Thursday, 14 January 2010

The joy of Sherlock

Guy Ritchie has done a fine job bringing Sherlock Holmes to a cinema near you. The screenplay, while beefed up into a action-comedy movie, has stayed faithful to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous consulting detective.
Robert Downey Jr can act. His Chaplin in 1992 remains a stunning film and he doesn't disgrace the legend of Holmes in Ritchie's creation. For my money though Jeremy Brett, who took the lead role in 41 episodes of the The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series made by Granada Television between 1984 and 1994, set the standard probably for all time.

But Ritchie's film catches Holmes's deductive methods; the strength of his friendship with Dr Watson; the way he is able to move effortlessly through all stratas of society from felons to peers.
Victorian London is almost a character in itself even if the Houses of Parliament has been convieniently moved down river to stand adjacent to a part-built Tower Bridge.
Downey's performance is nuanced enough I hope to turn some cinemagoers into potential readers of the original stories. And that can only be to the good.
The pre-publicity of the film prompted me to re-read the first two novellas The Sign of the Four and A Study in Scarlet. I had forgotten that the former depicted a multi-racial gang of villians almost sympathetically, while the latter contained an attack on the practice of polygamy current in the Mormon church at the time. All this and Sherlock Holmes gets to catch the bad guys by virtue of his superior intelligence.
I read many of the stories for my own pleasure in my teens and, when they were at a slightly younger age, to my own children.
I'm now hunting down the stories from Conan Doyle's later years, which I may have overlooked. I hope so. These tales would remain a genuine mystery until Holmes and Watson nab the miscreants on the last page.
I envy anyone coming to The Adventure of Silver Blaze for the first time and discovering the drugged curry and "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
An almost frivilous story The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle in which Holmes gives a lost old hat as much scruitiny as a precious gem is a particular favourite of mine. What's yours?

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