In preparing a talk for a local Sherlock Holmes event coming up later this month and considering the many Sherlocks we've seen over the years, a particular phrase popped up in my head, and it went like this:
"[Blank] stands as one of the least faithful adaptations of Sherlock Holmes in one hundred and twenty-three years."
That's a pretty bold statement to make about any representation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, as one hundred and twenty-three years covers a whole lot of ground. And there have been some pretty wack Sherlocks out there on occasion. But even wack Sherlock can still be faithful.
Take the 1978 adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Awful movie. Comedy at its worst. (And yet, still, with a laugh or three, in between the wincing in pain.) But it follows the basic outline of the classic Baskervillian story. It contains most of the characters you'd expect to see in a movie of that title. It does have a degree of faithfulness to it.
On the other hand, one can look at a more accepted film like 1985's Young Sherlock Holmes, which completely breaks Canon by introducing Holmes and Watson at a boys school and putting them through an Indiana Jones style adventure, complete with tripping on hallucinogens. I mean, a devoted Sherlockian fan of that film could cite Professor Moriarty's inclusion, Holmes's fencing, and even tie the hallucinogen to Devil's Foot root somehow, but that's all an act of love, sanding down a square peg so it fits in our round-holed pegboard. Looking at it with cold logic, Young Sherlock Holmes is not even close to a faithful Sherlock Holmes recreation.
And it isn't that a new story can't be told using Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and still have it be faithful. Many a teller of Sherlock tales has moved outside the Canon and yet still kept the two characters in synch with the original sixty stories. Adapting Holmes and Watson into a new adventure can still have a whole lot of faithfulness to it. Putting them up against Jack the Ripper, for example, is always an exercise in bringing in the Victorian serial killer while staying faithful to the characters of Holmes and Watson, as has been attempted in A Study in Terror and Murder By Decree.
From James D'Arcy as Holmes in A Case of Evil to Basil Rathbone's Holmes in The House of Fear, there are plenty of adaptations bringing Sherlock to the screen that wander pretty far afield from the sort of Holmes adventures we know and love. And yet, so many of them give us at least a modicum of familiar Canonical details. ("Modicum" -- another word I would never use if not for a certain Holmes re-creation.)
So what comes to your mind when filling in the blank in "[Blank] stands as one of the least faithful adaptations of Sherlock Holmes in one hundred and twenty-three years?"
I'd be curious to know.