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mygif

Well, you can’t leave this post there: Go on, pitch your own Holmes flick.

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When it comes to Holmes flicks, I’ve got a soft spot for ‘The Seven-Per-Cent Solution’. Kind of a messed-up flick, but it suits Holmes.

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“Without a Clue” is a damn fine movie. Unjustly forgotten.

“I’ve got it! Moriarty’s name is Morty Artie!”

Sweet.

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mygif

You’d think that now would be an ideal time for Holmes to come back. Police procedurals centered on forensics are all the rage, and Holmes was the prototype. Damaged, brooding detective heroes are big on those shows, as the earliest versions of Holmes were. “House?” “Monk?” People eat this crap up.

All it would take to kick major ass is to look at it with fresh eyes. A manic-depressive obsessive genius in Victorian England, a man of science and insight, equipped with a coke habit and a distinctly unconventional lifestyle in a highly ordered society, runs around solving impossible mysteries because he’s the only one who can. Dude.

Give this a big budget to create a vast, sweeping Victorian-era London, a script worth a damn, and a few actors who don’t embarrass themselves, and dang. Okay, or you could go small budget and still work. I’m thinkin’ out loud here.

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mygif

“I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point Sherlock Holmes, one of the most fantastically cinematic characters there is, got relegated to television.”

It’s worth noting some might point out that Sherlock Holmes, one of the most fantastically literary characters ever, got relegated to cinema.

Though “A Study in Emerald” (Gaiman) and The Final Solution (Chabon) did good service (Chabon, like King, is at his best when he’s at his shortest).

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mygif

I saw young sherlock once when i was much younger. I thought it was great. Granted, alot of it was over my head at the time, but I was terrified of “fear darts”, heart broken at the way the romance between sherlock and Liz ended, and entertained throughout.
The only problem is I’ve only seen it once, and have never been able to find it. I love mysterys (particularly those involving Sherlock) so I’ll take your suggestion and watch Without A Clue (if I can find it.)

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I’d point out that ‘Monk’ and ‘House’ basically are Sherlock Holmes, with the character transplanted to a modern-day setting and given slightly different psychological tics. That’s the problem Holmes ultimately runs into, that when they were written, they were contemporary thrillers, but now they’re period pieces. (This is why ‘Doctor Who’ is so utterly awesome, because time-travel is built into the plot. He is always “of the present”, with no need for sliding timelines or cumbersome plot kludges.)

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mygif

Another excellent Holmes-esque movie (actually, it owes about as much to Nero Wolfe as Holmes… as do efforts like House and Monk) was Zero Effect. Now there was a movie that was begging for at least two sequels. Nice soundtrack, too.

Worthwhile Holmes pastiches: I enjoyed Gaiman’s story too, and also liked Carole Nelson Douglas’s Irene Adler series and Stephen King’s short story ‘The Doctor’s Case’.

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mygif

A couple years ago, I started thinking of writing a Holmes movie that would go straight back to “A Study in Scarlet” and adapt it without regard for 120 years of accretion. No damn deerstalker, no oversized calabash pipe, no silly, bumbling Watson, just what’s in the text: two young men rooming together, one a recently-returned combat veteran, “thin as a slat and brown as a nut” in his own words, with a nasty bit of PTSD, and the other a severely bipolar genius incapable of forming normal human relationships. They fight crime. I’m not exaggerating or making up these descriptions; that’s what Doyle wrote. This would be a vision of Holmes and Watson that would go completely against everything we think about the character. The tagline would be a line spoken by the man who introduced them, when Watson said that he could room with just about anyone: “You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet.”

Unfortunately, I foundered on the fact that “A Study in Scarlet” is the worst fucking detective story I’ve ever read in my life. It’s godawful. Yes, the character stuff with Holmes and Watson is wonderful, vivid and charming and memorable. It’s so memorable that people forget that they’re not IN three-quarters of the story. Seventy-five percent of “A Study in Scarlet” is an extended flashback to Utah for a melodramatic plot about, I shit you not, MORMON NINJAS. Then we get back to London for the last two pages, where Holmes suddenly slaps cuffs on the killer, who then confesses and drops dead. Curtain. Structurally, it’s a disaster.

