Monday, July 29, 2013

Will it Always be 1895?

Here, though the world explode, these two survive/And it is always eighteen ninety-five. -Vincent Starret                                           
The famed Sherlockian scholar, writer and apparently amateur poet was responsible for writing the above two lines, which form the ending of his poem about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The phrase above has become well-known in Sherlockian circles, but the question is: does it still ring true today? As Sherlock Holmes is becoming more and more popular, is it truly necessary that he remain a part of Victorian society? There are two television series which have updated Holmes into the present day, and there were many films made during the 1930's and '40's which abandoned a Victorian setting. Let's take a closer look.

In the 1930's, when Sherlock Holmes was making his first great impact on the world of film, all of his adventures were updated into the present day. Actors such as Clive Brook, Arthur Wontner, Reginald Owen and others all played a detective who was well-versed in the modern world. A 1931 film version of "The Speckled Band" starring Raymond Massey actually featured Holmes living in a luxurious skyscraper, employing dozens of secretaries and recording important conversations on a Dictaphone. Aside from this movie were it seems as though the update was intentional, most of these movies were set in a contemporary setting purely for the means of saving money. It was not until 20th Century Fox released "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce did the characters return to the Victorian milieu.

Peter Cushing in 1959's "The Hound of the Baskervilles"
However, once Fox dropped the series and it moved to Universal, the powers that be there also updated the stories into the modern world and the first three films made at the studio concerned Holmes employed by the government to fight Nazi agents in various capacities. This idea was retained throughout the series and Holmes and Watson are perfectly comfortable using telephones and radios, and at one point Basil Rathbone's Holmes is glimpsed driving a car! When the series ended at Universal in 1946, Holmes became a staple of television, and surprisingly the detectives returned to the Victorian word for their romps on the small screen. However, it wasn't until 1959 when Hammer Studios released "The Hound of the Baskervilles" did Sherlock Holmes of the movies return to the Victorian Era. Throughout the '60's, '70's and '80's, Sherlock Holmes remained a character operating in the 19th century, but as the new millennium dawned, Sherlock Holmes would find himself in a more contemporary or even futuristic setting.

So, the rhetorical question which I pose is this: does Sherlock Holmes need to remain a character of the Victorian Era, or can he work just as well out of it? With "Sherlock" and "Elementary" gaining popularity today, it appears as though the latter seems more likely. In my opinion, Sherlock Holmes really is a product of the Victorian Era, and whenever he's placed in that milieu, it seems the best. That's not to say that Sherlock Holmes cannot be updated into the modern world. It's certainly been done enough and the more modern versions of these updated stories do do the update nice enough. But, I put the question to you as well - does Sherlock Holmes need to remain a character of a bygone age? At the rate things are going, it won't always be 1895.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review - "The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb" (1964)

We've concluded our second wave of Hammer Horror on this blog and this time I'm reviewing the 1964 thriller, "Curse of the Mummy's Tomb." This film was the first follow-up movie to Hammer's 1959 remake of "The Mummy" which featured Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Let it be known that this movie is not connected to the previous movie.

"The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb" begins in Egypt with an expedition to unearth a coveted mummy's tomb. The expedition comes to a halt when the American financial backer, Alexander King (Fred Clark) decides to take the findings on tour of the British Isles before eventually going onto the United States. However, at the ceremonial opening of the mummy's sarcophagus ends badly when the mummy's body disappears. As the members of the expedition begin to be murdered one by one, it's up to the young Egyptologist, John Bray (Ronald Howard) to put the pieces of the puzzle together and discover the mummy's curse.

In this reviewer's opinion, audiences have also been fascinated by ancient Egypt. Since the discovery of King Tut's tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 and the myth of a curse which ensued, there has also been a fascination with mummy's, curses and what not. The Universal horror film series concerning the mummy has also been among my favourites. The trend of cursed mummy's tombs continued beyond the '60's and Hammer's revival into the '70's. The "Doctor Who" serial, "Pyramids of Mars" oftentimes crops up on people's list of best serials, and it was included in part of BBC America's "Doctor Who Revisited" specials. What's more, the mummy franchise was resurrected in 1999 and it spawned two sequels. However, the true question is - did "The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb" contribute well t0 the history of mummies on film?

