Monday, December 31, 2012
This is nothing monumental, however I feel like I should make something aware to those who frequent this blog. As I have made it clear in the past, in addition to Sherlock Holmes, I love "Doctor Who" I have already reviewed "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (http://the-consulting-detective.blogspot.com/2012/11/review-talons-of-weng-chiang.html) and "The Snowmen" (http://the-consulting-detective.blogspot.com/2012/12/review-doctor-who-snowmen.html).
I just wanted to make it clear that I shall continue to review "Doctor Who" stories in the future (the Big Finish audio recordings as well as episodes from the show) in the future. While the main focus of this blog shall remain the great detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, there shall be ventures into the realm of science-fiction to enjoy the exploits of the Doctor!
Saturday, December 29, 2012
"Sherlock Holmes and the Element of Surprise" yields many surprises of its own. J. Andrew Taylor's pastiche is more of a novella than a novel, and I found that I could easily read this book in two sittings. Nevertheless, Taylor managed to capture the style of writing and story-teller that Doyle utilized which made this book seem more like an original.
Sherlock Holmes is presented as being a gung-ho character throughout the story. In the story's opening, he "kidnaps" Dr. Watson and his wife, Mary, by disguising himself as a coachman. What is perhaps somewhat lacking is Holmes' deductions throughout the story. What leads him to his solution of the crime is based mainly on intuition. Granted, things are wrapped up nicely come the story's conclusion, but it would have been nicer for Holmes to have made a series of astounding deductions much to the befuddlement of the local constabulary and Inspector Lestrade.
Speaking of Inspector Lestrade, I was quite surprised by his character. He is presented throughout as a comic character, though not bumbling. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have fun at his expense during the story. While awaiting a train, Holmes suggests that they all go to the pub, much to the Inspector's chagrin. Only after making Lestrade wait on the platform for half-of-an-hour does the detective reveal that he knew their train was going to be delayed. The presentation of Dr. Watson is also well done. He is a competent medical man who is presented throughout as being a great help to the detective in the case.
With good presentations of the characters, it would have been made the story far greater if the actual plot had been better. The initial impossible crime scenario was intriguing, but by the half-way point of the novella, I already knew what the outcome was going to be. The criminals responsible for the two gruesome murders are characters who are presented throughout the story, and once more Holmes does make all the points in the mystery clear. Yes, Sherlock Holmes often kept the facts in a case from Watson and the others, but in this story I felt as though there were no suspects for me to narrow down.
In all, "Sherlock Holmes and the Element of Surprise", though well written is rather underwhelming. The story begins very excitingly, but goes downhill afterward. By no means am I saying that this book is not good, but it could have been better. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Winter - 1892. The Eleventh incarnation of the Doctor (Matt Smith) is puzzled by what appears to be alien snow. Aided by Madame Vastra, a half-lizard, half-human alien, and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), a part-time barmaid and governess, the Doctor discovers that the alien snow may be originating from the laboratory of Dr. Simeon (Richard E. Grant). However, what the Doctor does not anticipate is that there is more to his current predicament than he expected.
Steven Moffatt's newest Christmas special is brilliant. Following the pattern he set with the previous two Christmas specials, the episode is in the style of a famous author's writing. Two years ago was Charles Dickens. Last year was C.S. Lewis. This year was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The setting was indicative of Doyle's writing as was the plot structure and even the characters. At one point, Dr. Simeon declares that readers of the Strand Magazine would be surprised if they learned that Dr. Doyle's stories were based on Madame Vastra's adventures. And later, the Doctor (calling himself Mr. Sherlock Holmes) is seen dressed in a Inverness cape and deerstalker hat.
|The Doctor showing off the new Tardis interior|
"The Snowmen" was a wonderful Christmas special. The new companion, Jenna-Louise Coleman, promises to be a perfect traveling companion for the Doctor in the coming episodes. Sadly, we Whovians have to wait until April for the show's return. I give "The Snowmen" a 4 out of 5 stars.
Oh, and for Whovians who cannot wait for the show's return - I have included another video for you all.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
|Rupert Everett (left) and Ian Hart (right) as Holmes and Watson|
in 2004's "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking"
Dr. John Watson (Ian Hart) is worried for his friend Sherlock Holmes (Rupert Everett) who has disappeared into an opium den for days and has no returned. To take his friend's mind off his drug addiction, Watson suggests a case to the detective. A young woman has been discovered on the banks of the Thames, a silk stocking tied around her throat. At the mortuary, Holmes discovers that the young woman is in fact an aristocrat's daughter. When the daughter of George Pentney (Jonathon Hyde), another aristocrat, is abducted, Holmes is certain that this is the work of the same man. Together with the aid of Scotland Yard, his friend Watson and Watson's fiance, the great detective will track down this multiple-murderer.
