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23Mar/140

Video Theater 050: The Sign of Four

Arthur Wontner stars in this adaption of Sherlock Holmes' greatest case.

Release Date: May 1932

8Mar/141

Book Review: The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes


"The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes"  is  the very last Sherlock Holmes short story collection, published in 1927. It is a proverbial mixed bag. There are some stories in the book that are essential reading for Holmes fans ("The Problem at Thor Bridge" and "The Sussex Vampire"), and then there are some of the weakest stories in the Canon ("The Lion's Mane", "The Blanched Soldier", and "The Veiled Lodger"), and then others that range between average to fairly good.

"The Problem at Thor Bridge" is simply one of Holmes' best cases. There's so much in the story and the solution is classic. The same thing goes for "The Sussex Vampire" which presents Holmes a problem that's evocative of the supernatural but with a surprising natural solution that is pretty emotional in its own right.

Most of the worst stories came towards the end of the book. Both "The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane" were attempts to tell Holmes' adventures from Holmes own perspective. While "The Blanched Soldier" was slightly better of the two, both stories were somewhat dry and uninteresting tales that it was hard to care about. The biggest failing of  "The Veiled Lodger"s is that Holmes really does nothing. He describes a mystery and then has one of the perpetrators tell him what happened. While Holmes did say something very wise in response to that, it wasn't really a detective story.

Looking at the rest of the stories:

"The Mazarin Stone": Told in third person, I actually thought it was a pretty fun story showing Holmes cleverness. It was a similar story to the Dying Detective, but I liked this story better.

"The Creeping Man": This is a bizarre story and I know some people really don't like it because it's almost into the realm of speculative fiction, but I thought it was carried off fine and is a classic mix of horror and the detective genre, though good luck trying to guess as to what's happening.

"The Three Garidebs": This is once again a story that calls to mind previous adventures. In it, a man with an unusual last name stands to make a fortune just for his last name, but he brings in Holmes to discern the truth of the business. This story is not as good as "The Red Headed League" but is actually better than "The Stockbroker's Clerk."

"The Illustrious Client": This isn't a whodunit but a challenge for Holmes to stop the marriage of a naive woman to a scoundrel. This is a very well-executed story where Holmes is put to the test.

"The Three Gables": This story of a bereaved mother receiving mysterious offers to buy her house is a very good and enjoyable story.

"The Retired Colourman": This is actually a pretty enjoyable story though Holmes doesn't seem as warm towards Watson in a few places. The solution is a good change of pace, if perhaps a bit melodramatic.

"Shoscombe Old Place": The last Holmes story by Doyle and its solid. Its clearly not at the high quality of Doyle's prime but Holmes gets a pretty engaging case with a clever and unexpected solution revolving around a race horse and the odd behavior of the lady of the manor.

Overall, this is a must for mystery fans even if Doyle is clearly past his prime as a writer in this one.

Let me add that this Oxford edition I read really was splendid and added to the reading experience. The explanatory notes section was helpful to me reading this as an American in the 21st century, as so many phrases that I'd have just glossed over or imagined what they meant. There's also a copious amount of introductory information that provides some great background on the book and is a great resource if you can get a hold of it.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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24Feb/140

Book Review: The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

This book is the proverbial mixed bag. There are some stories in the book that are essential reading for Holmes fans (The Problem at Thor Bridge and the Sussex Vampire), and then there are some of the weakest stories in the Canon (The Lion's Mane, the Blanched Soldier, and the Veiled Lodger), and then others that range between average to fairly good.

"The Problem at Thor Bridge" is simply one of Holmes best cases. There's so much in the story and the solution is classic. The same thing goes for the Sussex Vampire which presents Holmes a problem that's evocative of the supernatural but with a surprising natural solution that is pretty emotional in its own right.

Most of the worst stories came towards the end of the book. Both "The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane"  were attempts to tell Holmes' adventures from Holmes own perspective. While "The Blanched Soldier" was slightly better of the two, both stories were somewhat dry and uninteresting tales that it was hard to care about. "The Veiled Lodgers" biggest failing is that Holmes really does nothing. He describes a mystery and then has one of the perpetrators tell him what happened. While Holmes did say something very wise in response to that, it wasn't really a detective story.

