I do not remember exactly when I first learned that Russia had produced some of the most acclaimed Sherlock Holmes adaptations, but since that piece of information entered the word-jumble that is my brain, I knew I had to track it down. The search wasn't exactly meticulous, mainly because I thought that the prospect of finding an obscure Russian television series from the 1970's was absurd. And then out of blue, I found one - the much-loved adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I should have jumped at the chance to view it because when I was finally ready to sit down and watch the episode, it had vanished into the uncharted chasms of the Internet.
|The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes|
and Dr. Watson (1979-1986)
Much has been written of the series' production and praise has been leveled unto it. The series, entitled The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson premiered in 1979 with Vasily Livanov starring as Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Dr. Watson. The show premiered with an episode entitled "Acquaintance" which features the rarely-filed first meeting between Holmes and Watson. What becomes apparent to any viewer watching this series, and to any Sherlockian in particular, is Livanov's slightly at-odds performance of the detective. Livanov's Holmes is a good-humoured individual, his friendship with Watson defined throughout the show's run as a close one. It is one of the finest portrayals of the two character's relationships, and one of the closest in spirit to Doyle's original conception. In an interesting, and chuckle-inducing departure from the canon, Watson is at first suspicious of his flatmate's odd behaviour and at first suspects that Holmes is a kingpin of the criminal underworld - and not one fighting for the side of the angels. Though "Acquaintance" begins as an adaptation of A Study in Scarlet, proceedings slowly morph into The Speckled Band. However, fans of Doyle's introductory novella need not fear. The show's second installment, "Bloody Inscription" faithfully adapts the book - only the third time in the great detective's screen history.
|The Hound of the Baskervilles (1981) - the|
Russian series' high-point
Following on from there is The Treasure of Agra, which managed to combine The Sign of Four with A Scandal in Bohemia. Though somewhat disjointed, the segment depicting A Scandal in Bohemia is incredibly moving and Livanov's performance is wonderfully moody. As the episode came to an end, Holmes and Watson were parting ways - the detective headed to the Sussex Downs to retire and Watson to go back into private practice with his new wife. Yet, this was not the end. The final two-part adaptation, The Twentieth Century Approaches combined a number of Doyle's short-stories and features yet another milestone in Sherlock Holmes screen history - a depiction of His Last Bow, chronologically the last Sherlock Holmes adventure.
As with any other television series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson has it ups and downs, but overall its en excellent representation of the Arthur Conan Doyle canon. Despite the fact that Vasily Livanov's Holmes is played somewhat against type, he lends an excellent performance as a humane Holmes. The friendship between Holmes and Watson is excellently characterised, defined with good humour and rapport. Though the adaptations at times deviated from Doyle's originals, and blended together multiple short stories, it is easy to see why Sherlockians have embraced this series. In 2006, Vasily Livanov was became an honourary member of the Order of the British Empire for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.
Though this piece isn't an official review, I still feel as though it warrants an official 'rating.' The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson receives a 4.5 out of 5 from me.
As I type these words I'm thinking once again that my collection is nearly complete. It is odd to think that I actually branched out into a Russian series. I was un-phased by English subtitles (which at times didn't match up with the spoken words), which without doubt proved just how devoted I am to the legacy of the world's greatest detective. Though I cannot say whether I will indulge in any future foreign Sherlockian offerings, I can surely say that I will enjoy this collection in the future.