've got two hours on my hands, I think I'll make a return visit to this particular adaptation.

Well, that's all for now. What do you think of these picks so far? Too many controversial ones for your liking? Feel free to leave a comment below and return next week for Part II.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review - "Sherlock Holmes and the Body Snatchers"

In January of 2013, I reviewed Dean P. Turnbloom's first Sherlock Holmes novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire. I was pleasantly surprised by Turnbloom's book as it was far more complex and deeper than I ever expected it to be. So, when I learned that Turnbloom was writing a follow-up, I anxiously awaited its release. That sequel, Sherlock Holmes and the Body Snatchers is the subject of today's review.

Picking up right where Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire left off, this novel finds Holmes and Watson disappointed in being unable to stop Baron Antonio Barlucci, the titular vampire, as well as his latest victim, Abigail Drake. However, Miss Drake's body is recovered in a lifeboat and taken to a mortuary in Canada. Inspector Walter Andrews of Scotland Yard is assigned to travel to Newfoundland and identify the body, but by the time he arrives, Miss Drake's body has disappeared. It seems as though someone has absconded with her body leaving numerous corpses in their wake. Inspector Andrews follows the clues to New York City where a number of people are beginning to be murdered. Each one has been found their bodies completely drained of blood. This is enough to entice Holmes and Watson to cross the Atlantic. Once in the Big Apple, the great detective is faced with one unnerving question - has the Ripper taken up roots in New York or are the killings the work of a vampire?

Read this one FIRST!
Once more, Mr. Turnbloom has managed to surprise me with his plots. Sherlock Holmes and the Body Snatchers is a complex, well-plotted, well written novel. So many plot threads are woven throughout the book's pages, and each one is nicely wrapped up in the finale. Turnbloom takes his subject matter incredibly seriously, even when he's writing about vampires in New York City. Along with the fine plot are the excellent characters. Each character is developed in depth and you will emphatise with them as you read. Even the recurring characters from the first novel are reintroeuced once more - which is good since it had been over a year since I read Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire.

But what of Sherlock Holmes? Well, he's rather sidelined again, which isn't necessarily a bad thing as the other characters are so interesting. He comes across similarly as he did in the canon, as does Dr. Watson. Turnbloom utilises Watson's point-of-view in the scenes which feature the intrepid detectives, which is different from previous novel which was told entirely in the third person. What's more, Turnbloom nicely emulates the canon's style of writing, but perhaps writes a bit more naturally than Doyle. What does that mean? It means that the characters pause, breathe heavily and clear their throats mid-sentence, which at first may be something of a stumbling block to the reader, but is easily overcome.

There are a few downsides to this novel though. Holmes does too little detective work for my taste and by the time he has summed up the problem for the principle characters, the reader is already in possession of the truth. There's also the fact that if the reader has not read Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire he or she is liable to be very lost. Characters are introduced and the reader is expected to know of their importance already, and events which transpired in the first book are referenced and hinted at, and then never fully explained. Therefore, I highly recommend reading Turnbloom's first novel before moving onto its sequel.

I was once more surprised by Dean P. Turnbloom's Sherlockian efforts. Sherlock Holmes and the Body Snatchers was a complex, well-written and excellently plotted novel which pit the world's greatest detective against the forces of evil once more. I therefore do not hesitate in awarding the novel 4 out of 5 stars.

***

Sherlock Holmes and The Body Snatchers is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA, Amazon UK,Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle,  KoboNook andApple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why the "Doctor Who" Fandom Must Embrace Colin Baker

This time last year I was in the midst of my so-called Sixth Doctor Challenge as I tackled every Doctor Who story which featured the Sixth Doctor as played by Colin Baker. One year on, my opinion of the Sixth Doctor has not dramatically altered. He was, and still is, my favourite Doctor of the Classic Series, and I thought it's about time that some fans see why it's not impossible to love the Sixth Doctor.

