Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Real Sherlock Holmes Is Timely

Serendipitous is how I describe the astute scheduling of the new Canadian made documentary The Real sherlock Holmes.
It debuts a day after the premiere of the latest take on Sherlock Holmes, the modern adaptation titled Elementary.
You can catch it Frid. Sept. 28 on History at 9 p.m.
Already there's been a bit of a stink from the British makers of yet another modern day TV version called Sherlock. Star Benedict Cumberpatch was quoted as saying Elementary's Jonny Lee Miller must need the work because he has a wife and kid to support.
Director Garry Lang's effort (for Storyline Entertainment) focuses on how Sherlock serves as the starting point for most of the current TV series featuring CSI and deductive reasoning.
And Lang has even got his hands on a rare sound interview with the old master Conan Doyle. I also  remember an old CBC Telescope presentation that had Fletcher Markle interviewing Conan Doyle's son who said much the same thing about the universality of Holmes.
What emerges in Lang's film is a pleasant but fact filled trip down memory lane peopled by a dozen experts --Holmes was the center piece of four novels and 56 short stories and grew so popular and all encompassing that Doyle even tried to kill him off at one point. When he did so with 1891's The Death Of Sherlock Holmes London fans wore black arm bands in protest.
Holmes rose again, Christlike, and he's still around today --there are those two competing TV series plus the successful movie franchise with Robert Downey Jr.
I like the part which looks at the London Metropolitan Police circa 1880 and their sloppy methods of examining a chaotic crime scene. Corpses were tampered with and there was no systematic study of all the available evidence.
Doyle's character was just about the first to methodically compile all evidence --Doyle who was a physician had been trained by Dr. Joseph Bill who was one of the first "death investigators" and almost certainly an inspiration for the character.
And Holmes used a knowledge of chemistry, anatomy, poisons as well as behavioral science to examine possible suspects.
The experts tell us the Holmes methods can be used further afield such as at NASA where the Martian landings are being interpreted as a sort of Holmesian mystery.
Lang also looks at the "intimate male relationship" Between Holmes and Watson --Holmes called the doctor "my Boswell" --Holmes was also a cocaine addict, another modern touch anticipating the future.
The assembly of clips is crisp and the only one missing was a bit from Elementary --we do get a glimpse of the crew of Sherlock shooting on London streets.
I must confess my favorite Sherlock must remain Basil Rathbone but I also admire Raymond Massey, John Neville, Stewart Granger and , of course, TV's Jeremy Brett who I once interviewed at length in L.A.
He said he'd played the part so long he was acting like Holmes in real life. Which cannot be all bad.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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