Monday, September 30, 2013

Review - "Ghosts of Christmas Past"

The wait for Big Finish's next Sherlock Holmes series, "The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes" is a lengthy one. So imagine my surprise when I came across another Big Finish audio, starring Nicholas Briggs as Holmes! Though not officially part of the Sherlock Holmes series issued by Big Finish, "The Confessions of Dorian Gray: Ghosts of Christmas Past" is of particular interest to any Sherlockian and is the subject of today's review.

It is the Christmas of 1912. Dorian Gray (Alexander Vlahos) is returning to London after an extended stay in Europe. His trip turns sour however when his portrait, a painting of great importance to Dorian is stolen from his hotel. Those who have stolen the portrait have only one request for Dorian - he must kill Sherlock Holmes. Meanwhile, Holmes (Nicholas Briggs) had returned to London for a brief visit from his home on the Sussex Downs to spend Christmas with Mycroft. Taking up lodgings temporarily at Baker Street once more, Holmes spies a man loitering outside, a man who resembles Professor James Moriarty. How could the Napoleon of Crime be alive 20 years after his death at the Reichenbach Falls? Dorian Gray and Sherlock Holmes will have to join forces to find out.

Dorian Gray, an impressionable young man who sells his soul in order to remain forever young while his portrait ages, was the product of Oscar Wilde's imagination. Wilde's only published novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" was published in Lippincot's Magazine in the July of 1890. Today considered a masterpiece of horror and symbolism, the character of Dorian Gray has taken on new life in the form of Big Finish's audio series, "The Confessions of Dorian Gray," all of which starring Alexander Vlahos. I have not listened to any of the other installments in the series, so I cannot compare them to "Ghosts of Christmas Past," yet if they are anything like this audio, then they are very enjoyable.

According to David Stuart Davies' excellent book, "Starring Sherlock Holmes," screenwriter Alan Cubbitt was considering writing a Sherlock Holmes-vs.-Dorian Gray story following the 2002 version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Cubbitt scrapped the idea, claiming that the supernatural events present in Wilde's novel made it hard to fit into the Conan Doyle canon. This problem did not seem to daunt Tony Lee, writer of "Ghosts of Christmas Past." Supernatural had been present in Big Finish's other Sherlock Holmes audios, most notably the Sherlock Holmes-vs.-Dracula story, "The Tangled Skein," so it perhaps doesn't seem too far out of place here. As per Doyle, Holmes is presented throughout as skeptic, and his discounting of the otherworldly doesn't change even when faced with overwhelming evidence.

Vlahos (left) as Dorian and Nicholas Briggs
(right) as Holmes
Nicholas Briggs is great as Holmes, though the detective is more of a secondary character this time around. The real star is Alexander Vlahos as Dorian Gray, and he does a fine job. I am somewhat surprised that Dorian was presented in something of a sympathetic light here, and I'd say my biggest quibble is that Vlahos simply did not convey the "evil" side of Dorian Gray. Particular credit is due to Rupert Young as Moriarty, who is thoroughly menacingly as the Napoleon of Crime. I only wish that Young could have been provided more material. Moriarty is such a ripe character and the performance is so good, it's a shame that there isn't more for him to do. It seems as though Holmes' arch-enemy was thrown into the mix to pad out the story's running-time.

Nevertheless, "Ghosts of Christmas Past" was an excellent Big Finish audio recording. It is a great addition to Nicholas Briggs' Sherlock Holmes repertoire, and boosts fine acting, writing and plotting. The story is wrought with suspense and I will not lie - it had me on the edge of my seat as the audio reached its climax. I do not hesitate giving "The Confessions of Dorian Gray: Ghosts of Christmas Past" 4 out of 5 stars. As I mentioned above, this audio marked my first exposure to Big Finish's Dorian Gray series, and I hope that it is not my last.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Doctor Who: A Journey in Time and Space

Do you know like we were sayin'? About the Earth revolving? It's like when your a kid. The first time they tell you that the world's turning and you just can't quite believe it 'cause everything looks like it's standin' still. I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath your feet is spinning at a 1,000 miles an hour and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour and I can feel it. We're fallin' through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go...That's who I am. - The Ninth Doctor "Rose"

I love Doctor Who. Aside from anything Sherlock Holmes-related on television or film, it's my favourite t.v. show. Surprisingly, for the longest time I never watched it - partially because the show has been on for 50 years. To the novice, one is liable to be lost in the seemingly endless number of stories and episodes and Doctors. In the past few years, the show has gained more notoriety and popularity, especially in America and New Zealand. Today, I take on the great task of taking you on a journey - a journey with time and space.