This post (or would it better to call it a rant) will be structured somewhat differently from the usual analysis. I will take on a few of the common problems viewers have with the Sixth Doctor and turn them on their head. The first such criticism is his personality. It would be a severe understatement to say that the Sixth Doctor is over-the-top. That in itself is not a problem. The Sixth Doctor is a nice contrast to his predecessor who was up to that time, the most humane and reserved incarnation of the renegade Time Lord. To have another such interpretation of the role would I think simply be too much of the same, and the vast change was welcome (let me make it clear that I do like Fifth Doctor Peter Davison, so don't get me wrong). Besides, in the past, a regeneration had brought about a dramatic change in the Doctor's personality. So, a Doctor filled with bombast and theatrics was a nice new direction in which the series could travel. Perhaps the facet of this Doctor's personality which most fans take umbrage with is his cold demeanour and condescending attitude.

Interestingly, it is this aspect of the Sixth Doctor which I like the most. Despite the fact that the Doctor is a good man and a hero, it doesn't mean he always has to be a goody-two-shoes. The Doctor has lead an incredibly damaged and harsh life, things which any normal being would not have been able to handle. To think that he can simply brush all this off and move on is ludicrous. What's more, the harder, rough-around-the-edges personality manages to make the Sixth Doctor more understandable and realistic - well as real as an alien with a time-travelling space ship can get!

And while we're discussing things which fans dislike about this Doctor, I can hardly avoid the elephant in the room - the coat. Yes, Colin Baker's vibrant, patchwork coat of many colours is pretty distasteful. It is surely a bit of an eyesore at first, but after a while I actually got used to it and found that it was not as bad as people make it out to be. Since the Sixth Doctor's tenure, people more creative than I have been altering the Doctor's look, and recently some nicely recoloured pictures (such as the one at left) show what the Sixth Doctor may have looked like in a less outlandish wardrobe. One final thought concerning the Sixth Doctor's costume: Colin Baker wasn't fond of it either and urged to wear all black, in keeping with the Doctor's darker character. He was of course overruled.

Those who have come to the Sixth Doctor's defense have lifted some of the blame from Colin's shoulders - and relocated the blame onto the writers and production staff at the time. If this is true, who behind the scenes is to blame? John Nathan-Turner, who had taken up the reins of Doctor Who in the early '80's? Eric Saward, script editor and writer? Or BBC executives? Let's take a quick look at these three potential suspects (this is a mystery blog after all). John Nathan-Turner (who preferred to be called JNT and the nickname has stuck) took over the series during Fourth Doctor Tom Baker's last season, which has garnered mixed reviews from fans. Things improved a bit once Peter Davison took over the part of the Doctor who has appeared in some fan favourite episodes, and to this day current showrunner Steven Moffat has voiced his praise of this portion of the series' history. This, in conjunction with the fact that Nathan-Turner helmed the series during the Seventh Doctor's years, which included a number of other well-received episodes, seems, in my opinion, to clear Nathan-Turner of blame.

The finger of suspicion is next directed at Eric Saward, script editor and writer. Saward in part instilled the series with its dark themes. Evidence of Saward's dark style is glimpsed in all three of the episodes he wrote for the show: Earthshock, which killed off one of the Doctor's companions, Resurrection of the Daleks which is the closest Doctor Who has ever come to be an absolute gore-fest and Revelation of the Daleks, which relocated the focus from the Doctor to the villain and dealt with murder and cannibalism! Yet, for the most part, Saward's work as script editor was pretty good, and with the exception of such episodes as Mark of the Rani and Timelash, the entirety of the Sixth Doctor's tenure is pretty enjoyable, even if it's not the highest quality in Doctor Who's fifty years of existence.