I'll say now that this movie was rather odd, beginning with a very unusual structure. There are two flashbacks throughout the course of the movie, which really breaks the narrative's flow. What's more, the first two acts of the movie don't seem to know what genre this film should be. There are hints of humour throughout the first portion as well as action and adventure and some mystery, and of course horror. It's not until the film's third act do things really hit their stride as the mummy returns to life to kill all those in his path. This portion of the movie was well-handled, and I wish that more time could have been devoted to the mummy attacks, as these scenes were especially creepy. There's also something rather unnerving about the fact that the mummy just so happens to be wandering around the streets of Edwardian London.

This pose is probably familiar to Sherlockian
actor Ronald Howard
The cast of the film is equally odd as its pacing. In the starring role as hero archaeologist and amateur detective is Ronald Howard. Howard does a good job in a part which is in essence by the numbers. There's nothing especially memorable about his character or his performance, but he does do a good job. Howard was the son of famed actor, Leslie Howard, and during the 1950's starred as Sherlock Holmes in a television series, filmed in Paris. Howard's performance as Holmes is slightly different than the norm, but that's a post for another time. Also appearing is top-billed Terence Morgan, in a ludicrously over-the-top performance. (Mild-spoilers ahead) From his first appearance on screen, I knew something was up with his character and he couldn't be as lily-white as he seemed. His final motivations however were quite surprising and I will confess, I did not see it coming.

All in all, "The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb" is not exactly Hammer's finest hour, but it's hardly a bad picture either. It has plenty of creepy, atmospheric moments and enough severed hands for two pictures (it's a long story). I give the movie 3 out 5 stars. It's a worthwhile Hammer production, but surely not the pinnacle of Hammer horror.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sherlock Season 3 Titles

Well, finally the powers that be at the BBC have revealed the last title of the third season of "Sherlock." The three titles are:

Ep. 1 - The Empty Hearse (written by Mark Gatiss)
Ep. 2 - The Sign of Three (weritten by Steve Thompson)
Ep. 3 - His Last Vow (written by Steven Moffat)

Just from the titles, I am already very excited. While I am not the biggest fan of Steven Thompson's two episodes, I am sort of excited that he's in charge of a Sign-of-four-based episode. Thompson's first contribution to the series, "The Blind Banker" is sort of in the vein of a metropolitan thriller, and I hope something like that is incorporated into his third episode.

I really do not have much to say on the topic now. There will be probably be some more speculation from me forthcoming...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review - "The Gorgon" (1964)

Yet another round of Hammer Horror today - this time, the memorable 1964 thriller, "The Gorgon." What I'll say right from the start, and which may be evident from the following synopsis, is that the film cleverly crosses multiple genre lines. "The Gorgon" is at once a horror film with a supernatural monster, a Gothic thriller, a mystery and a doomed romance.

The film's setting is the isolated German hamlet of Zandorf which is being preyed upon a monster. In the course of five years, seven young women have been discovered dead in the forest outside the village, each one turned to stone. It seems as though everyone in the village is concealing something, including the town's doctor, Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) and his assistant, Carla (Barbra Shelly). Following the death of his father and brother, Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco) arrives in town to discover who or what is responsible for their deaths. With the help of his professor (Christopher Lee), the two are determined to find the Gorgon.

"The Gorgon" is a very dark film. The entire movie has a very bleak atmosphere, more so than most Hammer films, but it adds to creating a proper atmosphere of dread and horror. The isolated village goes a long way to cut the principle characters out of the outside world, and there are few scenes which are not set in the village. A moody atmosphere is also well established in the fog-shrouded forest setting, and the repetitive shot of thick clouds covering a full moon are very moody. While I'm discussing the atmosphere, I ought to mention Terence Fisher, the film's director, who was responsible for some of Hammer's finest films, and this is probably a fine explanation as to why "The Gorgon" feels so creepy.