Where does one begin? I suppose the best place to start is on 23 November, 1963. A constable meanders down a fog-shrouded street, on a road skirting Foreman's Junkyard on Totter's Lane. This image is the first one to greet viewers of a seemingly run-of-the-mill science fiction show. I am sure that anyone gathered around their television sets on the 23rd of November had no idea that the show they were watching would eventually turn into a phenomena. My association with the show began some two years ago, when after having heard plenty of great things about the program, decided it was about time to give it a try. But where to begin? I settled on "The Talons of Weng-Chiang," a six-part serialized story which debuted in 1977 and starred Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor (the review of which can be read here). Despite the fact that I loved the story, it took me some time before I gave the revived series which began in 2005 a chance.

26 March, 2005. The return of Doctor Who to television is almost exclusively due to one man - Russell T. Davies. Doctor Who had gone off the air in 1989 - returning only once for a 1996 American-made t.v. movie. Davies gave the show a jolt of life, bringing it to a new audience. Cast as the Ninth incarnation of the Doctor, an alien called a Time Lord, was Christopher Eccleston. Eccleston's darker was much darker than his previous incarnations, as he is the last member of his race - all of them having died in the great Time War, the details of which are still surrounded in mystery. The episodes from this first series are some of the show's best - being penned by writers such as Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Robert Shearman.

(From Left to Right) Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant
and Matt Smith - the three most recent Doctors
At the end of the series, Eccleston left the show - regenerating (a Time Lord trick in which they can change every cell in their body) into David Tennant who played the Tenth Doctor. Tennant has since then become a fan favourite, as he played the Doctor for four seasons worth of episodes. In his time, the Tenth Doctor encountered Daleks, Cybermen, Agatha Christie, William Shakespeare, rhinos on the moon...and the Devil himself! These action-packed, exhilarating adventures came to an end when the Doctor regenerated into Matt Smith, who as it currently stands, is my favourite Doctor. The show, now under the helm of Steven Moffat, was loaded with story-arcs and "timey wimey" goodness. Now the Doctor cross paths with vampires, living statues, Vincent Van Gough, Winston Churchill and many more. Since it was announced that Tennant would join Smith for the upcoming 50th anniversary, and Peter Capaldi would replace Smith come Christmas, the world has been anxiously waiting for Doctor Who.

This synopsis of the show's lengthy history hardly scratches the surface. Doctor Who is a complex, truly engaging show, and if you have not checked it out at some point, I really suggest that you do so. But where do you begin? If you value my opinion, I say the beginning of the revived series which began in 2005. It's an excellent jumping-on point for the show and it showcases what makes Doctor Who so great - each episode is very different. One minute you're witnessing the end of the Earth and the next you're in Victorian England. Doctor Who is an unpredictable show, constantly changing and forever keeping you on the edge of your seat. If doesn't sound like the perfect pitch, I don't know what does.

50th Anniversary poster
23 November 2013 - the latest chapter in Doctor Who's history is being written even as I type these words. Right now, the show has become more popular than ever. Only recently was the first poster for the show's 50th anniversary released, and frankly I'm quite excited. If the word through the BBC grapevine is to be believed, then the anniversary special will change the show's history forever. What exactly that means is a matter of debate and speculation is rampant across the Internet. Nevertheless, the ultimate Doctor Who celebration has commenced.

