Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sherlock Holmes 101

In my studies of Sherlock Holmes I've become acquainted with many film and television adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work. It is therefore my duty, dear reader, to recommend to you the following essential Sherlocks: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Brett, and (of course) Robert Downey Jr..

Each will be given their own blog post in order to spread the love and not tax your patience.

Let's start with Jeremy Brett.

This glorious beast portrayed Sherlock Holmes for 10 years in multiple British television shows and films starting in 1984 until 1994, just a year before his premature death.

He remains a fan favorite because his outstanding portrayal of Holmes is very true to the books. It's known that he would work closely with the show's writers in order to be sure the scripts were as accurate as possible, driven simply by his love for the character.

And, as you can see, Brett fit Holme's physical description to a T.

Holmes is often described as tall and thin with lanky limbs and sharp angular facial features. His hair is dark and his eyes are sharp and piercing. His fingers in particular are long and nimble, perfect for handling the most temperamental evidence or playing the violin.

Brett's Holmes is known for being explosive because he would often burst into laughter or shout in moments of excitement. It's for this reason that the show captures the humor originally penned by Conan Doyle so perfectly. Brett's comic relief was always perfectly timed and never irreverent.

And when Brett would don one of his many disguises, unlike Downey Jr's Holmes, it wasn't meant to be comic relief. Instead, it was highly impressive. Not only was the makeup convincing, but Brett disguised his voice and mannerisms so well that I had trouble recognizing him on more than one occasion.

Also among the many delightful aspects of Brett's Holmes was his relationship with the Baker Street irregulars (pick pockets). I think this picture says it all.

The episodes and films themselves are enjoyable and well-executed. In fact, they're so close to the original material that it's like watching what you just read, only with a few added details to keep things interesting.

The show had two different Watsons, both of which did the role justice. But I've always preferred David Burke's (pictured above) over Edward Hardwicke's simply because he was the proper age and he met the character's description just as well as Brett met his. It's for this reason I have a hard time envisioning anyone else when I read the books.

And speaking of Watsons, a 20-year-old Jude Law once made an appearance in the 5th season as a pivotal character.

(As most of us know, he would later mature into a Watson alongside Downey Jr's Holmes in the Guy Ritchie film adaptations.)

The relationship between Holmes and Watson was, as you may have guessed, very accurate in the Brett version. It was the first time someone had truly nailed it, because up until then poor Watson had been stereotyped as an elderly chubby bumbling blindly-loyal sidekick.

The stories are narrated by Waton himself, so we only get a few glimpses of his physical appearance. But from what I've gathered, he is supposed to be a well built middle-aged man of average stature with a thick strong neck and a small mustache. His athleticism is often referred to as well, despite his war-earned limp. Watson was, as Downey Jr's Holmes puts it, "Born to be a man of action."

But, more importantly, it's vital to communicate Watson's personality and intelligence. Both Burke and Hardwicke's Watson did just that, and it meshed perfectly with Brett's Holmes. I found a little cartoon that conveniently sums up their relationship versus the stereotyped version:

And then, of course, there's the Downey Jr version:

But more about that later.

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