The performances from the main performers are excellent. In an interesting reversal, Peter Cushing is cast here as the villain of the piece, while Christopher Lee fights on the side of the angels. Cushing is just as excellent in the role of a heavy as he is the hero. The part of Dr. Namaroff may not be the epitome of a mustache-twirling villain, but he does shield the woman he loves, even when things to crumble down around him. While Namaroff is as bleak a character as the film itself, Professor Meister, played by Christopher Lee is a breathe of fresh air. He manages to elicit a few smiles, especially when he's showing his clear irritation unto Patrick Troughton's police inspector. "Don't use large words inspector," the professor cries, "They don't suit you." It's a grand, humane performance.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing 
Other performers in the film are just as good. Barbra Shelly is wonderful as Namaroff's assistant, Carla. Her motivations for acting strange throughout the film are wonderfully ambiguous and once it's revealed, it's actually quite surprising. Mentioned above, Patrick Troughton puts in an appearance as the representative of the constabulary, Inspector Kanof. It's rather jarring for me to see Troughton as I'm used to seeing him play the "Cosmic Hobo" interpretation of the Doctor in "Doctor Who". In addition to a fine cast, there are some wonderful set pieces. There's an eyebrow-raising operation performed by Namaroff as he removes the brain of a dead patient. By the time of this film, Cushing had some practice with brain removal by repeatedly playing Baron Frankenstein. The always out-of-frame head was in fact a cabbage on which Cushing performed mock surgery. There is also a great exchange of words between Lee and Cushing, and it underlines what great screen chemistry the two actors had together.

"The Gorgon" is a very entertaining horror film with a very dark, bleak atmosphere and especially fine performances from Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. This film, like my last Hammer review, is included on "The Icons of Horror: Hammer Horror Collection," where it is partnered with the film, "The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb," the movie for which it was released a double-bill in America. The tag line for "The Gorgon": She had a face only a mummy could love. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review - "The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll" (1960)

The Poster Featuring its American Title
I've returned to Hammer Horror here on the Consulting Detective with "The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll," an inverted take on Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novella. By the time that Hammer got around to filming the story in 1960, the story had already been adapted a number of times, most famously in 1922 with John Barrymore, 1931 with Fredric March and 1941 with Spencer Tracy. The three of these films followed Stevenson's plot more-or-less, so Hammer's updated version changed the plot around.

Set in 1874, Paul Massie stars as Dr. Henry Jekyll who is experimenting with separating the good and evil in a person. His experiments climax by the doctor creating a drug which will turn him into his evil alter-ego, Edward Hyde. Taking on the guise of Hyde in London's lower-classes, he discovers that Jekyll's wife, Kitty (Dawn Addams) is carrying on an affair with Paul Allen (Christopher Lee) a close friend of Jekyll's. Thus begins a twisted series of events as Hyde (and Jekyll) plans his revenge...

"The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll" released in America as "House of Fright" is an interesting horror film, mostly because of its inverted plot. It is Dr. Jekyll who is the unattractive character - a recluse who shuts him away from society to conduct his experiments. Jekyll also labours under a thick, brown beard, showing he doesn't care for his outward appearance at all. When Jekyll takes the drug, he suddenly becomes a youthful, attractive young man. This is usually the opposite as it is Hyde who is portrayed as the unattractive one. This idea is at first rather gimmicky, but Paul Massie pulls its off rather well. His dual performances are the highlight of the picture, especially as Hyde, who is increasingly evil as the film progresses.

The other interesting thing about the movie is that the three main characters all have "two faces." It's quite obvious when it comes to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but Jekyll's wife, Kitty, has two faces when she begins to carry on her affair with Paul Allen. Allen masquerades as Jekyll's friend, but carries on an intimate relationship with his wife behind his back. This makes all three of the main characters rather unlikable, and their eventual comeuppance is most welcome.

The movie is rather downbeat and features a peculiarly ambiguous ending, but it is a good picture. This film is part of the "Icons of Horror: Hammer Studios Collection" featuring four films previously unreleased on DVD. You can look forward to more reviews of those films coming soon. "The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll" receives a 4 out of 5 stars from me.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review - "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Jacobite Rose"

It is perhaps somewhat unusual that Sherlock Holmes has been adapted to the stage more often. Off hand, I can think of only two major Sherlock Holmes plays: William Gillette's rather revolutionary show, "Sherlock Holmes" and Paul Giovanni's play, "Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood." There are of course others, but nothing on a truly grand scale. I chalk to this up to be the fact that the Holmes stories seem to take place over a wide number of settings, thus rendering it rather difficult to confine the action to one set. Nevertheless, the challenge has been accepted by Fiona-Jane Brown as she wrote "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of a Jacobite Rose," an original two-act play.