"Alright then, that's what I'll do. I'll tell you a story...You feed on them. On the memory of love and loss and birth and death and joy and sorrow. So, come on then. Take my memories. But I hope you've got a big appetite, because I've lived a long life, and I've seen a few things...I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time, no space - just me. I've walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by a madman. I've watched universes freeze and creations burn. I have seen things you wouldn't believe. I have lost things you'll never understand. And I know things. Secrets that must never be told, knowledge that must never be spoken, knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze! So, come on then! Take it! Take it all, baby! Have it! You have it all!" - The Eleventh Doctor "The Rings of Akhaten"

Who knows how long Doctor Who will remain a part of our culture. Whether Doctor Who will still be around for a 100th anniversary is not for me to say, but I have a feeling that the story of the time travelling alien - the mad man in a box, the saviour of the universe - has only just begun.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review - "Elementary"

I know a while back I posted about how I was not fond of CBS' "Elementary." However, the first series was recently released on DVD and I had to give this show another try. I'm in something of a Sherlock Holmes dry-spell now, anxiously awaiting the third series of "Sherlock," so I thought that some Sherlock Holmes now is better than none.

Right out of the gate I'll say this: if "Elementary" was simply another run-of-the-mill crime drama, I'm sure it would be one of the best on television. But, I must judge the show more critically since its main character is the world's greatest detective. While the show is surely no Sherlockian masterpiece, it's not as bad as people may believe. Much of what is good is due to Johnny Lee Miller's performance as Sherlock Holmes. Miller's Holmes is far more rough-around-the-edges, a characterization of this type is not often committed to film. It's rather nice that despite radically changing setting, locale and characters, Holmes remains the intellectual master of Doyle's stories. Johnny Lee Miller manages to play Holmes as a cold, calculating genius throughout much of the series' run, and a lot of the humane side to his character is kept under wraps. I for one love that Sherlock Holmes is on the colder side, since it is close in spirit to Doyle's original.

For fans of Doyle, there are some nice touches referencing the original works. The fact that these references to the canon are few in number makes them very welcome. To emphasize Holmes' unusual, Bohemian nature, Sherlock Holmes is transformed into a tattoo-bearing, recovering drug addict. The references to Doyle's stories come in various forms: Holmes recounts the adventure of "The Crooked Man" at a sobriety meeting and later makes mention of "The Blue Carbuncle." A friend of Holmes' is named Musgrave and one episode in particular plays out as a modern-day update of "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton."

What troubled fans most when the series was announced was that Watson was going to be played by a woman. Now, to be fair, the idea of gender-swapping Holmes' friend and associate isn't entirely a new one, but I can see where the hardened Doyle fan would be apprehensive. Lucy Lui was hardly my ideal version of Watson as the series opened, and in fact I thought she was pretty one-dimensional and bland. I'm glad to say that Liu's Watson did develop over time, and she became a more well-rounded individual, especially when she decides to stay on solving crimes with Holmes even though she has no need to be his sober companion any longer. The writers of the show managed to develop a close friendship between the two characters and it felt very real.

Boy - Sherlock Holmes wears some
cool coats nowadays
Where I think "Elementary" was at its weakest though was in some of the plotting. The show was at its best when it was simply presenting stand-alone, hour-long mysteries. I feel like whenever a story-arc reared its head, I began to loose some interest. The presentation of said story-arc was also pretty clumsy. Half way through the series, the word "Moriarty" is uttered for the last time, yet seemingly forgotten until the two-part finale. I do not want to spoil the finale for you, but let it be known that I personally think the writers got a little out of hand with trying to be clever and surprising. I will try to not let a few episodes spoil the whole bunch, but I still hope that the upcoming series has a stronger finale.

As I mentioned above, "Elementary" might be the best crime drama on television if it were not for the inclusion of Sherlock Holmes. The plots were very original and the acting was great in places. However, when a show like this is released so close on the heels of the super successful "Sherlock," comparisons are inevitably going to be drawn. Not to say that they shouldn't be. I have carefully avoided not comparing "Elementary" to "Sherlock" as I feel they should be considered two separate entities. Sure - if you want me to compare the two, "Sherlock" wins hands down. It's obviously the brainchild of very skilled writers who know their Sherlock Holmes canon like the back of their hand. Yet, I do not want to give the impression that "Elementary" is a bad show, because it's not. It's actually very well done and if you're a Sherlock Holmes fan like me, you'll find some very welcome surprises in store. I award "Elementary" 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Notes: To those anticipating the show's return, "Elementary" kicks off its second series on 27 September, 2013. From the promotional pictures and video I've seen, it seems like the show has some exciting episodes to come - notably a trip to London where it appears as if we'll be meeting Mycroft and Lestrade! So mark your calenders...oh, and one last thing - I neglected to mention the show's awesome theme and opening titles. Click here to check them out.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review - "The Crucifer of Blood" (1991)

