Tuesday, July 29, 2008

You What, Son?

My introduction to the great Sherlock Holmes was probably during school holidays and came courtesy of the redoubtable Basil Rathbone in the fourteen black and white movies, made primarily during the Second World War years, that paired him with Nigel Bruce, bumbling along as Doctor John Watson. It wasn’t until years later, when I eventually sat down to read Conan Doyle’s stories that I realised how far the film series had strayed from the source material.

The final dozen films, produced by Universal Studios, radically departed from the stories that first appeared in Strand magazine, in some cases taking just the premise from a Conan Doyle adventure, or combining elements from a number of different tales. In the case of 1945’s The House of Fear, screenwriter Roy Chanslor even roped in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None to mix with The Five Orange Pips.

Overall it didn’t matter. The changes did nothing to diminish what is probably still considered the definitive Holmes and Watson screen partnership. Those wonderful films began the Baker Street detective new life far beyond the Conan Doyle stories. So in the years that followed Holmes sought advice from Sigmund Freud in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, investigated missing midgets and the Loch Ness monster in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and appeared as the creation of the crime-solving John Watson in the marvellously silly Without a Clue.

There was also David Pirie’s utterly inspired Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, featuring the student Conan Doyle and his mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell, which should have lived far beyond the short-lived BBC/WGBH series. But in the wake of Jeremy Brett successfully stamping his mark on the character from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s, re-reading some of the adventures reminded me of what an admirable job Granada Television did adapting stories not exactly known for their narrative drive.

Which makes it odd that Guy Ritchie, one of England’s premiere idiots behind the camera, has stated that his planned Sherlock Holmes movie will be as authentic as can be to Conan Doyle’s books, where Holmes was “more of an action figure originally.” An action figure? Really? Maybe that’s in a story I missed. Or maybe the future ex-Mr Madge is carrying on showing what a total cock he is.

At least it means that he won’t be messing with The Dirty Dozen for which he had his name down for a planned remake. While Robert Downey Jr. might make an interesting Holmes, it’s more than likely to be Poppycock, indeed!


At 6:14 am, Blogger qrter said...

I grew up with the Jeremy Brett Holmes, myself. I still find myself drifting off now and then, doing that effeminate lip-pursing thing he used to do.

Anyway, what the hell is Ritchie on about? Why is he still getting his shit projects financed? And what about his wife, why does she still spend the best part of her day gyrating and leering towards/at a camera? Who does she think she's kidding?

Why are all these things still happening, uncontrollably!!

At 10:23 pm, Blogger Lubbert Das said...

I had the misfortune of watching Richie's Revolver some months back(It wasn't released in North America until much after the fact-mainly as it totally bombed in the box office in Europe-as I'm sure you well know)

I watched it more out of curiosity than anything else as I thought it couldn't be as bad as everyone was making out. I ended up scrolling through it to the end as it really was just too painful to watch in its entirety. Complete pretentious wank.

The thought of him taking the reins on Holmes is just too frightening to contemplate.

“more of an action figure originally”

What can you say to that!?

I`m another Wire devotee and just finished the 5th season. You'll love it-

Cheers-great blog by the way.

At 1:55 am, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

I loved those old Sherlock Holmes movies, even the one where our heroes chased after Nazi spies in Washington (didn't it end with Basil Rathbone quoting Churchill to Nigel Bruce as they rode round the US capital in a horse-drawn carriage?).

And I really loved the books. It's been a while, but I've read every one of them.

Conan Doyle created timeless characters. He constructed some beautiful intellectual puzzles. And his grand style of writing evoked a wonderful sense of place and time.

And of course Guy Richie probably hasn't read a word of it.

Those poor deluded souls who kid theselves that success in the film business is all about talent might want to address qrter's question:

Why is he still getting his shit projects financed?

(And congrats to the BBC on its latest huge fine for whatever sleazy conduct it's been up to.

The inability to make a watchable programme is one thing, but is it unreasonable to expect basic ethical standards from a public service broadcaster?)