Cut Colin Baker some Slack
So, we turn to the BBC, who in the 1980's seemed to take one of their most popular shows for granted, and very nearly drove it off the air. This lead to the Sixth Doctor having one of the most disjointed tenures in the history of the series, which included scrapping an entire season's worth of episodes. By getting rid of all these episodes, the plan to have the Doctor mellow out over time never came to fruition, and Colin Baker, understandably upset by the whole thing, bowed out of the whole enterprise. Since then, the views of the fandom has turned against the Sixth Doctor, and he sadly appears on the bottom of most people's "favourite Doctors" list. So, why am I writing this? What change will I bring about in the world in my crusade to vindicate Colin Baker? Well, Colin Baker is such an overlooked actor in the history of the legendary franchise, something which is criminal. As much as I love the ever-wonderful Peter Cushing, his two minimal contributions to the legacy of Doctor Who seem to garner more recognition than this canonical Doctor.

So, if you're a Doctor Who fan I'd love to hear from you. Are you a fan of the Sixth Doctor like me and do not understand all the hatred leveled at poor Colin Baker? Or do you hate the Sixth Doctor with a passion? If so, why? Is it his personality? The writing? The coat? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What is Peter Cushing Month?


To those of you who see and observe, you may have noticed a new tab at the top of this blog. It is announcing Peter Cushing Month, what shall be a month-long celebration here on The Consulting Detective.

As usual, I'm the last one to learn anything. Last May, May of 2013, would have marked one-hundred years since Peter Cushing's birth on 26 May,1913. I learned this news in June, at the earliest, and I recall distinctly that I was contemplating some kind of  belated celebration, but nothing ever came to pass. Then, not long ago after I completed my list of the Top 5 Basil Rathbone films, I considered doing the same to honour Peter Cushing, but I ran out of time. So, vowing that I would celebrate one of cinema's finest actors on this blog at some point in time, I waited.

Now the beginning of May is only a month away, and starting on 1 May, I will devote a series of articles and reviews to the films of Peter Cushing. Included will be reviews of such films as: The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, Captain Clegg, The Evil of Frankenstein and The Mummy as well as others. Further articles will examine Cushing's numerous on-screen efforts with Christopher Lee and a countdown of the greatest Hammer Horror films, the studio at which Cushing gained so much fame.

I invite you to come back to honour Peter Cushing's 101st birthday and if you wish to share your thoughts and opinions about this great actor, feel free to leave a comment below. I am looking forward to it, and I hope you are too!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Review - "Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Einstein's Daughter"

The name Albert Einstein is known the world over, much like Sherlock Holmes. It is therefore unusual that a pastiche featuring the world's greatest detective and the world's foremost scientist has never come to light - that is until now. Tim Symonds' latest Sherlock Holmes novel, The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter at last features these two legendary figures together.

Dr. Watson is given an offer he cannot refuse - to photograph Sherlock Holmes standing on the precipice of the Reichenbach Falls, the site of his struggle with Professor Moriarty. As Watson cajoles Holmes into the trip, they must face the wrath of a vengeful Colonel Sebastian Moran, Moriarty's former right-hand man. Though the two manage to elude Moran and his gun-toting henchmen, the plot is about to thicken. Holmes and Watson are approached by the Dean of a prestigious Swiss university to investigate a promising young scientist named Albert Einstein. Two letters have been intercepted which Einstein wrote, one referring to a mysterious person named Lieserl. Who could this person be and what connection do they have to Einstein's life. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson shall journey throughout Europe in their quest for the truth, and will plunge into a world far darker and far more complex than either could ever contemplate.

I must heartily congratulate author Tim Symonds on his writing. The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter is his third Sherlock Holmes pastiche, the other two I have yet to read, but if they are like this one, they should make for some interesting reading. Symonds' research into his subjects was terrific, weaving in Sherlockian and historical knowledge into the plot. Reading The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter was not only presenting a fine mystery, but a learning experience,and a fine showcase into the situation of turn-of-the-century Europe. Symonds' prose must also be mentioned as he managed to capture the tone of Doyle's writing very well, though perhaps incorporated a few too many (for the lack of better words) big words.