Charlton Heston is certainly a memorable actor. During the 1950's, he more or less made a living off of starring in a movies of epic proportions such as "Ben-Hur" (for which he won an Oscar) and "The Ten Commandments." The list of memorable films in which he starred is certainly not limited - Heston was the lead in "Touch of Evil," Planet of the Apes" and "Soylent Green." Heston was also a political activist who campaigned for civil rights in the '60's. But the question is this - does a good actor necessarily make a good Sherlock Holmes?

The same actor who played Moses would don the deerstalker and Inverness cape for the Los Angeles tour of Paul Giovanni's play, "Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood." The tour, which ended in 1981, would not be Heston's last association with the character though. Ten years later, he reprised the part on television in a made-for-television adaptation opposite Richard Johnson, Susannah Harker and Simon Callow. The film is a direct scene-for-scene adaptation of Giovanni's play which opens during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Major Alistair Ross (Edward Fox) and Major Neville St. Clair (John Castle) become embroiled in the murder of a prince's consort and the theft of his treasure. Stealing the riches from their compatriot, Jonathon Small (Clive Wood), Small vows his revenge - putting a curse on the diamonds and rubies which the two men so coveted.

Thirty years later, Ross has become a cynical invalid and St. Clair has been driven to opium. St. Clair's daughter, Irene (Susannah Harker) goes to Sherlock Holmes (Heston) and Dr. Watson (Richard Johnson) for help when her father receives a letter in a post - a strange cross-shaped mark upon it - etched in blood. Travelling to Ross' country house for answers, Holmes and Watson are just in time for his murder. Is the vengeful Small up to no good - or are more sinister goings-on transpiring before the great detective's eyes?

If you ask me, Giovanni's play is by far the best Sherlock Holmes stage play I have come across. The story is obviously inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Sign of Four," but is changes most of the characters names, motivations and relationships. Changing the details of the story manages to streamline the novel, making it easily adaptable to the stage. The only problem the film encounters is it cannot escape its stage origins. Unlike others play-into-movie films ("12 Angry Men," "Sleuth" and others), the action is not entirely confined to the sets. Therefore, events important to the plot transpire off-screen, making for some very clunky entrances and exits from the actors. What's more, the boat chase on the River Thames, the highlight of the stage play, is dealt with as though it were an afterthought.

Charlton Heston as Sherlock Holmes
Somewhat surprisingly, Charlton Heston makes for a pretty good Sherlock Holmes. He is hardly the epitome of the character on screen, but he gives a reasonable stab at the part. The only problem with his performance is that he was too old to play Holmes. Heston was 68 at the time of filming, which wouldn't be too bad, but Holmes and Watson should have been portrayed as young men throughout the story. There are times when Heston's Holmes seems less like the world's greatest detective and more like the world's greatest grouch. Richard Johnson, who plays Watson, also takes a reasonable stab at playing the part, but he is too old for the part too, especially if Watson is supposed to fall in love with Irene St. Clair. Due to the fact that Richard Johnson is forty-odd years Susannah Harker's senior, any romantic scenes between the two are quite cringe-worthy.

That's not to say that "The Crucifer of Blood" is all bad. Simon Callow is on hand to play a wildly over-the-top Inspector Lestrade, who though gratingly dim-witted, is quite entertaining. The show-stopping murder scene is quite effective, played out in the darkness with moonlight shining in through a set of French-doors. Holmes' reconstruction of the crime, set entirely in the same room, lit only by candlelight is particularly moody and the whole film is lifted by a brilliant, haunting score. This elevates "The Crucifer of Blood" to be a very enjoyable, though at times flawed, Sherlockian film. I give it 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why "The Sign of Four" is Perfect

In my humble opinion, "The Sign of Four" is a masterpiece. Of all of Doyle's novels, this one if perhaps the most original. The fact that it manages to cross a number of genre lines is excellent, making it perhaps the most entertaining of the four original Sherlock Holmes novels. But, let's take a closer look.

