July 6, 2008

The Game's Afoot (Or Something Like That)

If you want to point the finger at some of the more outrageous aspects of comic and other fandom - continuity, whether a story is "official"...blame Sherlock Holmes.

It was through initial discussions of what was considered "canon" for Holmes (basically, anything Doyle wrote) that seems to lead to the inevitable discussion of some aspect of pop culture. In fact, I write this because, well, I couldn't think of a decent way to introduce this blog.

Whilst on Twitter, fellow comics blogger/bovine genius Bully had mentioned two news items about two new Holmes films - one of them a comedhy - claiming that these would somehow "change" Holmes' image, and give us a brand new look.

(And for the record, my only quibble with these is the casting of Cohen - I ended up quitting Borat after watching for a half-hour. To be honest, it was smug, arrogant, and beating the same joke about how narrow we Americans are to death. My fervent hope when Greg becomes dictator is that Mr. Cohen is blacklisted from the film and tv industry. Yes, I'm serious, why do you ask?)

But anyway, part of my reaction is that there are two very good comedies based on Holmes that really deserve your love, and more importantly - your attention.

First, Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes...well, it's Billy Wilder, so it's got to be good. Originally intended to be a much longer movie, the films works as a way of both demystifying the Holmes mystique...and sending it up just a bit. Although it was originally conceived of as four "stories", only two made it to the screen. One is a nice little riff on a ballerina's attempt to seduce Holmes, with a joke that seems a little blase today...but in the 1970s, must have been slightly shocking. But it's the second half, with a slightly steampunk tone, that really lifts the film and gives it a great narrative thrust.

(This is one of those DVDs where watching the special features is mandatory - there's a 12 minute silent clip of Watson attempting to "solve" the case. Why it wasn't included in the movie - with sound - is beyond me).

But my personal favorite comedy would have to be Without a Clue, which asks the question, "What if Watson were the brains, and Holmes was the front?" (Or, in other words, an 19th century version of Remington Steele). Actually, I kid - this movie is a total hoot from start to finish. Yes, it does have some of that early '90s gloss, but let's face it - wouldn't you like to see a movie where Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine seem to be having a ton of fun playing these characters?

Of course, I am being something of a Holmes fanboy. But quite frankly, I would rather watch either of these two movies...than some producer's attempt to make Holmes palatable to the masses.

But then again, I may not be following canon.


Bully said...

I love both of these movies. Another decent one is the TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York with Roger Moore and Patrick Macnee. It suffers a bit from making Watson a bit dense a la Nigel Bruce, but it's got a great heist plot, some solid detecting, and some lovely sets leftover from the movie Hello Dolly.

Greg said...

Yeah, I can do that. I agree that Borat was pretty dull.