Sunday, April 17, 2016

My own personal Stamford returns.

From John H. Watson on, we've all had someone who introduced us to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

For Watson, it was Stamford, a fact celebrated at this year's 221B Con with actor David Nellist, who has handled that role so well for BBC's Sherlock, in both modern and Victorian settings.

For me, it was Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.

As I grew into the "tween" years, I developed a fascination with all things Fortean, extra-terrestrial, and crypto-zoological, acquiring quite a little paperback library of books upon those subject at the local newstand. One of the superstars of that world of bigfoots, yetis, and Roswell aliens was, of course, the Loch Ness Monster.

Whether surviving dinosaur, sea serpent, or some deep sea oddity, Nessie was especially fascinating because we all knew exactly where she was . . . Loch Ness in Scotland . . . yet somehow, she continued to elude everyone. No one could catch her, nor discover her secrets. No one!

About that time, I was also taking in all sorts of movies at the local Strand Theater, where both evening first-runs and Saturday afternoon matinees of Hammer Dracula films, Godzilla movies, and the like were our steady diet. And before all that was always the previews, introduced with that psychedelic preview opener that Quentin Tarantino brought back for his neo-grindhouse fare. And among those previews?

The trailer for Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes . . . the man who would solve the Loch Ness Monster.

Billy Wilder really had Holmes down, perhaps better than any other movie maker in history. He wasn't just aping the Canon. He was going, "Okay, Loch Ness monster! No supernatural stuff in Holmes's world, how does he solve it?" the way many a pasticheur has failed to do with other mysterious creatures like Dracula.

Seeing Nessie charge Holmes and Watson's boat in that preview set my young spine to tingling, and the thought that Sherlock Holmes solved it (as well as did things like find naked ladies in his apartment) had me hooked. It was five or more years before I finally saw the film, and several more before I saw it complete (major networks edited out homosexuality references back then), but the film did not disappoint. And after that, Sherlock Holmes was locked in as my number one guy.

So when news came this week that the original full-sized Loch Ness monster prop from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes had been found in Loch Ness, it was like hearing from a long-lost old friend. Like the Titanic, and many another legendary aquatic wreck, Nessie's worn and disintegrating hulk is destined to stay at the bottom of the Loch until she is consumed by the local geography. But that's how it should be with such great legends of the misty past.

And who knows, maybe the real Nessie will show up some day, and the real Sherlock Holmes will step out of anonymity and deal with her as well, as he must, and reveal the secret government plot that created her.

Until then, she has my thanks, and I hope she rests in well-earned peace at the bottom of Loch Ness.

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