Sherlock Holmes is engaged on two cases at once. His brother Mycroft comes to consult him after one of his best secret agents goes missing. At the same time, the detective is called upon by Miss Rebecca Lazenby, a wealthy young socialite and the step-daughter of Lord Wexford Foyle. Miss Lazenby is upset at her step-father that he shall not part with a famed jewel known as the Jacobite Rose, which has been in the family for years. Fearing a deception, Miss Lazenby asks Holmes to authenticate the jewel is passed unto her. However, unbeknownst to Holmes, these seemingly unrelated cases are in fact connected.

"Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Jacobite Rose" was a fun reading experience. For someone so theatrical at myself, it was a joy to read the parts aloud. Reviewing the item as a play, I must say that the dialogue is good and quite in abundance. Despite the fact that the show is heavily steeped in dialogue, it doesn't feel weighed down by this. The story moves along at a quick pace and I managed to read the the book in two short sittings. There are also careful notes on setting, costumes and expression, which is quite nice for any actor. The book is also over-sized, and laid out very nicely providing an easy reading experience for the actor or the reader.

Where the story rather suffers is its plot. The story is not very complex, so it's rather surprising that Mycroft Holmes, who is more intellectual than his younger brother, must call upon his brother to solve the case. Once it becomes apparent what is going on, which occurs at about the mid-way point, there isn't much mystery to be had. It's still nice to see Holmes makes some deductions, but he doesn't do much in the line of detective work here.

I think that I would rather like to see "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Jacobite Rose" done on stage. The show has a number of sets, which I think would be interesting to see handled. The characterisations of Holmes and Watson are well done, and it's all around a pretty well-done play. I would give "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Jacobite Rose" 3.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The First 100 Posts - And the Next 100

I can hardly believe it - 100 posts already! This blog has undergone a number of changes over the past months since I began, I expanded my topics and I've written about the good, the bad and the ugly. In order to celebrate my first 100 posts on this blog, I hope to take a look back at my top 10 favourite posts I have made on this blog.

I suppose I'll begin at the beginning. The Consulting Detective came into being on 10 November, 2012. For some time I had considered starting a blog so I could share my opinions of books, movies, audio etc. Seeing what other mystery blogs had managed, I was inspired to take on the challenge of managing my own blog and out of that desire came this humble site in which I introduced myself with an appropriate quote straight out of "The Sign of Four." Over the course of November, I managed 15 posts and firmly cemented myself as a reviewer of the Internet. Perhaps November is notable for the fact that it marked the first time Doctor Who found its way onto this blog when I reviewed "The Talons of Weng-Chiang."

And speaking of Doctor Who, it's after the airing of the 2012 Christmas special, "The Snowmen" that I decided to take on Doctor Who as another avenue for review and analysis on this blog. Since then, I have committed to this blog my opinions of the seventh series of the show as well as a look back on one of the most tumultuous eras of the show's history. And while we're on the topic of changes to this blog, it was in April of 2013 when I decided to take on the mystery genre on a whole, so I take on Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Raymond Chandler and others.

With that brief summary of this blog in mind, I now turn to my top 10 favourite posts over the past 8 months. These ten are in no particular order aside from the fact that they are posts which I think stood out the most and were the most fun to write.

#10 - The Good, The Bad and the Just Plain Ugly: Creative Liberty Gone Too Far
It felt good to get some anger off my chest with this one. I had always wanted to dabble in the angry rant and this blog seemed perfect. You see, I try to remain as reserved as possible and it was in this post where I managed to convey my anger at the bad pastiches which I have had to read. In particular, this post also allowed me to hopefully convince my readers never to read "Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds," surely the worst Sherlock Holmes pastiche which I have ever read. If you happen to read the book, I'm terribly sorry.