"The Sign of Four" was originally published in 1889, two years after the first publication of the Sherlock Holmes debut novel, "A Study in Scarlet." When the two stories are compared, they couldn't be more different. "A Study in Scarlet" is a conventional mystery with a very unconventional back-story. "The Sign of Four" begins as a mystery, becomes a Gothic thriller and finishes off being a wildly entertaining adventure as the story nears its finale. The fact that the story crosses these genre lines is what makes this novel so interesting. I love the uniqueness of the whole thing. It is by far the most unconventional (in a good way) story in the entire Sherlock Holmes canon.

Aside from the unique aspects to the novel's plot, "The Sign of Four" is also one of the most historically important Sherlock Holmes stories. For the first time in print, Sherlock Holmes is portrayed taking drugs. The opening scenes of the novel go quite in depth on the detective's drug use - a topic which is not covered much more in other Doyle stories. Yet this side to Holmes' character has been extrapolated by many other writers since then. The opening paragraph of "The Sign of Four" runs thus:

SHERLOCK HOLMES took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction.

To be perfectly honest, Holmes' drug use has become too associated with the character recently. As a rule, Holmes would only partake in the artificial stimulants when he was filled with ennui - yet this fact seems to have been lost since then. Of late, Sherlock Holmes and drugs seem to be linked much like the deerstalker hat. However, I do find the character's use of cocaine to be interesting characteristic as it surely sets Holmes apart from other detectives in print at the time. It shows that Holmes could succumb to the power of drugs, making him a quite flawed individual and goes some way to humanise him without doing so too much. (If any of you weren't sure, the above paragraph was not advocating drugs in any way, shape or form)

The other reason that "The Sign of Four" is of canonical importance is the fact that it introduces Mary Morstan. To the uninformed reader, Miss Mary Morstan, who starts as Holmes' client, winds up being Watson's wife by the closing pages. In the grand scheme of things, Mary Morstan is very important to the canon as she is Dr. Watson's only named wife. Again, I feel I must explain myself. It has been a matter of debate among Sherlockian scholars as to how many times Dr. Watson was actually married. The general consensus was twice, though the name of the second Mrs. Watson was never given. The exact number of the good doctor's spouses will never be known (Arthur Conan Doyle wasn't a stickler about continuity). Lately, Mary Morstan has become something of a key player in Sherlock Holmes-related media - she was featured prominently in both Warner Bros.' films directed by Guy Ritchie and she will be introduced in the upcoming third series of "Sherlock."

Poster for 1983's "The Sign of Four" with
Ian Richardson as Sherlock Holmes
As I mentioned above, "The Sign of Four" is by far the most outrageous of all the Sherlock Holmes stories (which is saying a lot), but the outrageous nature makes it all the more enjoyable. Seeing Holmes and Watson trail the villains through London with the aide of Toby, a bloodhound, is a very fun tableau and the climactic boat chase on the River Thames, is one the best action set pieces of the canon. So the question arises - why hasn't this novel been adapted to the screen as often as other Sherlock Holmes stories? Let's review some statistics: In 99 years, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" has been adapted to the screen 27 times. In that same space of time, "The Sign of Four" has only been adapted eleven times. Is the outrageous nature of the novel simply too much for filmmakers to stomach? I don't know if I'd say that.

One of my favourite movie versions of "The Sign of Four" is the 1983 t.v. film starring Ian Richardson as Sherlock Holmes and David Healy as Dr. Watson. While it is not the most faithful adaptation of Doyle's novel, it's one of the most enjoyable as it goes all-out in an attempt to make the story a blood-and-thunder Gothic thriller, much like the original. Thus, there is an additional murder, a chase through a hall of mirrors and a fight on a merry-go-round a la Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" (1951).

Perhaps the most endearing example of "The Sign of Four's" longevity is how it has inspired the works of other Sherlockian writers. Paul Giovanni, who I ranked among the top five best Sherlock Holmes writers aside from ACD, (click here to read that analysis), authored the play "The Crucifer of Blood" which is a loose adaptation of Doyle's novel. The play debuted in the late '70's starring Paxton Whitehead as Holmes and Glenn Close as Mary Morstan. The show gained much fame when it opened in Los Angeles when Charlton Heston took on the role of the detective and Jeremy Brett played Dr. Watson. Heston would reprise the role of the Holmes in a 1991 made-for-t.v. version of the play which I will be reviewing on this blog fairly soon.