To anyone who read my post about 2002's "Hound of the Baskervilles," they will know that I was not entirely keen on that production. (http://the-consulting-detective.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-sherlockian-guilty-pleasure.html) While there were some redeeming qualities to this production, it was by no means the epitome of Sherlockian entertainment. However, I still wanted to track down the follow-up film made two years later and found that "Silk Stocking" had some very interesting surprises.
|Rupert Everett as Holmes|
Looking much more like the detective than his predecessor, Richard Roxburgh, Rupert Everett at least has that to his advantage. However, Everett is so underwhelming as the detective, he hardly makes an impression on the viewer. Everett whispers every line as those the movie were filmed at a library, and he comes off as being cold and unlikable. Once more, Holmes' relationship with Watson is presented as a strained one. Again, Ian Hart does come across as a likable Watson, and one wishes that he could have been partnered with an actor the caliber of Jeremy Brett or Basil Rathbone. Other actors like Jonathon Hyde and Michael Fassbender turn in good performances, but nothing out of the ordinary.
What is perhaps the greatest injustice towards Doyle is the direct contradictions made to Doyle's work. Sherlock Holmes is presented as an opium addict, something the original Holmes never was. Doyle's Holmes agreed with Dr. Watson stating that opium was a dangerous drug not to reckoned with. Furthermore, Holmes also ends up using his seven-per-cent solution of cocaine during a case. Furthermore, Dr. Watson is presented as being on the brink of marriage to an American psychologist - not, I repeat not a canonical fact.
It made sound as though all I have done is drag this movie through the mud during this review. Once more, the production values are beautiful, with a fog-drenched Victorian London looking very impressive. Rupert Everett, though an underwhelming and unlikable Holmes, does the best he can with the script provided and Ian Hart makes for an enjoyable Watson. I give "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking" a 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Friday, December 21, 2012
After Christmas, I will be post my review of the "Doctor Who" Christmas special, "The Snowmen."
And on the book review front, I will take a look at Paul D. Gilbert's "The Giant Rat of Sumatra." It sounds like we're in for some interesting reviews in the coming days, and I can only imagine what January of 2013 shall bring - that's because we survived 2012. Sorry Mayans, you were wrong.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
1903 - Sherlock Holmes (Roger Moore) has foiled the nefarious plots of Professor Moriarty (John Houston) once more. Before escaping justice, Moriarty threatens to destroy the great detective. A short while later, Holmes receives a warning message from Irene Adler (Charlotte Rampling), who is currently working in New York City. Holmes and Watson (Patrick Macnee) travel to the Big Apple where they learn that Irene's son, Scott, has been kidnapped. Meanwhile, the great detective is contacted by the local authorities when the entire New York Gold Depository is robbed. Surely, both the kidnapping and the theft are the crimes of the Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty, exacting his revenge on the great detective?
|Roger Moore as Sherlock Holmes|
What upsets most fans about "Sherlock Holmes in New York" is the semi-controversial plot line. It is hinted throughout most of the story that Holmes and Irene had in fact been lovers and that Scott is their child. This had not been a new concept (having first been suggested in the 1962 'biography' of Sherlock Holmes, "Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street). More recently, theories have drifted about that Rex Stout's detective, Nero Wolfe, was in fact the great detective's son.
In the eyes of many, such a controversial plot could perhaps have been carried off if the actor playing Holmes was better. In all honesty, Roger Moore as a debonair, suave detective is not all that bad. He essentially plays the role as if he were playing James Bond, or television's Simon Templar, 'The Saint.' Moore's smug detective does embody certain qualities of the original, but on a whole he is not the perfect actor suited for the part. Other actors in the film are a mixed bunch. The usually likable Patrick Macnee is very upsetting as Dr. Watson (adopting a cockney accent, which is even more annoying than Nigel Bruce's bumbling), and John Houston accentuates a Scottish accent which gets quite tiresome.
On a whole, "Sherlock Holmes in New York" may have some redeeming qualities though. The plot involving the stolen gold is enjoyable, and in these segments when Moore's Holmes has some detective work to do, he seems like a worthy successor to the deerstalker hat. While the film is by no means the epitome of Sherlockian entertainment, the redeeming qualities are there nonetheless. I give "Sherlock Holmes in New York," 2.5 out 5 stars. An enjoyable, but by no means excellent, Sherlockian effort from all involved.
Monday, December 10, 2012
To rid himself of his problem, the Professor hires an alcoholic doctor recently returned home from the war in Afghan War. His name is John Walker. Walker is hired to take on the alias Dr. John Watson and learn as much as he can about Sherlock Holmes. What follows is a brilliant character study which makes David Stuart Davies' "The Veiled Detective" such a pleasure to read.
While the concept may be off-putting to some, "The Veiled Detective," is by far one of the best, and one of the most original Sherlock Holmes pastiches I have ever read. The book tells the story of the true events surrounding "A Study in Scarlet," "The Final Problem" and more. However, it is not the plot of the book which is the novel's greatest asset it is the wonderful characterizations therein. David Stuart Davies is not afraid to paint a picture of the world's greatest detective which may be different than that seen in other pastiches, or even Arthur Conan Doyle's canon.