#9 - Those who were Rather Rudely Forgotten
This post was another one in which I managed to cover a great deal of material in a short space of time. After I conducted a poll on this site to determine who portrayed the detective best in audio, I realized I'd neglected some great names associated with with the genre. In this post I managed to cover nearly 60 years of Sherlock Holmes on radio and in audio-book format, and managed to voice my somewhat unpopular opinion toward the series featuring John Gielguid and Ralph Richardson as well as the audio books with Derek Jacobi.

#8 - Sleuth (1972)
Shortly after I announced that this blog would accommodate the mystery genre as a whole, I decided to review the magnificent film version of "Sleuth" featuring Laurence Oliver and Michael Caine. The film is one of my very favourites, featuring two splendid performances from Oliver and Caine and we get a well-done thriller and loving mystery tribute for the price of one. It's an excellent movie and if you have not yet seen this original film version, you must seek it out.

#7 - Going on a Diet Mr. Mycroft?
I admit that once and a while I succumb to complete randomness and this post was one of my most random. In this short article, I question whether Mycroft Holmes, portrayed in the original stories as an immense, obese man, must be portrayed as such on film? I managed to cite my love of Christopher Lee and Mark Gatiss' performances as the great detective's brother, and interestingly enough this strange little venture has managed to become my most-viewed post. Rather interesting that.

#6 - The Two Doctors
Of all my reviews, this review for the Sixth Doctor serial, "The Two Doctors," is perhaps my most professional. I have rather a lot to say about this adventure, there's much to like and perhaps even more to dislike about it. I feel like I managed to convey my wavering opinion about this particular story in this post, and I often go back to this one as one of my very best examples of film critique.

#5 - Taking the Bull by the Horns
This being primarily a Sherlock Holmes blog, I had to at least once comment on CBS' "Elementary." Once you get over the fact that the show is a rather obvious rip-off of "Sherlock," and you look beyond that there's some interesting things to be seen. The show can hardly even compare to the level of excellence of "Sherlock," yet Johnny Lee Miller does give a good performance as Holmes, but the show lacks originality and doesn't feel like a Sherlock Holmes drama at all. This one post manages to sum up my opinion of that series and I think it brings that matter to a close.

#4 - A Sherlockian Guilty Pleasure
I am not perfect, and therefore I succumb to enjoying something Sherlock Holmes-related which I perhaps rather ought not to. The 2002 adaptation of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" has a great number of problems, making it one of the weakest adaptations of the novel and yet, it is very entertaining. The BBC's production values are glorious and there are some good moments. I liked being able to point out the obvious flaws concerning this movie, but hopefully defending it - something which I hope to do in the future.

#3 - The Twelve Best Stories
It always feels nice to go back to the canon and I think that examining the original stories of Arthur Conan Doyle is a worthy endeavour. In this particular post I managed to examine what ACD thought were the best Sherlock Holmes short stories as well as provide a list of my own favourite short stories. The task of narrowing down the entire canon to twelve was an incredibly hard task.

#2 - A Study in Ink: The Illustrators of Sherlock Holmes
Examining the peoples who have brought the work of Arthur Conan Doyle to life through pen, ink and paper was very interesting. It was a lot of fun to maneuver through pages of Google Images of Sidney Paget, Fredrick Derr Steele and others, and I honestly only scratched the surface of Sherlockian illustrators. And to top it all off, it wasn't until after I had posted the analysis did I realize that my title contained a great pun.

#1 - Holmes and the Ripper
Despite the fact that this was by no means my greatest review, there is something thrilling about the very first review which I posted on this site. Looking back now, it's great fun to see how far I have come with reviewing and interestingly this very first review on the blog set up my very first series. It was shortly thereafter that I began to review the rest of the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes series featuring Nicholas Briggs (pictured at right) as Holmes and Richard Earl as Watson. By indulging in these audio dramas, this paved the way for the Doctor Who dramas also from Big Finish.

It's been great fun for the past eight months bringing you reviews and analysis. With my first 100 posts under my belt, it feels as though the next 100 will go by quickly. Luckily, summer is just around the corner and this will allow time for me to keep up with this blog. I hope to continue to supply you with reviews, analysis and if you can find it a vein of dry humour. For all of those who have visited this site in the past, I thank you immensely. Managing this blog has been anything but elementary, but a lot of fun!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Top 5 Best Sherlock Holmes Writers Aside from ACD

It's obvious that other writers have tried their hand at writing Sherlock Holmes. It is the ultimate compliment to Arthur Conan Doyle and his imagination that a pantheon of writers have written Sherlock Holmes. Some of these author's efforts have sadly fallen rather flat. But, I wish to look at five of the best Sherlock Holmes contributors.