The crime is also terrible. There’s a terrific scene where Holmes uses very early, creaky crime-scene investigation to perform some seemingly miraculous deductions. Again, everyone remembers that ’cause it’s great. What nobody remembers is that the crime he’s reconstructing is ludicrous. Here’s what happened: the killer found his victim after searching for him for twenty years, and got him to agree to meet the killer in an abandoned house. While waiting in the house, he obligingly left several obvious clues for no reason. Once the victim arrived, the killer forced him at gunpoint to choose one of two pills from a specially-made pillcase. As the victim expired from poison, the killer showed him an engagement ring. The excitement of all this caused the killer to break into a spontaneous nosebleed. Wiping some blood from his face, he decided to write REVENGE on the wall. Then he decided, instead, to write it in German, despite not being German. Then he left the room with the dead man, absentmindedly leaving behind the pillcase and the ring.

You know why no one else could reconstruct that crime? ‘Cause it doesn’t make any sense.

This story was such a success that about half of the stories in the Holmes canon use the same plot: guy was mixed up in weird culty thing in foreign country years and years ago, now somebody with a grudge from back then has come round to commit a very, very strange murder. (YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES used this same plot, which I thought was their most charming homage.)

So yeah, I think MGK overstates the objective quality of the Holmes stories; perhaps memory has been kind.

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mygif

A Study In Scarlet is pretty bad, yeah, but it’s also the first. The short stories pick up pretty quickly.

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mygif

Right there with you on “Without a Clue” but, “Young Sherlock Holmes”… not so much for me, I’m afraid. It’s too… Chris Columbus-y somehow, is the only way I can put it (I’m pretty sure he did this at the heart of his “Spielberg protege’ screenwriter” period).
Did you ever see “They Might Be Giants”? With George C. Scott under the delusion that he’s Holmes?
(Basis of the band name, too.)

And I’ve always been fond of the Holmes/Jack the Ripper film “Murder by Decree”.

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[spoiler]

One of the things I liked very very much about “Young Sherlock Holmes” is that, if you wait through the closing credits, you find that the bad guy (Professor Rathe) actually survived, made his way to an inn, and signed the guestbook as… Moriarty.

[/spoiler]

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Edgar Allan Poe said on February 22nd, 2008 at 2:56 am

“The mystery genre is, to this day, largely defined by the rules set out by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even if he never actually intended to create rules for mystery writing in the first place.”

I call bullshit.

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mygif

Sorry, Edgar – firstly, you wrote thrillers more than you wrote mysteries, and secondly, modern mystery writers ape the Conan Doyle formula and not yours.

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I respectfully disagree, MGK. Modern mystery writers work much more from the 1930s formula pioneered by people like Sayers and Christie, mixed with the Hammett/Chandler structure where the case you start out investigating is just the tip of the iceberg.

I love the Holmes stories as much as the next guy, but as works of logic they simply don’t work. We love them for the atmosphere, the language, and most of all the characters, not because the crimes involved make any rational sense.

Hell, I sometimes think those stories are PSYCH in reverse; Holmes would have a clairvoyant flash that would reveal the culprit to him without any further information, and have to improvise some bizarre chain of logic to justify it.

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mygif

Yeah, I gotta say, really everyone apes Agatha Christie, not Doyle. And you might be able to claim that Christie was aping Doyle, but that just leaves you open to claims that Doyle was aping Poe (sure, he’s known more now as a writer of thrillers, but when Doyle was writing, Poe was well-known as the inventor of the detective story.)

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mygif

I love Young Sherlock Holmes!

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I searched for a copy of Without a Clue because of this entry and I should really thank you for one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Awesome performances and great script.

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Ravenblack said on July 16th, 2008 at 4:36 am

I still cry when I see ‘The Final Problem’, and I stil Rejoice when I see ‘The Return Of Sherlock Holmes’.
I loved the way Jeremy portrayed Sherlock Holmes.
I think that the filming of Sherlock Holmes series should be given a rest forever now because I feel that no one can replace Jeremy. He was a genius and he made me love Sherlock Holmes.

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