In terms of canon, the book fared quite well - the presentation of Dr. Watson should be specially noted. Sherlock Holmes was presented as the intellectual great of Doyle's originals, but in my mind he did not do enough actual detective work to truly astound me. Other canon figures turned up as well, most notably Colonel Moran, who even after his only canonical appearance is still out to claim the life of the great detective. Another canon villain, whose name I shall not divulge, makes a far too brief cameo and his inclusion, though a nice nod the short stories, did not serve much of a purpose.

The plot of Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Einstein's Daughter was complex enough and surprisingly dark, but lacked in the dramatic department. With a title like The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter any revelations about a mysterious, unidentified person, aren't truly revelations. The fact that some historical details are presented in the author's forward also dispel some of that all-important mystery, so in essence the solution was presented even before Holmes and Watson embarked on their case!

That is not to say Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Einstein's Daughter was a disappointing read. With its complex plot and excellent research, the novel made for an interesting historical mystery. The presentation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson was well-done, some of the best in recent memory. I therefore give The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter 3.5 out of 5 possible stars.

***

Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA,Amazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in Amazon KindleKoboNook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sleuthathon - "A Study in Terror"

Most Sherlockian cinema is a reflection of the era in which a movie was made. Yet, of all the Sherlock Holmes major motion pictures released thus far one is more firmly rooted than any other. That film is 1965's A Study in Terror, the first movie to pit the world's greatest detective against Jack the Ripper.

Today's review I submit as part of the Sleuthathon blogathon sponsored by Movies Silently.com.

A Study in Terror finds London's East End slum of Whitechapel terrorised by a brutal killer who is claiming young unfortunate women as his victims. Aware of the horrors being perpetrated, Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) is enticed into the case when a surgeon's medical bag arrives at 221B Baker Street - conspicuously missing a surgeon's postmortem knife. When it transpires that the bag belongs to the son of aristocracy, Holmes and Watson (Donald Houston) begin on a dark journey from the upper-crust to Whitechapel and will soon come face to face with Jack the Ripper himself!

What one must remember when watching A Study in Terror is that it can be enjoyed so much more if the viewer is willing to be entertained. History buffs be aware as the film does not accurately portray the Ripper murders. In fact, if anything Jack the Ripper is used as a thematic plot device - as is Sherlock Holmes. That's not to say that their presentation is wrong - in fact the persona of the great detective is excellently depicted. But, if one comes out of this movie thinking that Annie Chapman, the Ripper's secret victim, was a young blonde-haired woman, than they have been severely duped.

Made in the mid-1960's, this film certainly betrays that fact. A Study in Terror can be described in one word: camp. Filmed at the height of Batman's popularity in the United States starring Adam "Shark Repellent Bat Spray" West and Burt "Holy [insert noun here] Batman" Ward, A Study in Terror is greatly influenced. In fact, movie posters dubbed the great detective as "Here Comes the Original Caped Crusader!" Holmes becomes a gung-ho adventurer, who in an excellent bit fends off a group of thugs using a sword cane, and come the firey climax, Holmes isn't afraid to throw a few punches. The movie reinforces its '60's roots in its horror scenes, particularly the depictions of the Ripper killings. Each one is brutal and rather intense, but quick and show very little blood, obviously in the style of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho which predated this film by five years.

For a Sherlockian scholar, like myself, the main attraction in this film is John Neville's Sherlock Holmes. Neville had previously been approached for the role of the detective in the musical Baker Street, and he was later under consideration after Douglas Wilmer bowed out as the detective in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (the part eventually went to Peter Cushing). Whether he's conducting an excellent set of deductions or racing after the Ripper through the Whitechapel morgue, Neville accurately portrays all facets of the great detective. He is a pretty stiff, upper-crust detective, and there's a nice bit of comedy when he and Watson enter a seedy pub dressed in their best evening wear. To back up Neville's Holmes is Donald Houston's Watson, who provides a bit of comic relief in this rather dark film. The other reason for Sherlockians who may not have seen this movie is for Robert Morley's performance as Mycroft Holmes. Morley's Mycroft was the first time the detective's brother was portrayed on screen, and the resemblance between the actor and Sidney Paget's illustration is uncanny.

