Tag Archives: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Vale Sir Christopher Lee

11 Jun

I freely admit that I wept this morning when I came online to the news that Sir Christopher Lee had passed away.

As a young adult in New Zealand one of the television channels had what they called “The Friday Night Frights” where they screened classic Hammer horror movies.  I think I saw just about all of Sir Christopher Lee’s body of work for Hammer.  But his horror movie work was never my favourite.

There are three roles of his, however, that I will always love.

The first is Lord Summerisle in “The Wicker Man”.  The movie was chopped to hell and back by the editors, but you do get a better sense of the character from the book adaptation.  A strong man who is rapidly losing control of the situation.

The second is Rochefort in the 1973 adaptation of “The Three Musketeers”.  As Cardinal Richelieu’s henchman, Christopher Lee shone.  The movie itself is a star studded vehicle.  Sir Christopher himself, Charlton Heston, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay, Michael York, Roy Kinnear, Raquel Welsh, and Spike Milligan.

The third one is the one that will always remain close to my heart.  Mycroft Holmes in “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”.  This Mycroft was a departure from canon in that 1) He was skinny; and 2) He was not a minor functionary of the British Government… he WAS the British Government.

His Mycroft was sophisticated, urbane, witty, sarcastic, and acidic in equal measures.  His role with Sherlock is adversarial and he is always one step ahead of him.

Christopher Lee’s Mycroft captured my imagination in a way the canon version never managed too.  And not just my imagination, his wonderful portrayal was the inspiration for the modern Mycroft as played by Mark Gatiss in the BBC drama “Sherlock”.  I have to admit, I kept hoping Sir Christopher would have a cameo in “Sherlock”.  In my head cannon he was Mycroft and Sherlock’s grandfather.

I read Sir Christopher’s autobiography last year.  He lead a wonderful, exciting, and adventurous life.  I am glad that he chose to share it with us… in both his autobiography and onscreen.

Vale, Sir Christopher, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Sherlock in Gloucester – On a Bicycle?

22 Jan

I am absolutely fascinated by the photos coming out of Gloucester today.

Be warned.  I am about to speculate on one particular costume.  If you consider costume discussions spoilers then step away from this blog now.  Nothing for you to see here, move along, there’s a good chap…

Have they gone?  They have? Right…

Amanda Abbington’s costume both fascinated and delighted me.  The photos of her walking out of the cathedral with Benedict showed her wearing a very interesting costume.  She was dressed in a Victorian ladies’ bicycling costume.  The advent of the bicycle during the Victorian period created quite a vogue for ladies to take the air in a variety of only slightly scandalous attire.

It’s not the whiff of naughtiness around the costume that fascinated me, but rather the fact that I can think of only two Sherlock Holmes bicycle related things.  One is canon, involving the character Violet Hunter being followed when she cycles, but we are dealing with Mary Morstan here, NOT Miss Hunter.  The other is far more intriguing.

The movie “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” starring Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely had a cycling scene.  Holmes, Watson, and Madame Valladon aka Ilsa von Hoffmanstal (Genevieve Page) cycling around the Scottish Highlands.

Given both Mark Gatiss and Steve Moffat’s love of that movie, I am wondering if they are adapting that scene for Sherlock.

Amanda Abbington’s Mary Morstan has much more in common with Ilsa von Hoffmanstal than with Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation.  His Mary was a brave, but put upon, young woman.  Gatiss and Moffat’s creation is an assassin.  Ilsa von Hoffmanstal was a spy.

Mark Gatiss has form for sneaking bits of “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” into Sherlock.  He had me damn near falling off my chair laughing when I watched “The Empty Hearse” after he gave Una Stubbs’ Mrs Hudson one of Irene Handl’s Mrs Hudson’s lines from the movie.

A sudden thought… they were shooting in a cemetery the other day… there is an excellent graveyard scene in “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” as well!!!

Time will tell what they are doing.  I do know one thing.  This synthesis of traditional Holmes/Watson and modern Sherlock is delighting me no end, before it even gets to the screen.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

1 Apr

This movie, written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond, and produced and directed by Billy Wilder, is one of my all time favourite films.  It’s also a favourite of Sherlock creators Mark Gatiss and Steve Moffat.  Which shows when you watch it on dvd two days after watching “A Scandal in Belgravia”.  I kept finding small points of correlation between the two.  I won’t bring them up.  I’ll let you watch the dvd and discover them for yourselves.  More fun that way.

The cast was pretty impressive.  Robert Stephens played Sherlock Holmes.  His Holmes is damaged, cold, and borderline misogynistic.  Though he denies it.  Holmes: I don’t dislike women, I merely distrust them.  The twinkle in the eye and the arsenic in the soup.

Colin Blakely’s John Watson is less successful.  Whilst not written as a buffoon, that is, unfortunately how Colin played him.  A womaniser, and obviously less intelligent than Holmes.  I had a hard time believing this Watson had ever been an army officer or qualified as a doctor!  Thankfully, the portrayal does not greatly detract from the movie.  But don’t watch it expecting the warm relationship that is apparent in Sherlock.  This Holmes appears at times to almost despise his Watson.  Holmes uses Watson to get out of an awkward situation by intimating that they are a gay couple, without caring how much it would hurt Watson.  An angry, upset Watson tries to work out ways to still any forthcoming gossip.  Watson: Maybe if we got married.  Holmes: Then they’d really talk!

The real comic relief was supplied by the great Irene Handl as Mrs Hudson.  Her relationship with Holmes is almost adversarial.  He enjoys annoying her and baiting her.  Watson: Maybe Mrs Hudson’s entertaining?  Holmes: I’ve never found her so.

The plot is convoluted and intricate, and at times appears to be disconnected.  Involving as it does, Swan Lake, the Loch Ness Monster, and six missing midgets.  Trust me, it all works out in the end.

Of course, there is a Woman.  Not Irene Adler, but Gabrielle Valladon played by Genevieve Page.  Naturally, she isn’t what she is supposed to be.  There are a couple of scenes involving the character that I felt jarred.  Her running naked into Holmes’ arms didn’t worry me, but Watson’s reaction to finding her naked in Holmes’ bed was way off beam.  They are supposed to be friends, but Watson immediately thinks the worst of Holmes! And Holmes sneeringly lets him!  Holmes: If you must know, I found her body quite rewarding. Watson: You cad! Holmes: Especially the palm of her right hand!

First couple of times I watched the movie I completely missed that double entendre!

One of the high points of the film is Christopher Lee as Mycroft Holmes.  He is absolutely perfect (though Mark Gatiss’ Mycroft is my favourite).  The chemistry between Robert Stephens and Christopher Lee just sparks.

Mycroft is coldly condescending to his brother.  He also makes Watson as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  Mycroft eventually gets his comeuppance at the hands of Queen Victoria.  Holmes: Well Mycroft, it seems like we’ve both been undone by a woman.

If you are Sherlockian, I think you will love the movie.  There is just so much to love about “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”.   I know a lot of people didn’t like it when it was released, but really, in my opinion, the good outweighs the bad.

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