The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982)

HoundCountry: United Kingdom
Starring: Tom Baker, Terence Rigby, Christopher Ravenscroft, Caroline John, William Squire
Director: Peter Duguid
Music: Carl Davis

Some quick thoughts on the 1982 four-part BBC television series of The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring everybody’s favourite Dr. Who – Tom Baker – as Sherlock Holmes. Over the years, this version has developed a reputation for being pretty bad. I am guessing a part of the reason for this is that is hasn’t been available – many people concluding that it must be bad if it has never been released. As one of the few people who could sit through the entirety of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, I wondered just how bad could it be?

The answer is, it is not bad at all. It may not reach the heights of some of the other versions – the Hammer version with Peter Cushing being my favourite – but none-the-less tells the oft told tale in a professional way. Baker is a fine Holmes – but as people familiar with Hound already know, Holmes is absent from the story for a sizable amount of time. But Terence Rigby is not the worst Watson to carry the story (Robert Duvall, with his dreadful accent and voiceover in The Seven Percent Solution gets my vote for worst Watson). Like many other versions of Hound, it could be said that the ferocious canine of the title lets the series down – but I don’t believe any version has really nailed the Hound.

On the plus side, if you are a Tom Baker fan, the recent Madman DVD release has an entertaining audio commentary by Baker over all 4 episodes, which in itself almost makes it worth the price.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982)

Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976)

Country: United States
Director: Boris Sagal
Starring: Roger Moore, Patrick Macnee, John Huston, Charlotte Rampling, David Huddleston, Gig Young, Geoffrey Moore
Music: Richard Rodney Bennett
Based on characters by Arthur Conan Doyle

Regular visitors to this site, may have read this review before (originally posted in Jan 2010), but as the film has finally been released on DVD (by Madman Entertainment in Australia.) I thought it was well worth revisiting. I must admit, I am rather happy I can now relegate my old grey-market NTSC videotape to the scrap heap.

Before we begin, one thing, I feel is important to point out, is that Holmes is now so much bigger than the original stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. There have been countless continuation novels (not only limited to Holmes, but Professor Moriarty and Holmes’ brother Mycroft have each had novels written about their exploits).

Then, of course, there are the films. The first Sherlock Holmes film was the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (AKA: Held For Ransom) and starred Maurice Costello as Holmes. Since then, over 70 actors have played the part in over 200 films. But for most people, it was Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of the deerstalker cloaked crusader during the 1930’s and 40’s that are most fondly remembered. But with a 200 plus film back catalogue, a huge range of actors have tried their hand at playing Holmes; some more successfully than others.

The novelisation
For the spy fan, the Holmes adventures that are of interest are the propaganda films from the forties, which feature Basil Rathbone as Holmes battling Nazi spies and other assorted evil doers. Also of interest are the films which feature arch villain Professor James Moriarty. There is no mistaking that the rivalry between Homes and Moriarty is one of the battles in popular culture. Moriarty himself is one of the great ‘evil masterminds’, and certainly a prototype Blofeld (or any other diabolical villain). It is not so very surprising that David McDaniel in The Man From UNCLE novel, The Dagger Affair intimated that the evil organisation THRUSH was set up by Professor Moriarty.

Roger Moore in his biography only has one page devoted to Sherlock Holmes in New York, but it appears to have been a pleasant working experience. From My Word is my Bond (page 264) – Roger Moore – 2008 Harper Collins:

‘Jack called me up and asked if I’d be interested in a TV movie for Fox called Sherlock Holmes in New York. Patrick Macnee was already cast as Watson. It was to film in LA, so that all rather suited me. It was actually shot on the Hello, Dolly sets at Fox’s Hollywood studio.

I’ve already related the story of how I called Oliver Reed and asked if he was interested in playing Moriarty. Well, after he turned us down flat, Jack approached John Huston. As well as being a famous and accomplished director, writer and producer, Huston also turned his hand to acting in the odd film. He was wonderful to work with. On his arrival, John said to our director, Boris Sagal, ‘My boy, I have a lot of speeches to deliver. I may need some help remembering them.’ So, the art department made up beautiful prompt cards – or idiot boards as well call them – with the dialogue written on, and held them behind the camera at strategic points for John to refer to. He delivered every line perfectly, never looking at them once. The old cad.