#5 - Paul Giovanni - Giovanni is a rather forgotten name when it comes to Sherlock Holmes. Giovanni was the writer behind one of the most famous Sherlock Holmes plays, "Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood." The play debuted on Broadway in 1978 and featured actor Paxton Whitehead as Sherlock Holmes. Giovanni's play was based on "The Sign of Four," but he streamlined the story, making it more cohesive for the stage, but threw in a few twists of his own.

What's fun about the show is how it takes a story from the Sherlock Holmes canon and turns it on its head, in the same way that "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" did with "The Final Problem." Giovanni also treats a Sherlock Holmes fan to some nice dialogue lifted from other stories. Names from numerous stories are also used in the show. For example, Captain Morstan and Major Shalto are changed to Captain St. Clair and Major Ross, names taken from Doyle's "The Man with the Twisted Lip" and "Silver Blaze" respectively.

The play gained notoriety during its Los Angeles tour when Charlton Heston took over the role of Sherlock Holmes and Jeremy Brett played Dr. Watson. Yes - that's the same Jeremy Brett who later went on to play Holmes himself. Heston returned to the role of Holmes in a 1991 t.v. adaptation of the play starring Richard Johnson, Susanah Harker, Edward Fox and Simon Callow.

#4 - David Stuart Davies - Although he may not be not a famous name in Sherlock Holmes circles, Davies has written a number of highly enjoyable pastiches over the years. Davies was behind the very enjoyable "The Tangled Skein," one of the best Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula pastiches I've ever read as well as "Shadow of the Rat," a very interesting version of "The Giant Rat of Sumatra" and the fantastic "The Veiled Detective," which was a marvelous Sherlock Holmes character study.

In addition to writing some great pastiches, Davies is also a very well-known Sherlock Holmes scholar. He wrote the book, "Starring Sherlock Holmes" a beautifully illustrated reference guide to Sherlock Holmes on film, and he contributed to a number of DVD commentaries on the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films. Davies has also written a number of other books, most specifically his own mystery series featuring one-eyed detective, Johnny Hawke.

 #3 - Anthony Horowitz - Horowitz may not be instantly associated with Sherlock Holmes. Aside from Sherlock Holmes, Horowitz is a great writer. He was a contributor to "Agatha Christie's Poirot," where he wrote some of the best episodes for the show. Horowitz also wrote the now-famous Alex Ryder series, which chronicled the adventures of a teenage spy.

However, what Horowitz did for Sherlock Holmes was marvelous. Published in 2011, Horowitz's "The House of Silk," was one of the best pastiches which I have read in a while. While the story itself may have verged on the fantastic at times, Horowitz wonderfully captured the voices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The story was also one of the darkest which I have read in a while, and it was great to see Sherlock Holmes investigating something quite new - albeit somewhat disturbing.

#2 - Nicholas Meyer - Meyer's "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" published in 1974, was one of the most influential books on the Sherlock Holmes canon. It was the first time that an author really explored Holmes' drug addiction, but also did much more. Meyer did something unexpected with Sherlock Holmes pastiche, but adding his own spin on the canon. As mentioned above, Meyer invented a new twist on "The Final Problem" which found Holmes and Watson travelling to Vienna to visit Sigmund Freud to cure the cocaine addiction.

The book was also the first time, since the canon, that Sherlock Holmes truly became a best-seller. The book was a New York Times Bestseller, and eventually became a movie two years later starring Nicol Williamson, Alan Arkin and Robert Duvall.

#1 - Mark Gatiss -  Gatiss, co-executive producer and writer for "Sherlock," is perhaps the best Sherlockian writer in the world today. Gatiss is truly the man in charge of "Sherlock," and he even acts in the show playing Mycroft Holmes. Gatiss' contributions to the shoe have also been some of the best. The Series 1 finale, "The Great Game" is some of the best television that I have ever seen, and "The Hounds of Baskerville" is a great re-telling of the story and wonderfully updates it into the 21st century.