Davies portrays Holmes as a deeply flawed individual. The book examines the great detective's addiction to cocaine, as well as new all-together new traits and there are reasons given to the detective's misogynist views. Featuring two such broken and battered characters as Sherlock Holmes and John Walker makes for interesting reading, as the two discover they are in fact kindred spirits. Seeing this darker, flawed, anti-hero-like detective is a dramatic change from the normal, but it is presented in such a way that the characters seem fresh and new at the same time as being familiar.
Nevertheless, "The Veiled Detective" is by far one of the most original and best pastiches I have ever come across. Not only does it odd new depth to the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but is a beautiful tribute to the characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who are beloved the world over. I award "The Veiled Detective" a 4/5 stars.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
So, what is wrong with the 2002 "Hound?" Well, the characterizations are wrong for a number of the central characters and major plot-points are changed (a few for the better). I should warn you now - this post will have multiple spoilers for this 2002 adaptation, so if you have not yet seen the film and want to, I suggest you stop reading here. Otherwise, let's look at this movie a bit more closely.
First, we tackle the character of Sherlock Holmes. To begin with, Richard Roxburgh certainly does not look the part as the great detective. He has very little resemblance to the original Sidney Paget illustrations of the detective. Beyond that, the way that Holmes is written makes him such a condescending and unlikable character. The original Sherlock Holmes may not have been the most friendly of individuals, but Roxburgh's Holmes is such a prickly character he garners little sympathy and exude very little amiability. Another mark against him is his relationship with Dr. Watson. The two men are constantly arguing throughout the film. At one point, Holmes quite calmly calls Watson "an idiot" as though this were an everyday occurrence.
What's more, this Sherlock Holmes is presented here is in the thralls of his cocaine addiction. As a rule, Holmes would never be using his seven-per-cent solution of cocaine during a case, so this is a direct contradiction of Doyle's writings. Furthermore, it adds nothing to the story, so there is no real reason why scenes of Holmes indulging in the drug are needed, and they only cause more dislike to mount on the detective.
|Ian Hart (left) and Richard Roxburgh (left) as a constantly|
feuding Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
Most of the scenes which play out on the moor are fantastic (including a seance scene which copies off of the 1939 "Hound" adaptation). But it is in the film's closing stages where the story is dramatically altered. The plot is so drastically, it hardly feels as though the story is Arthur Conan Doyle's anymore. What's more, our lasting impression of the detective duo is a bad one - Dr. Watson telling Holmes that he does not trust him.
So, what could possibly redeem a story like this? The 2002 adaptation's production values are by far the best of any "Hound" adaptation. Furthermore, it creates a feeling of unrelenting evil and mystery, which is so often lost in other films. That in itself does justice to Doyle's classic. It is for that reason that "The Hound of the Baskervilles," though changed considerably does keep the spirit of the original alive.
Monday, December 3, 2012
|Sherlock Holmes in usual city attire|
from "The Hound of the Baskervilles"
Perhaps the most surprising misconception associated with Holmes is the fact that he never wore the deerstalker hat in London. Sherlock Holmes would never have worn such a hat in the heart of the city. Holmes was often described as being up-to-date with the latest fashion trends for men in the Victorian Era. A cloth cap and tweed jacket was relegated only for the county side. What is perhaps even more surprising is how few times Holmes actually wore the hat.
Even when he was not in the country, Holmes did not wear such a noticeable piece of headgear. For example, in "The Speckled Band" and "The Hound of the Baskervilles," Holmes is seen sporting a bowler hat and homburg respectively. Why, you may ask. In both stories, the great detective wishes to move about the countryside in secret to conduct his detective work. When Holmes is doing his detective work in the metropolis however, he oftentimes sports a top hat and fashionable frock coat.
One of the more widely-known facts associated with Holmes is that he never used the phrase, "Elementary my dear Watson." While the great detective used the phrases "elementary" and "my dear Watson" quite often throughout the canon, he never used the two together. The honour of getting to say the two together goes to Mr. Clive Brook who starred as Sherlock Holmes in 1929's "The Return of Sherlock Holmes," the first Sherlock Holmes-talkie. However, it was Basil Rathbone who so-often used the phrase during his fourteen films where he stared as the detective.
The fact that there is more in store with Sherlock Holmes makes things perhaps a bit more not so "elementary."
Sunday, December 2, 2012
So, why I am blogging about "Doctor Who" again on this Sherlock Holmes blog? Well, Moffat's next special entitled "The Snowmen" will take place in Victorian London and shall deal with alien snow. Besides that, little information has actually been gained about the episode, so fans of the show are preparing themselves around the globe. Recently, the three-minute long prequel to the episode was released, showcasing Moffat's cheeky sense of humour. The Doctor, now taking up residence in Victorian London, is being dubbed The Great Detective (hmm...sound familiar?).
So, the countdown to the next episode is on. Rest assured, a review of "The Snowmen" will be on this site after the episode airs.