Thursday, 24 April 2014

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today: Granada's Sherlock Holmes

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the first airing of the Granada series 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' (as seen in this cutting from TV Times dated 24th April 1984). For people of a certain age (myself included) the Granada series is one that just cannot be bettered.
The money spent on the production has ensured that it has aged well where other adaptations (Tom Baker's 'Hound of the Baskervilles' for one) can seem a bit stilted nowadays. The attention to detail and its faithfulness to the original stories (take note Moffat) have earned it the high standing that it so richly deserves.
It is however the casting that fascinates me the most. I do not think I have ever seen a programme where an ensemble has fitted together so perfectly. For me Jeremy Brett is the epitome of Sherlock Holmes, with his interpretation of the great detective masterful. As much as I try to fight it, whenever I write Sherlock Holmes stories it is always Jeremy Brett that I envision in my mind's eye.

Both David Burke and Edward Hardwicke have a special place in my heart and even after all these years I am torn as to which one I prefer. Whilst their Watson's are different they both gave the part a realness that was sadly lacking in previous adaptations. Modern Watson's owe a great debt to these two. Without them, the rounded character that they now enjoy could be vastly different.

Next we come to my absolute favourite, Colin Jeavons as Inspector Lestrade. People can argue (and they frequently do) about their favourite Holmes, but there can be little doubt that Jeavons' take on Lestrade is faultless. He played the part perfectly, giving the Inspector a real character to him, one that was seldom seen outside of the original stories.

Mycroft is a difficult one. At first glance Charles Gray appears to be too old to be playing Holmes' elder brother, but in truth he was only five years older than Jeremy Brett. A veteran of the silver screen (from Blofeld in 'Diamonds are Forever' to my favourite Hammer Horror film 'The Devil Rides Out'), Gray leant his wealth of experience to the role, and embodied the character for a whole generation.

Sadly, out of all these great actors only David Burke and Colin Jeavons are still with us. Thankfully we can pop a disc into our DVD player (or Blu-ray) whenever the whim takes us and enjoy them at their very best. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Discovering The Silent Greats: Eille Norwood

I seem to be in the mood for watching silent cinema of late. I started off earlier this week with the excellent 1920 film 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'. This got me thinking that I really should take the time to delve into the Sherlock Holmes films from this era. I'm a big fan of silent cinema, but it's usually the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd & Buster Keaton that I am often drawn to. Fortunately I already had my introduction to the genre waiting on the shelf in the form of 'Sherlock Holmes: The Archive Collection', a DVD that I had ordered a couple of months ago and hadn't got round to watching yet. Two nights ago I saw my first Eille Norwood film and was instantly blown away by it.

Norwood appeared in 47 adaptations of Conan Doyle's stories between 1921 and 1923 (45 short films and 2 feature films), a feat unmatched by subsequent movie actors playing Holmes. As with other early Holmes films, he is hampered by a woefully miscast Watson (in this case, Hubert Willis), but even with this disadvantage his brilliant performance shone through. With the majority of these films still in existence it is surprising that they haven't been released commercially (only 'The Man with the Twisted Lip', 'The Dying Detective' and 'The Devil's Foot' have managed to make their way on to DVD so far). Hopefully the recent upsurge in popularity for the great detective will convince someone that the time is right to release them.

Sherlock Holmes meets his maker (Norwood and Doyle during the early 1920s).