John and I both enjoyed backgammon and fine cigars, so between takes we’d sit down to play and smoke. I never had the opportunity to work with Huston as a director. That would have been fun and is one of my few regrets.

Other casting fell into place: Charlotte Rampling, David Huddleston, Gig Young, Signe Hasso and my son Geoffrey, who was around ten, who played Irene Adler’s (Charlotte Rampling’s) son who is kidnapped by Moriarty. We later discover that the boy is in fact the result of a suggested liaison between Holmes and Irene Adler.

I won’t say this is regarded as one of the most popular or warmly remembered Holmes film, but we certainly had fun making it.’

As the film opens the year is 1901, and in London, Moriarty (John Huston) is enjoying a brandy is his gaudily decorated villains lair at Victoria Docks. As the clock strikes midnight, one of Moriarty’s lieutenants, Colonel Moran arrives with news. Moriarty and his team of cronies have been plotting the assassination of Lord Brackish, who is the head of the London Bank.

As Moriarty congratulates Moran on the success of his part of the mission, Moran’s voice begins to change. Then he pulls off several rubber appliances that had been glued to his face. Underneath is Sherlock Holmes (Roger Moore). Holmes recounts how all of Moriarty’s men have been rounded up by the police and how his assassinated attempt has been thwarted.

Moriarty is enraged. But then goes to show Holmes a trapdoor in the floor, a knife that is fired from a cash register on a desk, and a falling chandelier. He shows Holmes each of these devices that could have killed him, and then explains why he didn’t use them. He chose not to kill him at this time because he is preparing the crime of the century, and not only does he plan on changing the world with his audacious act of criminality, but also to humiliate Holmes in the process. Moriarty taunts that he plans to commit the perfect crime and Holmes will be helpless to stop it. As there is no direct evidence against Moriarty at this time, Holmes cannot have him arrested.

In the United States, Irene Adler (Charlotte Rampling) is preparing to star in a new Broadway production at the Empire Theatre in New York. For nine years, for each production she has starred in, she has sent two tickets to the premiere Holmes. He has never attended any of the productions.

Three days later, Holmes and Dr Watson (Patrick Macnee) are at their modest lodging at 221B Baker Street. An envelope arrives from the United States and inside are two tickets for Irene Adler’s new play, but the tickets are torn to shreds. Holmes realises something is amiss and immediately, with Watson in tow of course, he heads for New York.

Upon arrival, they go to the Empire Theatre to acquire tickets for the evening’s performance, but when it comes time for the curtain to be raised, the theatre owner addresses the crowd and says that Irene Adler will not be appearing on this evening due to illness. Her understudy will play the role. Holmes and Watson waste no time, and head directly to Irene Adler’s home. Irene is not ill at all, but something is troubling her, and it doesn’t take long for Holmes to deduce what it is. It appears that Irene’s son, Scott (played by Sir Roger’s son Geoffrey) has been kidnapped.

Shortly thereafter, a note is delivered by a messenger addressed to Holmes directly. But who knew he’d be here? The note says that if Scott is to survive, then Holmes is to refuse any request that the local police may ask.

It all becomes clear on the following morning when Inspector Lafferty (David Huddleston) of the New York Police Department approaches Holmes in want of assistance. In seems that New York plays host to the world’s largest gold depository in the world. Many countries have stored their gold in these top secret vaults, and all the gold has just been stolen. Lafferty asks for Holmes assistance in retrieving the gold. If the gold is not found, then in two days time, when an international transfer is set to take place, then pandemonium will break out between the different countries. It may even lead to war.

But, as Scott’s life is at stake, so Holmes refuses to assist the police in their investigations. At that moment, Moriarty’s taunt about how he will commit the crime of the century and Holmes will be helpless to solve it rings in his ears.

Sherlock Holmes in New York is actually a great deal of fun…that is if you can accept Roger Moore as Sherlock Holmes. I can. But, to be honest, Moore is the weakest link in the film. His acting is okay, but Roger Moore is, …well he’s Roger Moore. He’s the same likeable character that he portrayed as The Saint or James Bond. If you like Moore, then I suggest that you will like this film.

Patrick Macnee does a fine job with Watson, as the character is written. unfortunately, Watson is written as somewhat of a buffoon – definitely from the Nigel Bruce school of Watson – which I know rubs some people the wrong way. As an adjunct here, I must watch The Hound of London, in which Macnee plays Holmes (although it has a reputation for being one of the worst Holmes films ever).

