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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sherlock Holmes

I have to admit to being something of a Sherlock Holmes fan. I got interested after I did some Walk-On work on one of the Granada Television episodes which was filmed in King's Lynn sometime in the late 1980's. The episodes which had Jeremy Brett in, and which, in my opinion, are some of the best renditions of Conan-Doyle's stories. The episode in question was "The Man With The Twisted Lip" and I was one of the street 'roughs' (for want of a better word.) It was supposed to be set in some back-street near the Thames in London, so the River Ouse (which comes out into the sea near King's Lynn, and runs through Bedford and Newport Pagnall.) was making an excellent job of standing in for the Thames! We were made up in really  awful costumes to be this street gang hanging about in the street near an opium den and Holmes is doing his investigations in disguise within the opium den and we are outside in the street. We had to queue up for lunch in this quite smart hotel restaurant in our awful tatty costumes and it must have looked quite odd if you hadn't realised we were filming for a television drama. 

From doing that bit of television 'Walk-On' I began to read some of the Sherlock Holmes stories, after watching the television adaptation when it eventually turned up on television a few months later. (I think the actual episode I was in was within the "Return Of Sherlock Holmes" series. I have since seen it again when it's been repeated on one of the digital channels, probably ITV2, but I can't be sure, but the Jeremy Brett episodes are always being shown on some digital channel or other. I have to say I do love them, the detail in them is remarkable. The production values are extremely high and they are extremely faithful to the original stories and in some cases they even reproduce the Sidney Paget illustrations very faithfully. They must have had a considerable budget in order to make drama of such amazingly high standards of production. I can't imagine television drama being made to the same degree of quality in today's television environment.)

Much has been made of the current 'Sherlock' series on BBC1 and starring Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman. It's not the first time that the stories and characters have been up-dated to a modern setting, note the films made during the 1940's and starring Basil Rathbone. As much as I enjoy the new version and the way the writers have used modern technology to up-grade the whole Holmes world, I still prefer the originals. I have a magnificent set of annotated Sherlock Holmes stories which I bought through Amazon, called 'The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes' (not a particularly original title, I know, but never mind.) and annotated by Leslie S. Klinger and published by Norton. This work is in a set of three slip-cased volumes and in a large format and produced to an extremely high quality and there are enough notes and essays as well as most of the original artwork by Sidney Paget and other illustrators to keep most Holmes addicts very happy. I can recommend this annotated set of the stories highly. They sell for around £45 although you may find them for far less if you do a  Google search. I'm not sure now how much I paid for them on Amazon. The novels and the short stories come in two separate slip-cased sets and I can't now remember whether I bought them together or separately.

What is it about Holmes that is so intriguing? Is it the way he does his deductions? Is it the relationship he has with John Watson? Is it the fact that the more you read the stories, the more you discover about Holmes, what makes him tick, the fact that he is so enigmatic? I don't know, but the stories in general are so good, they keep you guessing, they make you want to keep 'turning the page.'  These are the things which makes good story-telling so brilliant and you can't fault Conan Doyle on this fact. Not all the stories are brilliant. The later ones, particularly those written after Conan Doyle bought Holmes back after the Reichenbach incident, due mainly, to public demand after he attempted to 'kill' Holmes, are not up to the same standard as the early ones, probably due to the fact that Conan Doyle had run out of ideas for him and the fact that he had by then got tired of the character, but they still have the same ability to intriguing the reader.
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