There are also a few other notable cast members: Frank Finlay plays a suitably rat-faced Inspector Lestrade and Anthony Quayle turns up as the reddest red herring as a soup kitchen owner/medico. Interestingly both actors would turn up in 1979's Murder by Decree, the second Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper film. Finlay played the same role in the latter film. A Study in Terror also marked one of the earliest film roles of legendary actress Judi Dench, who recommended for her role by star John Neville after the two had worked in theatre.

Following the film's release in 1965, the story was novelised by Ellery Queen, the nome-de-plume of mystery-writing cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee. Queen was also the name of their detective hero. Changing a great deal of the movie's plot, the novelisation found Queen retrieving a manuscript which depicted the events seen in the film. This retelling changed a number of plot points seen in A Study in Terror - most notably the identity of Jack the Ripper!

A Study in Terror is today a relatively obscure Sherlockian effort. If its viewer than get over the overt campiness of the whole thing, A Study in Terror will fit the bill for Sherlockian fare. I therefore give this enjoyable venture 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Top 10 Greatest Sherlock Holmes Films (Of All Time) Part II

Alright, let's keep this rolling, so without further ado, we move onto number five...

#5 - Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) - Seventy-two years after its release, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror still divides fans. Was Universal Studios justified in taking Sherlock Holmes from his familiar trappings and dropping him into the twentieth century? Were they even more justified in having Holmes fight the forces of the Third Reich? That is certainly not for me to decide. What I will say is that Voice of Terror is my favourite Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film.

What strikes the viewer straightaway is the brilliant look of this film. Brimming with shadows, angled shots and close-ups, this movie strongly resembles a Film-Noir. The atmosphere of the movie compliments its style, and there's a dark, yet glossy texture to the scenes. There are expert performances abound - Evelyn Ankers turns in a fine performance as a patriotic lady-of-the-night and Henry Daniell and Reginald Denny do their best with the fine roles of the suspects. But, this movie is stolen by Thomas Gomez as Nazi spy Meade, who with delusions of grandeur is one of the most compelling performances in any Sherlock Holmes film. Voice of Terror draws from Doyle's His Last Bow, and the closing coda is extremely touching as Rathbone expertly delivers the famous "East wind is coming" speech. Propaganda piece or not, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror is the best acted, best looking and hands down best Sherlock Holmes movie of the 1940's.

#4 - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) - I've discussed this film a few times on this blog already, but I really do love this particular adaptation. Positively dripping with Gothic horror atmosphere, this movie is the most bombastic version of Hound which has ever been filmed. Aside from being, what the posters proclaim as being "the most horror-dripping tale ever written," the movie plays out as fine Sherlock Holmes piece, due to Peter Cushing's fine turn as the detective.

Though playing the part as thorny as a cactus, Cushing is a fine addition to the cast, delivering his best performance as the detective. Cold, aloof and condescending, this turn foreshadows other fine characterisations in years to come. Cushing is flanked on all sides by fine performers. Most notably is Andre Morell whose performance as Dr. Watson is one of the best, and one of the most accurate. There's also Christopher Lee as a humane Sir Henry Baskerville, and for the first time Lee gets to play a leading man in a Hammer Horror film. Despite some dodgy special effects (the hound itself is pretty...well...the less said the better), there are plenty of moments to chill the blood in a viewer's veins - fifty-five years after its first release. Overall, The Hound of the Baskervilles is an incredibly entertaining, wonderfully executed bit of Sherlockian entertainment, and though not doggedly faithful to Doyle's novel, surely the best of the lot. Click here to read some further thoughts on this adaptation as well as other versions of Hound.