In the quote above, Moore suggests that Sherlock Holmes in New York is not popular or warmly remembered which is quite a shame really. It is well written and the cast is engaging – Huston is clearly having a ball as Moriarty. Out of all the Sherlock Holmes films made this is far from the worst, and Moore’s performance isn’t bad.

Here’s the spiel from Madman.

Roger Moore takes on another literary hero in the DVD debut of this cracking and rare Sherlock Holmes mystery

The games afoot for Sherlock Holmes when he is lured to New York by his arch nemesis Moriarty under the guise that something sinister has happened to Holmes’ former flame, Irene Adler.

During their last meeting, Moriarty had promised revenge in the form of shattering Holmes’ reputation in the eyes of the world. He plans to commit the crime of the century – a crime that will occur under his very nose – and he will be powerless to stop it. The world will sneer, ridicule and the hound the famous sleuth into oblivion.

So when the villainous scoundrel makes good on his promise by quietly robbing the world’s gold reserves from a high-security bank vault, why is Holmes refusing to put his remarkable deductive powers to use? Has Moriarty indeed pulled off the crime of the century?

Roger Moore, taking a break from the height of James Bond hysteria, joined an all star cast including Patrick Macnee, Charlotte Rampling, Gig Young and John Huston as Moriarty for this sumptuous big-budget Sherlock Holmes adventure filmed by 20th Century Fox in 1976. Never before available on DVD, this Special Edition includes a newly recorded feature-length audio commentary with Sir Roger Moore.

Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976)

Holmes Book Cover 9

The West End Horror – by Nicholas Meyer – Hodder and Stoughton 1976

From the blurb:

In 1974, readers were enthralled when Sherlock Holmes met Sigmund Freud in The Seven-Per Cent-Solution, one of the big best sellers of the year. In The West End Horror, Nicholas Meyer has brought to light another previously unpublished episode in the career of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes as recorded by his close associate and friend Dr John H. Watson.

March 1895. London. A month of singular occurrences in the West End. First there was the bizarre murder of theatre critic Jonathan McCarthy; the police were baffled. Then came the law-suit against the Marquis of Queensberry for libel; the public was scandalised. And what of the ingénue at the Savoy, discovered with her throat slashed? Or the police surgeon who disappeared taking with him two corpses from the mortuary?

Some of the theatre district’s most fashionable and creative luminaries (as well as a number of more marginal participants) were involved or effected by these events; a penniless stage critic and writer named Bernard Shaw; Ellen Terry, the gifted actress and the loveliest woman in London; Gilbert and Sullivan; a suspicious box office clerk named Bram Stoker; an aging matinee idol, Henry Irving; an unscrupulous publisher calling himself Frank Harris, and a controversial wit by the name of Oscar Wilde.

Scotland Yard is mystified by what appear to be unrelated cases, but to Holmes the matter is elementary; a maniac is on the loose.

John Hamish Watson was born in England in 1847. After a childhood spent abroad, he returned in 1872 and enrolled in the University of London Medical School, where he took his degree six years later. After finishing the course at Netley prescribed for Army surgeons, he was attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers and sent to India. Severely wounded by a Jezail bullet at the Battle of Maiwand during the Second Afghan War, in 1880 he returned to England, his health ruined, with no specific plans other than to live as best he could on his Army pension. In January of the following year, quite by accident, he met Sherlock Holmes, who was then looking for someone to share his lodgings. The ensuing friendship, which lasted until Holmes’ death, found Watson his niche as the great detective’s biographer through more than sixty cases. In his spare time he resumed his practice of medicine. In 1889 he married Mary Morstan. He died in 1940.

Holmes Book Cover 9

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (2004)

Country: United Kingdom / United States
Director: Simon Cellan Jones
Starring: Rupert Everett, Ian Hart, Neil Dudgeon, Perdita Weeks, Michael Fassbender, Jonathan Hyde
Music: Adrian Johnson
Based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle

The BBC’s 2002 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles was a misfire with a sadly miscast Richard Roxburgh as Sherlock Holmes. Despite this, the BBC decided to make another Holmes movie, with another actor as Holmes. This time they chose Rupert Everett to partner Ian Hart who was returning as Dr. Watson. With the recent comments by Robert Downey Jnr regarding Sherlock Holmes sexuality causing a minor furore (Downey Jnr. Intimated that Holmes was gay), I find it amusing that Rupert Everett who is openly gay (and at one point suggested he should appear as James Bond, in a series of gay adventures), should play the character remarkably straight.