Looking at the rest of the series:

"The Mazarin Stone": Told in third person, I actually thought it was a pretty fun story showing Holmes cleverness. It was a similar story to the Dying Detective, but I liked this story better.

"The Creeping Man": This is a bizarre story and I know some people really don't like it because it's almost into the realm of speculative fiction, but I thought it was carried off fine and is a classic mix of horror and the detective genre, though good luck trying to guess as to what's happening.

"The Three Garidebs": This is once again a story that calls to mind previous adventures. In it, a man with an unusual last name stands to make a fortune just for having his last name, but he brings in Holmes to discern the truth of the business. This story is not as good as "The Red Headed League" but is actually better than "The Stockbroker's Clerk."

"The Illustrious Client": This isn't a whodunit but a challenge for Holmes to stop the marriage of a naive woman to a scoundrel. This is a very well-executed story where Holmes is put to the test against a clever adversary who is a master at manipulating the sympathy of women.

"The Three Gables": This story of a bereaved mother receiving mysterious offers to buy her house is a very good and enjoyable story with a satisfying solution.

"The Retired Colourman": This is actually a pretty enjoyable story though Holmes doesn't seem as warm towards Watson in a few places. The solution is a good change of pace, if perhaps a bit melodramatic.

"Shoscombe Old Place": The last Holmes story by Doyle and its solid. Its clearly not at the high quality of Doyle's prime but Holmes gets a pretty engaging case with a clever and unexpected solution revolving around a race horse and the odd behavior of the lady of the manor.

Overall, this is a must for mystery fans even if Doyle is clearly past his prime as a writer in this one.

Let me add that this Oxford edition I read really was splendid and added to the reading experience. The explanatory notes section was helpful to me reading this as an American in the 21st century, as it gave meaning to so many phrases that I'd have just glossed over or imagined what they meant otherwise. There's also a copious amount of introductory information that provides some great background on the book and is a great resource if you can get a hold of it.

Rating 4.0 out of 5.0

8Feb/140

Review: Sherlock Series 3

After an obligatory two year hiatus, BBC's Sherlock returned with the third series of 90 minute Sherlock movies where we find out what happened at the end of Series 2 in The Reichenbach Fall where viewers seemed to witness Sherlock Holmes committing suicide in order to save the lives of his friends.  I expressed in great detail my issues both with The Reichenback Fall and with the first and last episodes of the series. So how did the third series of 90 minute episodes go?

"The Empty Hearst": Sherlock Holmes has his completely expected return from the dead in this episode, after Watson apparently stood across the street and watched him commit suicide in the last Series 2 episode which was based on “The Final Problem.” Of course, the “The Empty Hearst” has the solution to how Holmes avoided death as well as two other theories that were propounded by in-world theorists. While some doubt is left as to whether Holmes is telling the truth, the theory propounded is as ludicrous as that provided by the theorists and just makes me hate the Series 2 finale even more.

The good news is that “The Empty Hearst” doesn’t focus on the absurdity of the way this played out, leaving the explanation for the final twenty minutes of the show. This episode’s main focus is Sherlock’s return to Baker street and his relationship to Watson. Here, I have to give respect to the writers for giving Watson realistic reactions to this turn of events, which leads to Watson assaulting Sherlock not once but four different times.

Sherlock shows some character development. He remains socially clueless, particularly as he expected Watson to be ready to pick up right where he left off and had no conception that the people in his life would at any point move on with him gone. He also professes his love to a woman, only to find she too has moved on and gotten engaged..

The main mystery to occur is kind of left hanging for most of the episode and is resolved in plenty of time, but there’s a hint that events in this episode were only part of a far greater threat with the focus in this episode being on the relationship and establishing the character. I also appreciated how Doyle stories worked into this episode. A sidebar case that Holmes quickly solves in this episode is based on, “The Case of Identity” while the main mystery borrows from the non-Holmes Doyle mystery, “The Lost Special.”