At 5:34 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

qrter, Jeremy Brett was a damned fine Holmes. The series allowed him the time to find such nuances in the character.

As for Ritchie and his missus, they leave me scratching my head in absolute befuddlement. To begin with, I’m sure someone with a slide rule and enough graph paper could work out what it is about the dreadful Madonna.

Maybe she’s the perfect example of these idiots who covet fame at any price. All the stupid, and rather pathetic stunts must have been done for a reason. The fact that the nasty, gnarly old piece of gristle is still pushing herself at the public really isn’t on. I suppose still being the centre of attention is the fix she still needs. What a sad, sorry, stringy old cunt.

As for Mr “Geeeeezer!”.... I could understand it if he was paid to keep away from the camera. I thought Lock, Stock was alarmingly bad. If I remember rightly (and I’ve done my best to forget everything about the damned film) it was like someone with AD/HD had gone nuts on the Avid, pressing every frigging button.

I think the idiot has probably done as much harm to modern cinema as America’s top-of-the-heap Film Twat: Quentin Tarantino. Think of all the money and effort wasted on the useless gangter/geezer movies since these two rhubarbs looked through the viewfinder for the first time.

Oh Lubbert, jeez, you went to see Revolver?! Well, I suppose someone had to, to spare the rest of us. I found myself watching the desert island one, Swept Away when it was on TV here some years back. God, that was desperate! It made the old Martini/Cinzano cinema ads from the 70s, with their Med-set drinking that swill, look like high art. Curiosity can be a bloody dangerous thing.

And as for Madge the actress.... Jesus-fucking-Christ! I know a lot of folk who were pleased the James Bond films got a reboot after Die Another Day because they thought it went too far with the invisible car. That film’s real problem was the shit Madonna theme tune and the shit Madonna acting. They were worse that the hopeless CGI ice-surfing sequence.

I think it best that we stick to The Wire

J&C, ah Sherlock Holmes in Washington. That was the last of a trio set specifically in the Second World War, so a rousing patriotic speech was called for once the mystery was wrapped up. Hurrah!!

Holmes and Watson really are superb characters. Hopefully they’ll survive the idiot-Richie experience.

And, oh, the BBC having to cough up £400,000 for being lying, dishonest bastards. Most of that should have been down to them continuing to perpetrate the myth that Jo Whiley is a talented and knowledgeable presenter.

Blimey, don’t bring ethics up. We pull on that strand and the whole lot will unravel. It’s the foundation of bullshit that keeps these idiots in a job.

At 8:43 pm, Blogger qrter said...

You reminded me of a bit Nathan Rabin wrote about Madonna, which I think captures exactly what I hate about her. It's part of his review of Swept Away, which he did in a series called My Year of Flops for the A.V. Club website..

"Icons like Tom Cruise and Madonna are so calculated and scripted in their every move that, like Bale in Psycho, they often come off like career-minded androids pretending to be human. I suspect that when the Madonna android has fulfilled her use for the evening, her handlers shut her down, then restart her the next morning for Pilates class or a business meeting. Even when the Madonna android does something seemingly spontaneous or rebellious, like trying to shock David Letterman by talking about pot and dropping the F-bomb indiscriminately, it feels like the programmers behind her simply downloaded a provocation upgrade into her mainframe and waited for revenue-generating controversy to ensue.

Then there’s Madonna’s infamous lip-lock with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the MTV Movie Awards a few years back. It now is abundantly apparent that Madonna wasn’t kissing her much younger rivals so much as she was draining them of their life essence and career mojo. Has anything good happened to Spears since Madonna gave her the kiss of professional death? As I argued in my Inventory piece on Great Moments in The Co-Option Of Hip-Hop, Madonna is pop culture’s preeminent vampire, a ghoulish parasite who must feast on the lifeblood of the young and vital to postpone the seemingly inevitable descent into irrelevancy."


At 8:58 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Wow, what a fantastic piece of writing. Nathan Rabin scored an absolute bullseye with that take on Madge.

Everything about her does feel so utterly calculated, doesn't it? That's got to be such a useless, joyless way of going through life.


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