The film opens in an opium den in London and a pipe is being made up for Sherlock Holmes. This is not the Holmes we are used to. Watson has moved out of the Baker Street lodgings and is on the verge of getting married (not to Mary Morston – but an American psychologist). And Holmes as a loner, well he no longer simply dabbles with his famous seven-per-cent solution of cocaine when extreme boredom and malaise overcome him – when there isn’t a case worthy of his mind and his talents. This Holmes seems almost drug dependent. Later in the movie – despite Holmes mind and wits being challenged, he still feels the need to shoot up, to get himself through the case.

Meanwhile, at low tide, vagabonds are sifting through the detritus in the mud along the banks of the Thames. One of the vagabonds finds the body of a young woman in the mud. It appears she has been strangled as she has a silk stocking knotted tightly around her neck.

The police naturally conduct an autopsy, and as it is being carried out, Dr. Watson (Ian Hart), who works at the hospital, sticks his nose in to see what is going on. The clothing on the victim would suggest that she worked as a prostitute – and marks around her wrists and knees indicate that she had been trussed up before death. Watson believes that there is more to this crime than meets the eye, and soon is off to find his old friend Sherlock Holmes (Rupert Everett).

Watson hasn’t seen Holmes in quite a while, and the relationship between the two men is not what it once was. Watson approaches Holmes as he leaves the opium den and presents him with the details of the girl’s death, hoping it will entice him back into action. But Holmes is not happy to see Watson. He has slipped into a depressive drug-fueled funk and has no desire to go racing around the streets of London, and delving into the seedier side of human nature. Holmes refuses the case, and Watson leaves. But Watson leaves a dossier of information, including a photograph from the autopsy, an the table for Holmes to peruse at his leisure.

Later, Holmes, his curiosity piqued, can’t help but look at the dossier, and within seconds of seeing the photo, spring into action. Soon he is at the morgue and preparing to carry out his own investigation. Of course, Watson expected that Holmes would show up sooner or later and is waiting for him. With the old team reunited it is, once again, business as usual.

Holmes quickly deduces that the victim was not a prostitute, but Lady Alice Petney, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Yarborough. He also finds another stocking lodged in her throat. Soon after, the Duke of Yarborough employs Holmes services to find his daughter’s murderer.

It soon appears that a serial madman is on the loose, when the daughter of another aristocrat, Lord Massingham, goes missing. Unfortunately Holmes believes that this is just the beginning and the girl, Lady Georgina, is possibly already dead.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking is quite a splendid production and Everett gives a wonderful performance as Holmes. He displays the right amount of aloofness, egocentricity and pride that you’d expect in Holmes, but he doesn’t take it so far that Holmes becomes an unlikeable character. Everett walks the tightrope very nicely indeed. Once again, purists may be up in arms at Holmes depiction as a drug addict, but as I have mentioned before Holmes has to evolve if he is to remain relevant. If the character were to stagnate, then he’d simply fade away.

One very positive aspect of this production is that Watson is not simply Holmes shadow. Throughout the movie he has several solo missions to carry out, including the interrogation of the owner of a shoe store (foot fetish thing going on), and exhuming the body and carrying out an autopsy on the body of Sarah O’Brien – a girl who died many months previously and may hold many clues to the mystery. In fact it is Watson’s aggressive and proactive methods at the climax of the film, that allow Holmes to save the day. Obviously the credit for how Watson is portrayed must go down to the fine script bu Alan Cubitt who refuse to portray Watson as a Buffoon. Ian Hart too, puts in a performance that adds a bit of well-needed vigour (when required) to the Holmes / Watson relationship.

The twist at the end of the film is slightly predictable and any reasonable armchair detective will see it coming, but the way the resolution is played out is incredibly suspenseful. The key ingredient, however, is atmosphere, and this film is dripping with it. The streets of London are foggy, dark and filled with danger. On the strength of this production it is a shame that the BBC (and its American partner WGBH Boston) haven’t seen fit to make another Holmes adventure pairing Everett and Hart once again, because I for one, would be quite thrilled to see it.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (2004)