January 17th, 2013

kusanagi: sometimes it's true

Sherlock Holmes: The most perfect version on the tellytellybunkum box?

When I was in HMV (RIP) looking for Christmas presents, I discovered that the complete Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett as Holmes was on sale for £25. All four television series and the two TV movies (The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles) in one beautiful box set? I didn’t hesitate. I snapped it up. I’ve been making my way through the archives with delight for several weeks and am now halfway through the second series. Watching Brett play Holmes has made me realise all that’s missing from the very popular current BBC Sherlock.

He is perfect as Holmes. Just perfect. He has all the mannerisms and the look of Holmes. The ability to change position from recumbent lounging to wiry, cheetah-like poise in the blink of an eye. The tall, lithe strength of Holmes. The pale, ascetic face. Crucially, he also has a sense of humour (sadly lacking in the Cumberbatch version). And not the RDJ camp style either, which is funny and I love it, but isn’t canon Holmes. I mean he has Holmes’ sense of humour: the sudden flashes of merriment, the barks of whole-bodied laughter, at moments seemingly inappropriate to other people. The brief wry smile. He can also transform himself into the myriad characters that Holmes adopts during his sleuthing - a bent old bookseller, a down-and-out tradesman. Cumberbatch is seemingly capable of only playing Holmes as Holmes, half-hearted attempt at impersonating a priest in A Scandal in Belgravia notwithstanding.

Plus, my favourite aspect of the Holmes mysteries - and I suspect that of many others, given the popularity of the BBC’s Sherlock, the plots of whose episodes only vaguely resemble the originals - the relationship between him and Watson, is so sensitively portrayed by him and his counterparts. (Watson was played by David Burke in the first series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and by Edward Hardwicke in the succeeding series.) In the post-Reichenbach episode, when Holmes shocks Watson and makes him faint with his dramatic reappearance, there’s a moment when Watson is still unconscious and Holmes is checking him before bringing him round. He runs his hand over Watson’s face, and the combination of quick professionalism and genuine tenderness expressed in the gesture is worth a thousand of the overt quips about gayness in the present BBC Sherlock to this Loony Fangirl.

Rosalie Williams makes a fantastic Mrs. Hudson (as does Una Stubbs in Sherlock). She aids and abets and perseveres, with a gentle bustling air that helps her steal scenes in her moments on-screen.

I have one confession of impropriety to make. During the episode featuring Tim McInnerny as Vincent Spaulding/John Clay in “The Red-Headed League”, McInnerny popped up through the floor at the climax. I couldn’t resist. I shouted, “HELLO, DARLING!” (Blackadder fans will understand, I’m sure.)