#3 - Murder by Decree (1979) - Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper has been done to death. Yet, back in 1979, the idea was still relatively fresh. This luckily begat what I consider one of the finest Sherlock Holmes films ever made, and one of the finest movies I have ever seen. Murder by Decree is one of the most moving Sherlock Holmes films ever produced, and the gambit of emotions which this movie can spawn are unparalleled. What makes Murder by Decree an absolute stand-out is Christopher Plummer's performance as the detective. Though certainly at odds with Doyle's original, Plummer's sympathetic detective is a masterpiece of Sherlockian acting. The actor so brilliantly balances the emotional depth with the cold, calculation which is paramount in any Sherlockian portrayal. I highlight this interpretation especially since Murder by Decree does provide the detective with a plot-heavy mystery to solve, whereas our final two selections, though featuring brilliant performances on the part of the Sherlockian actor, are truly more character studies than whodunits.

Murder by Decree is also perhaps the most well-cast Sherlock Holmes film of all time. Opposite Christopher Plummer is the ever welcome James Mason as Watson, who gives an outstanding performance, and Murder by Decree features one of the best portrayals of the Holmes and Watson friendship. Anthony Quayle, Frank Finlay, David Hemmings and even Sir John Gielguud all put in appearances, as do Donald Sutherland and Genevieve Bujold, in what amounts to a truly heartbreaking performance. Murder by Decree isn't just one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies ever made, but one of the finest dramas I have come across.

#2 - The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) - Prepare for more gushing! The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, based off of the incredibly successful novel by Nicholas Meyer, is a virtual roller coaster ride of a film. In terms of plot, the movie manages to combine an evocative character study with a rip-roaring adventure. As I wrote before, the greatest thing about this film is Nicol Williamson's outstanding performance as a drug-addled Sherlock Holmes. Williamson's turn as the detective is almost indescribable, and really must be seen to be believed. Despite the fact that Williamson outright stated he had never read a Sherlock Holmes story, his turn is brilliant, coupling the usual confident demeanour with a fragile centre, seldom seen in the great detective.

Williamson is supported on all sides by fine performers - Alan Arkin jiving for top honours as Sigmund Freud, tasked with curing the detective of his cocaine addiction. Robert Duvall makes for a fine Dr. Watson (obviously fake English accent not withstanding), and Laurence Oliver's brief role as Professor Moriarty is a real pleasure to watch. The screenplay of the film was adapted by Meyer, so fans of the great detective will revel in the canonical references with are scattered throughout the film. There is also the now infamous credit sequence which feature not only the original Sidney Paget illustrations, but describe the characters...using footnotes!

The time has now come to reveal number one - the greatest Sherlock Holmes film of all time. If you're a regular reader of this blog, my choice may not be a big surprise...nevertheless, here we go:

#1 - The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) - It would be a Herculean feat to find fault in this mesmorising film. Director Billy Wilder's slightly tongue-in-cheek character study masterfully combines humour and drama, and is in all beautifully realised. The star attraction, as has been the case with most of these films, is the actor playing the detective. In this case, Robert Stephens' performance as a humane, flawed individual truly sets him apart from nearly all other interpretations of the great detective. While The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes may not stringently adhere to Doyle's canon, it adds new layers to the familiar characters and adding new material to the Sherlock Holmes mythos is a gift in itself.

The rest of the cast enforce the ever-changing mood in the film. Colin Blakely's over-the-top Dr. Watson is excellent, and the scene in which the good doctor is confused as Holmes' lover at the Russian opera is shear comedic gold. Genevieve Page reinforces the melancholic atmosphere, and Christopher Lee's cocky, never-to-be-trusted Mycroft Holmes is a fine characterisation, once more adding new layers to Doyle's originals. Everything about The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes just strikes the right chord with me, and to read further musings on this masterpiece of Sherlockian cinema, I direct your attention here - my first installment in the Portrait of Perfection review series on this blog.

And so, my list of the greatest Sherlock Holmes films of all time comes to and end. Yet, these top 10 lists are not yet through. Coming soon - The Top 10 Greatest Television Sherlock Holmes (Of All Time) where I shall look at the finest bits of Sherlockian TV which have appeared over the years. In the meantime, what do you think of my top five picks? Feel free to comment below!