Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:
January 7 – 13, 2012.
“I will conceal nothing from you.”
Maybe not a vintage week in terms of Holmes, but a few nice nuggets along the way.
The Master Blackmailer (ITV3 on Freeview10/Freesat115 also Sky119/Virgin117 at 10.35am) First shown on January 2, 1992 this is one of the two-hour specials which feels very padded to me. The problem is that the original story is, in a matter of speaking, an open and shut case. There isn’t really any detecting for Holmes to do and the villain is bumped off as he and Watson hide behind a curtain. It would probably have needed padding even if it had been the usual length (around fifty minutes once you discount the time for adverts), so stretching it by another fifty minutes was going to require something fairly meaty. Unfortunately, dramatist Jeremy Paul hasn’t been able to find enough meat.
The media at the time made a bit of a fuss of ‘the kiss’ between Holmes and Agatha (played by Sophie Thompson, whom I would have been delighted to kiss): but Brett commented that “I was concerned about the scene because I thought we might be infringing on Sherlock’s sexuality given that he is such a private man.” I’ll leave you to interpret that for yourselves.
Robert Hardy, who plays Milverton, has a long association with the Canon, having read many of them on audio books and playing Holmes to Nigel Stock’s Watson on eight occasions. I’m not sure he gets it quite right here—there’s just a little too much mince with the menace.
Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (BBC 3 on Freeview7/Freesat10 also Sky115/Virgin106 at 7.00pm – repeat of episode 1 first shown on Sunday, January 1) What a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year! This was a huge ratings and critical success for the BBC last year and by all accounts the next three episodes are up to the same standard. It works, I think, because in precisely the same way that Granada ensured the accuracy of period detail and plotting with the Brett series, writers/creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have ensured that Holmes fits perfectly into this era. This is good stuff.
I will write an overall review of the series when the last episode—The Reichenbach Fall—has been shown; and I will tie it in with a review of A Game of Shadows.
Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville (BBC1 at 8.30pm – note slightly later time!) Last week’s episode seemed to go down very well with critics—and with a number of my non-Holmesian friends. I had very mixed feelings about it! Anyway, here’s the second in the series.
There’s an interesting piece in the Radio Times (January 7-13 issue) by Mark Gatiss, giving some background to the writing of this episode.
Round the Horne (BBC Radio4 Extra on DAB/Freeview & Freesat708 also Sky0131/Virgin910 at 8am, 12pm and 7pm) First aired in 1968 this has a piece in which Julian and Sandy—as camp as Butlins at the peak of its popularity—take a pop at Holmes in ‘The Bona Detective Agency.’ Kenneth Williams played Sir Henry Baskerville in the 1978 version of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (with Peter Cook as Holmes and Dudley Moore as Watson). Round the Horne has always been one of my favourite comedy shows, so thanks to Oscar for steering me towards this episode.
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (TCM on Sky317/Virgin415 at 7.45pm) Almost three years after 20th Century-Fox had decided not to continue the Rathbone/Bruce series, Universal Pictures picked up the option and pitted our heroes against the Nazis. The plot has a number of interesting twists, not least that one of the supposed good guys turns out to be von Bork. Ok, it’s enjoyable, if undemanding stuff, but Bruce still grates as Watson—particularly in this sort of war time setting. I’ve never been convinced that the WW2 films played any significant role in propaganda terms. Indeed, it’s hard to disagree with film critic Howard Barnes’ view: “As a sort of intelligence officer in the present conflict, the detective is bizarre and ineffective.” But audiences seemed to like it.
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.05am) Series 5, Episode 4—The Boscombe Valley Mystery (March 14, 1991) Peter Vaughn—playing Mr. Turner—was a very good Charles Augustus Milverton in the Merrison/Williams radio series and is equally good here. He’s one of our very best character actors, best known for roles in Citizen Smith, Porridge and Our Friends In The North.
James Purefoy—playing James McCarthy—had screen tested for the role of James Bond in 1995, losing out to Pierce Brosnan. He lost out again a few years later to Daniel Craig. I’m not 100% certain, but this may have been his first TV/film role.
Dover Goes to Pott (BBC Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6am, 1pm, 8pm and 1am) Politically incorrect and slightly vulgar they may be, but there is still a good detective story and plot at the heart of Joyce Porter’s Inspector Dover books. This is the first of a run of four this week, starring Kenneth Cranham as Dover.
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.05am) Series 5, Episode 5—The Illustrious Client (March 21, 1991) Very nice—if that’s the right word in the circumstances—performance from Anthony Valentine as Baron Gruner. He had enjoyed great success in Callan, Colditz and Raffles. Raffles, of course, was written by E.W. Hornung, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law.
From Hell (Sky Crime/Thriller on Sky307/Virgin407 at 10pm) The Ripper/Holmes ‘connection’ has been explored in a number of books and films, most notably “A Study in Terror” and “Murder by Decree.” This 2001 film doesn’t feature Holmes, but it does have Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline, a detective who displays some distinctly Holmesian characteristics. And it’s also pretty good, albeit a little grisly in places.
Dover and the Claret Tappers (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6am, 1pm, 8pm and 1am) See Tuesday
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.05am) Season 5, Episode 6—The Creeping Man (March 28, 1991) I’ve always regarded this as one of the silliest stories in the entire Canon, lacking credibility, logic, plot or detection. Sarah Woodward—playing Edith Presbury—is the daughter of Edward Woodward, who has played Holmes in “Hands of a Murderer.”
Dover Beats the Band (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6am, 1pm, 8pm and 1am) See Tuesday
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 8.00am) Series 6, Episode 1—The Three Gables (March 7th, 1994) Brett was quite ill when this series was made and at times his performances bordered on the manic. Indeed, by this time, a decade since the Granada series first went into production, the whole series had slowed down and lost its edge. A good turn, though, from Peter Wyngarde as Langdale Pike. And if you think that ‘Dora’ looks familiar, that’s because she’s played by Edward Hardwicke’s daughter, Emma Hardwicke.
Who Shot Sherlock? (Channel 5 at 5.30pm) This is from series 5 (11/25) of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This remains a hugely successful series in America, although I gave up watching a few years ago. The lead character, Gil Grissom, (played by William Petersen) has Holmesian characteristics, as noted on Wiki:
“Gil Grissom has a more than passing similarity to Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, Grissom is dispassionate with a fierce devotion to logic and little regard for societal norms of behavior; Grissom once smashed mustard jars in a grocery store to illustrate a theory (“I-15 Murders”), similarly, Holmes once practiced spearing a pig at a market to determine how strong a man would have to be to transfix a man with a harpoon.
“Grissom possesses a Moriarty-like nemesis, Paul Millander, whom he pursues in several episodes (“Pilot”, “Anonymous” and “Identity Crisis”). Coincidentally, “Paul Millander” has the same initials as “Professor Moriarty.” There’s also a woman, Lady Heather, in whom he takes an unusual interest. Their relationship is similar to that of Irene Adler and Holmes. Both Irene and Lady Heather enchant Holmes and Grissom with their beauty, their wit and their resolution. Lady Heather often wears Victorian-style dresses referencing Holmes’ era.
Dover and the Unkindest Cut of All (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6am, 1pm, 8pm and 1am) See Tuesday