Saturday, July 01, 2006
Sherlock Holmes and other recommendations
I feel like I owe this blog a post, but I am at a loss for a topic about which to speak. A girl who was at one time a very Useful Freshman *grins*, and is now a very useful Sophomore, suggested that I speak on a topic very dear to my heart: the greatest detective who never lived, or more specifically, the superiority of the Jeremy Brett adaptions of Sherlock Holmes over others such as the (dispicable) Basil Rathbone episodes.
The reason why the Brett A&E versions leave the Rathbone editions in the dust is quite simple: Jeremy Brett and Edwarde Hardwicke (or David Burke, depending on what year) bring Holmes and Watson to life as two believable human beings. Granted, Holmes is a neurotic, cocaine-shooting genius, but he is not a robot, which is Rathbone's preferential portrayal. Furthermore, Dr. John Watson was, in the original stories, a normal, intelligent, Victorian doctor, not a bumbling fool, as Rathbone's counterpart Nigel Bruce makes him. These stigmas from the old movies have stuck with these two men for decades.
The other principle weakness in the old Rathbone/Bruce films is that the friendship isn't believable. In Doyle's stories, the friendship between these two men is what provides continuity for the many different adventures, and is really the only way a reader can come to identify with Sherlock Holmes. On his own, he is too weird for the normal person to understand, but when seen through the eyes of a true friend, the many facets of his character come out. The A&E series makes this comradery the focal point of the various events that they relate. Jeremy Brett once observed that in this relationship, Watson didn't need Holmes, but Holmes needed Watson, if only to keep his sanity. The old 30's/40's version employs Watson as a sort of C3PO--a man that Holmes puts up with, but is definitely sub-rational and contributes nothing to the plot.
There are a few other problems in the Rathbone versions that turn the stories into a farce. Moriarty, Holmes' archnemesis (worse even than Baron Gruner) is killed by Rathbone not once, not twice, but three times. And, with each resurrection he looks younger. Go figure. Also, they have Holmes, the Victorian gentleman, battling Nazis and (I think) flying airplanes. A little anachronistic, perhaps? For the real Holmes and Watson, watch Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. They're fantastic.
I finished C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy this week. I had re-read it, because when I first read it years ago it totally went over my head. Now...wow, so many things make sense. Many libraries shelve them in Young Adult; don't be fooled, they are too advanced for most highschoolers. That Hideous Strength was particularly interesting, and is a rockin' continuation of the Arthurian legends. I love the Christian interpretations of Merlin...so satisfying. It reminded me a little bit of Stephen Lawhead's slightly revisionist versions.
As far as films go, I finally saw the 1940 Philidelphia Story, and it is a wonderful movie. Witty dialogue, great story, and surprisingly insightful observations about the nature of true romance. Also, it has the talents of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and James Stewart. I highly recommend it.