Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

After hearing that Sherlock Holmes was due out in theaters in late December, I made a run by my local bookstore and purchased The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with the hopes of reading it before the movie came out. Little did I know, that I wouldn’t see the film until late February because I couldn’t possibly stop at The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I proceeded to check out the other works of Arthur Conan Doyle in his Holmes series, totaling 1,122 pages and spanning seventeen years. The story of Sherlock Holmes and his friend and biographer Dr. Watson starts in 1878 with their fateful meeting through a colleague, Stamford. Recently discharged from the Army for an injury to his shoulder, Watson is in search of a roommate as his pension from the Army isn’t much. Stamford suggests an acquaintance of his, Sherlock Holmes, as a suitable companion who is also on the lookout for a roommate. After meeting and admitting one another’s vices, Holmes and Watson agree to take lodgings at 221B Baker Street, London….a residence soon to be famous around the world after the first adventure, A Study in Scarlet, was published in the 1887 edition of Beeton's Christmas Annual.

Early on in their adventures, Watson falls in love with one of their clients, Mary Morstan, a poor governess, in The Sign of Four and marries her after the case has ended with her fortune no longer being an obstacle to their marriage. As Holmes put it, “The good Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall in our association.”

Their adventures, oddly enough, hardly ever have them leaving the comfort of England, but the tales of the victims or criminals span the globe from the wild lands of India to the western frontiers of Utah and California. The only vice to mar the adventures of these two men is Holmes’ addiction to 7% solution of cocaine and morphine, which he uses when there has been no cases to solve for a while and he is bored of the world.

Some of my favorite adventures were:

1. Valley of Fear = detailing a corrupt Masonic temple lodge in late 19th century California and the links to which a fellow detective from America will go to avoid death by the hands of its members.

2. A Scandal in Bohemia = detailing one of Sherlock Holmes’ ‘failures’ at the hand of a woman, Irene Adler. As Watson said, “To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. … It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. … Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.”

Ms. Adler was a former opera singer in Warsaw who had taken up lodgings in London after her lover, the King of Bohemia, breaks with her in order to marry the daughter of the King of Scandinavia. The king wishes Sherlock Holmes to retrieve a bundle of letters and a photograph that Irene is keeping from their liaison. She literally escapes under Holmes’ nose after greeting him at his doorstep in disguise.

3. An Adventure of the Three Garridebs = not so much for the plot, but for the fact that for once Sherlock Holmes displays a bit of feeling when his friend Dr. Watson is shot while apprehending the thief.

p. 1053 - In an instant he had whisked out a revolver from his breast and had fired two shots. I felt a sudden hot sear as if a red-hot iron had been pressed to my thigh. There a was a crash as Holmes’s pistol came down on the man’s head. I had a vision of him sprawling upon the floor with blood running down his face while Holmes rummaged him for weapons. Then my friend’s wiry arms were round me, and he was leading me to a chair.

“You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!”

It was worth a wound – it was worth many wounds – to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.

“It’s nothing, Holmes. It’s a mere scratch.”

He had ripped up my trousers with his pocket-knife.

“You are right,” he cried with an immense sigh of relief. “It is quite superficial.” His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face. “By the Lord, it is as well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive. Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?”

Watching Sherlock Holmes in the theaters was an experience. I had to stop myself from laughing hysterically during several scenes in the movie that contained references to the books and/or were extremely funny to my geeky sensibilities. Overall, I thought it was a great film version of Doyle’s characters. However, I was a bit put off by the fact that Irene Adler was made into a ‘love’ interest of sorts for Holmes and that she knew Professor Moriarty and was working for him, which is utterly ridiculous.

Nevertheless, one of my favorite scenes in the movie has Holmes waiting at a restaurant for the arrival of Watson and his fiancĂ©e Mary Morstan. I loved the way the director captured Holmes’ agitation at being around so many people, driven mad by all the little details and conversations he was picking up in the room.

I have heard that a sequel will be in the works during the summer with hopefully (fingers crossed) all the main characters back to reprise their roles. The rumor mill has Brad Pitt playing Holmes’ archenemy Professor Moriarty, the ruthless mind behind London’s criminal underworld. After reading the entirety of Holmes’ stories and seeing how Professor Moriarty is portrayed, I can’t see Brad Pitt in that role. If he does take it, let’s hope he surprises the Holmes’ purists of the literary world.

Until next time ^_____^

P.S. Sherlock Holmes is due out to DVD later this month. If you haven’t seen it, I think you’ll like it, especially if you love period films. Visit your local library or video store to rent it if you aren’t sure about buying it for keeps ;)

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