Thursday, July 9, 2009

TV Holmes movies

As I said, the "Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes" TV special only went up to 1985. Someone needs to do an updated special about films since then. Maybe they're waiting for the Robert Downey Jr. movie to come out.

One place to find more obscure Holmes TV appearances is on this list, in the Doyle section.

I actually have a few of those movies on VHS tape and have rewatched them while converting them to DVD. I particularly like the 1987 CBS movie The Return of Sherlock Holmes starring Margaret Colin and Michael Pennington. She's very spunky as the descendant of John Watson who lives in Boston and runs a detective agency of her own. She goes to England to sell a house that she inherited, only to discover instructions for reviving Holmes from "arctic sleep." He apparently had been experimenting with freezing and reviving rodents, before being forced to use it on himself. Moriarty pulled a "Culverton Smith," infecting Holmes via a sabotaged ivory box. After Jane Watson gets Holmes cured of the deadly disease, she asks him to come back to Boston to solve a case for her.

The mystery is an adaptation of SIGN, with some D. B. Cooper thrown in; Small apparently hijacked a plane and then parachuted away with the cash. The movie is quite cute and full of Sherlockian in-jokes. I loved the sprinkling of canon-ish character names like "Violet Morstan", "Tobias Gregory", Milvertronix, and more. Holmes takes the alias Holmes Sigerson and must adapt to modern life. He even winds up in Lake Havasu, near the relocated London Bridge. Jane Watson has a romance with Tobias Gregory, rather than Holmes.

Sadly, my recorded version has had some scenes edited out, and is also missing the last few minutes because I accidentally taped over the ending. I did get the solution to the mystery, but did not know for sure if Holmes and Watson were going to continue their partnership or not. They probably would.

I also have the 1990 Hands of a Murderer. Edward Woodward does his best as Holmes, even though he's not thin enough, and at one point he looks like Michael Caine did in Without a Clue. He is a good match with Hillerman's Watson, though, but the Mycroft actor is really ridiculous, having no resemblance to Sherlock at all. Anthony Andrews was too young to play Professor Moriarty, and yet he made it work somehow. Several times he stands in the same pose from the Paget drawing, and he looks eerily reptilian.

Among the minor characters, I recognized the Diogenes servant Burton from Without a Clue. He's easy to spot with his big eyebrows which don't match the color of his head of hair. Because of this, he's got an amusing and expressive face, well suited to comedy. I was glad to see the Irregulars put to use on the case, and they even got a cute line about Holmes being the "Waterloo" to the Moriarty's Napoleon of crime.

I still have no idea what "hands" the title is referring to; it does not seem to relate to the plot really. Moriarty is going to be hanged, but his gang helps him escape the noose, and then they steal some valuable coded message from Mycroft's office, which he hopes to sell to the spy Oberstein. Moriarty can't decode the message, though, so he later kidnaps Mycroft, and resorts to torture. He also threatens Holmes over a game of chess, but of course is foiled in the end. It was an okay movie, although I found the final adventurous cab ride a little unrealistic and tiresomely long.

Several times I was confused about whether we were in Mycroft's office in Whitehall or in the Diogenes Club. I've caught myself making that mistake in some of my stories too. It didn't help that they were able to speak on the stairs of the Diogenes, and that Holmes spoke too freely and loudly about Mycroft being the British government while they walked. Moreover, why would Mycroft keep his code book in the Diogenes office, and not in Whitehall where he'd need it? Why would some archaeologist (I believe they used Doyle's Lost World character name of Summerlee) send an artifact to Diogenes, and not to Mycroft's home or even to Whitehall, to be passed on to some museum?

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