I am truly looking forward to Gatiss' work on the third season, as he is writing the series opener "The Empty Hearse." Gatiss' contributions to Doctor Who have also been among my favourites, and he also wrote and hosted a three-part documentary series on horror films, "Mark Gatiss' A History of Horror."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Fan's Contribution to Sherlock Holmes

A Brilliant Piece of Fan Art
Since 2009, Sherlock Holmes has increased in popularity like never before. Due to the success of BBC's "Sherlock Holmes" and Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes," the character has once more became a house-hold word. Sherlock Holmes has always been famous, but since then a Sherlockian such as myself has been on cloud nine. Due to the popularity of the character increasing dramatically, a much larger fan base has grown. Today, I wish to look at that fan base, and throw in my own opinion on the topic. Before, I go any further, you really should study the above picture depicting Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Brett, Vasily Livanov and Benedict Cumberbatch.

In essence, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche is a work of fan fiction. Fan fiction that was deemed good enough to be published and sold on bookshelves that is. If one simply visits (I give you my friendly warning before doing so), one will find that 3,447 fan fiction stories have been uploaded. There is of course a vast difference between the stories presented on that website to what you'll find at your local book shop, but I wanted to point out that fan's contribution to the Sherlock Holmes mythos has been going on for decades. Nicholas Meyer's "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" published in 1974, became an international best-seller and of course spawned a film version two years later.

Just like anything in a fan's hands, a pastiche can go awry, but that is a topic I have already covered to death. However, Sherlock Holmes fans have managed to express themselves in other ways than the written word. Fan art is all over the Internet, most specifically on the website tumblr. Again, visit at your own risk. And if you are a frequent contributor or visitor to or tumblr, please accept my apologies. Some fan art is actually quite good or ironic. The above picture particularly caught my fancy, but there are some pictures devoted entirely to "Sherlock." "Sherlock" has also lead the way to a manga of "A Study in Pink" to be published - curiously without the consent of the BBC.

The most elaborate form of fan contribution is through film. I cannot point out every Sherlock Holmes fan film on YouTube, however if you ever decide to Google it, there is a very nice adaptation of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" done by a group of teenagers. One of the most successful fan films is actually a YouTube series, the YouTube comedy/drama, "No Place Like Holmes." Starring Ross K Foad as Holmes, the series finds Holmes and Watson transported through time into the present day as they continue to solve mysteries. Though obviously filmed on a minimal budget, the series is nonetheless an enjoyable one. Ross is well-versed in his Sherlock Holmes, and also hosts a number of very helpful book reviews - a number of which come from the Sherlock Holmes pastiche Mecca, MX Publishing.

The real question is - have these fan contributions done for harm than help for the detective? It seems like wherever one goes, you cannot help but run across some piece of strange fan art or outrageous piece of fan fiction. I have done my best to distance myself from some of these fan contributions, since I really take my Sherlock Holmes seriously. I do not mean to belittle any of the artists or authors who have created any homage to the character, but it's simply not my cup of tea.

Since the release of BBC's "Sherlock," I feel as though the Sherlock Holmes fan base has become greatly divided. To refer to oneself as a Sherlockian now means that you are a fan of "Sherlock." That term certainly applies to me, as I think the show is the greatest Sherlockian piece of entertainment since 1984's "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," but then what does one call themselves if they are a fan of Sherlock Holmes in general. What I have grown accustomed to is simply labeling myself a Sherlockian, but showing those concerned that my interest in the character goes far beyond the brilliant television series.

Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle's character have redefined Holmes for years. It was men adopting black arm bands in mourning after Doyle killed Holmes off in "The Final Problem," which in part lead to Doyle resurrecting his character. Since then, the Sherlock Holmes fan base has grown and changed its face many times. While a fan's contributions to Holmes' legacy may be somewhat questionable, in the long run who could do without them?

Below I have included links for both "No Place Like Holmes" web page, where one can view all episodes of the show to the present. Also included is a link to the YouTube channel which includes a very entertaining version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles," as well as a "Sherlock" fan film.