So, what do you think of "The Sign of Four?" It is the most unconventional, but by far the most entertaining original Sherlock Holmes novel. It is for that reason I have cited it as A Portrait of Perfection, and an excellent representative of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes canon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Review - "The Masks of Death"

Sherlock Holmes in his golden years seems to have inspired many a writer and filmmaker. Arthur Conan Doyle himself took a keen interest in his creation's later years in such stories such as "The Lion's Mane" and "His Last Bow: An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes." Author, Laurie R. King's book, "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" is set while Holmes is in retirement and spawned a lengthy series. On film, Christopher Lee starred alongside Patrick Macnee in two made-for-television films, "The Golden Years of Sherlock Holmes" and then before that there was "The Masks of Death" - Peter Cushing's last turn as the world's greatest detective and the subject of today's review.

Europe is on the brink of war. Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) has retired from detective work, but while on a visit to London from the Sussex Downs, Holmes is asked by Inspector McDonald (of "The Valley of Fear" fame) to investigate the mysterious deaths of three men in Whitechapel - each one bearing no signs of violence upon their bodies. What's more, each man has a look of horror upon their face. No sooner have Holmes and Watson (John Mills) embarked on the case are they asked by the Home Secretary (Ray Milland) and a German Diplomat (Anton Differing) to look into the disappearance of a German noble from a country estate. Upon arrival in the country, Holmes and Watson discover that Irene Adler (Anne Baxter) - the woman is among the honoured guests.

What is most notable about "The Masks of Death" is that it was Peter Cushing's last turn in the role of detective. Filmed in 1984, Cushing was 71 at the time of filming, but seems considerably older. Cushing was lured out temporary retirement to star in the movie, and though he gives an adequate performance, it is certainly not his best. In his old age, Cushing's Holmes has become rather grumpy and grouchy with a short temper. While the actor's prickly performance of the detective worked well in 1959's "The Hound of the Baskervilles," this aged Holmes simply doesn't strike a chord with this reviewer. John Mills makes for a fine Dr. Watson, who in the film's prologue, requests the aide of a secretary to write down the adventure due to arthritis in his hands.

The above picture of Cushing from the film comes from
the UK Peter Cushing Appreciation Society's website
One of the film's most interesting aspects is how it handles the relationship between Holmes and Irene Adler, who are clasping eyes on each other for the first time in many years. Quite rightly so, Holmes seems distrustful of the American opera star, vowing "I am never bested twice." The chemistry between Anne Baxter and Peter Cushing is good, and though Baxter is billed in the film as "Special Guest Star" her role is far more substantial than Ray Milland's, who shares a similar billing title. Milland was in ill health at the time of filming and he died at the age of 79 two years later. Peter Cushing was also reunited with some veterans of Hammer Studios while filming most notably Anton Differing and the film's director, Roy Ward Baker.

While "The Masks of Death" must be commended for some fine original concepts, it's presentation is pretty cockeyed. No sooner have Holmes and Watson investigated the mysterious deaths of three men are they called away on another case entirely. If you're an armchair detective in training then you'll probably be able to guess that the two cases, though seemingly unconnected are. I don't want to give the impression that this is a terrible made-for-television film, but it's certainly not the best. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Interestingly, following the release of "The Masks of Death," a second Sherlock Holmes film reuniting Peter Cushing and John Mills was in the works. Entitled, "The Abbott's Cry," the mystery would feature a mysterious curse and a la "The Hound of the Baskervilles," Holmes would send Watson out into the country to investigate. Cushing turned down the project, and Ian Richardson, who'd just starred as Holmes in two television films, was approached, but nothing came to fruition. Rumour has it, the script is still lying around waiting to be made...

Notes: "The Masks of Death" is an incredibly obscure piece of television. There has never been an official DVD release, and VHS copies are few and far between. Luckily, the movie does get uploaded onto YouTube every once and a while, so if you're anxious to see this made-for-television movie, the Internet is your best bet.