Sherlock Holmes Reborn Again

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th October 2010.

Sherlock, the extremely enjoyable mini-series which aired over the past two weeks, is a modern adaption of Sherlock Holmes produced by the BBC. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement) as the Great Detective and Martin Freedman (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Office) as Dr John Watson, the three part series brings Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters to modern London, solving mysteries based on classic Holmes stories.

Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the eccentric genius, who solves brainbusting crime puzzles by deduction, is certainly a memorable one, but with a very long list of actors who have played Holmes, it is very hard to pick a favourite.

Not surprisingly, the character of Sherlock Holmes holds the record for the most portrayed film character with an amazing seventy five actors putting on the deerstalker cap over two hundred and eleven movies.

One of my favourite films in the eighties was Young Sherlock Holmes, produced by Steven Spielberg from a script by Christopher Columbus (Home Alone) and directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man). The film centres of Holmes and Watson meeting as youths at boarding school. Starring Nicholas Rowe (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) as the title character and Alan Cox (Ladies in Lavender) as Watson, the movie is a little scary for kids and features the first CGI character ever, a supernatural knight who forms from shards of a stained glass window.

Jeremy Brett (My Fair Lady) starred as Holmes from 1984 to 1994 in the British TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. With his sharp, angular features, Brett’s portrayal is widely regarded as the best of his era. Brett was fully committed to his role and compiled a seventy seven page book, The Baker Street Files, which contained every possible detail about Holmes. He carried this book around on set to check every nuance before the cameras started rolling.

Basil Rathbone starred as Sherlock in fourteen movies from 1939 to 1946, opposite Nigel Bruce as Watson. These films firmly cemented the costumed Sherlock Holmes character, with his deerstalker cap and Inverness cape, in popular culture.  Rathbone had problems with typecasting after the films ended, but eventually went on to play Holmes in radio plays and on stage.

Last year, the character of Holmes returned to the big screen with Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) in the title role and Jude Law (Cold Mountain) as his faithful friend. Directed by Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla), the film recreates Holmes as an action hero, with fist fights and explosions galore. It was a big box office success and will be followed up by a sequel next year.

I would have to say that my all-time favourite Sherlock Holmes is an animated one. Basil the Great Mouse Detective was a Disney animated film from 1986, and centres around a society of rats and mice living in Victorian London. Featuring the music of Henry Mancini and the voice of Vincent Price, the film is packed with classic hand drawn Disney cartoon goodness, with the title character names in honour of Basil Rathbone.

It seems that some iconic characters never die, they just get recast and readapted.

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Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 07:31  Leave a Comment  
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