Thursday, October 4, 2018

Isolating Sherlock Holmes in film

With this weekend's "From Brett to Gillette V" coming on this weekend, so soon after that Holmes and Watson preview was released, the thought of Sherlock Holmes's appearances in movies and television is bound to be on many a Sherlockian mind. Books have been written on the subject, conferences have been held (the "V" at the end of FBtG kinda gives that away), and when Sherlockians aren't talking Conan Doyle original Canon, film and TV Sherlocks are where they invariably head next.

Which means we are usually presented with a common fan issue -- a viewpoint of very close focus.

The older a Sherlock Holmes film gets, the further it is removed from the period it was first intended to be shown, the more it is separated from the other works of its time. Take a look at a Sherlockian's DVD shelf and you might find Young Sherlock Holmes next to the Matt Frewer The Hound of the Baskervilles, not far from Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes or Ben Syder's Sherlock Holmes. Almost as if Bill and Ted came by in a time-travelling phone booth and plucked each from its own era to compile for their end-of-semester project.

What you don't see is Young Sherlock Holmes surrounded by Rocky IV, Santa Claus: The Movie, Spies Like Us, King Solomon's Mines, White Nights, or anything else that was in theaters that December of 1985.

Or that Matt Frewer's Hound required changing channels from a Yankees/Mets World Series game or major network reruns of Forrest Gump or The Bridges of Madison County to get to what would eventually become the Hallmark channel.

What might have been a blip on the entertainment world's radar at the time becomes a stand-out on a list of Sherlockian moments from that year, and all the rest fades away. The character of Sherlock Holmes has those of us that love him holding on to productions long past the date they would have otherwise faded from memory. The aforementioned movie White Nights pulled in over twice the box office receipts of Young Sherlock Holmes at roughly the same time, and rare is the person who thinks of White Nights much in 2018. King Solomon's Mines made nearly as much as Young Sherlock Holmes, and there's even good reasons we don't think of it much any more.

Sherlock Holmes movies are fascinating in that we don't require of them all the things we require of any other movies we take the time to see. All of the Sherlockians who will burden themselves with seeing a Will Ferrell movie this year, when they know full well they hate Will Ferrell movies, is a perfect example. And good, bad, or mediocre, that movie will find its way into Sherlockian collections as long as there are Sherlockian collections.

Given that we give movies featuring Sherlock Holmes the sort of advantage we'd give a grandchild singing the National Anthem, has we seen a truly great Sherlock Holmes movie yet? Can we even say objectively?

Maybe not, but with a range stretching from They Might Be Giants to A Case of Evil, we will always have movies and TV shows to compare, contrast, rank, rate, and have many a discussion over. Of all things besides the original stories, they are our most common language as Sherlockians, and one we will surely be using as long as we are Sherlockians.

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