Overall, I found the episode fun, which wasn’t something I said a lot about the Series 2 episodes.

Grade: A-

"The Sign of Three": It’s the wedding day of John Watson and Mary and Sherlock is the best man and he has to give a speech and boy is out of his element as he begins a meandering speech that’s at time offensive to many members of the audience and at times awkward.

This isn’t the whole episode as the wedding speech serves as a framing device to discuss a fantastic locked room case involving a guardsman who was nearly stabbed to death, Sherlock attempting a stag night out that has Holmes’ best calculations of how to avoid getting drunk go horribly wrong, and a case of many women who are dating a ghost. Both cases are not completely solved but they’ll have to be or they’ll be at murder at Watson’s funeral.

The human element continues to be big this series and that’s a mixed blessing. On one hand, the fondness of the two main characters for each other and the real buddy nature of the relationship. On the other hand, this episode does tend to meander a bit, and I feel like the story got lost somewhere for about half an hour.

In addition, some of the moments didn’t work. Watson and Holmes getting drunk by mistake was supposed to be cute. The way it was portrayed was just stupid.

But on the awesome side of the ledger, I liked how they managed to have a physical portrayal of Holmes doing an online chat and then we got taken actually inside Holmes’ head to see how he was reasoning. It was a great moment and a good solution to the case. Far from perfect, but I still enjoyed it.

Grade: B

"His Last Vow": While the title of this story is inspired by the short story, “His Last Bow,” the basis for the plot was “The Adventure Charles Augustus Milverton.” In this version, foreign newspaper baron Charles A. Magnussen holds blackmail over the heads of nearly every one of any importance in the Western World. They try to make him even more disgusting by having him lick a woman he was blackmailing and urinating Sherlock Holmes’ fireplace (subtlety thy name isn’t Stephen Moffat.)

Sherlock manages to finagle his way into Milverton’s estate only to find someone very close to him and Watson about to kill Magnussen.

Beyond that, I can’t go into much more without spoiling it and I don’t want to spoil it. The program features some great developments in the relationship between these three characters: John, Mary, and Sherlock. In the first episode of the series, Watson was told that Sherlock was a great man and might even become a good one, and you have a sense that he’s growing towards that end. The reveal of where Magnussen’s files are hidden is a bit of a surprise as well.

Of course, there are a few bumps in the road. Sherlock toys with a woman and proposes to her to get into Magnussen’s apartment. This was something that was extrapolated from Doyle’s original story. And then there’s the end of the episode where he once again crosses a line as he did (or seemed to do) at the end of Series 2. However, I found his action while wrong, to be quite believable. I think the Sherlock Holmes of the nineteenth century probably would have done the same thing facing similar circumstances. In the 21st Century Holmes’ case, his actions were to keep the vow he made to protect John, Mary, and their child at the end of the previous episode thus the name of the episode.

Some critics have pointed out that this story lacks a satisfying whodunit feel to it. Well, so does Doyle’s original story, so I can’t fault the writers too much on how this ended up. In the end, this episode was a powerful story of evil, honor, forgiveness, and love

Grade: A-

Overall:

I was delighted by Series 1 of Sherlock, I was repulsed and irritated by much of Series 2. Series 3, on the other hand, really surprised me.

I never expected the emotional depth of this series. After Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Holmes as a selfish egotist who made Watson’s wedding and marriage difficult, I never expected Cumberbach’s Holmes that would be intelligent enough to extend his absolute dedication to John Watson to his new bride. (As an aside I have to wonder whether the Downey pictures, the CBS series, and the BBC series don't play off one another to some degree.)

This is a series where the cases were rarely as flashy, but there was some great substance in each episode. The production team topped themselves in making Sherlock’s though processes themselves look great.

Despite my complaints about Milverton’s over the top disgustingness, this series actually was less full of blood, guts, and shock value than the previous two series.

At times, the episodes were padded and they could lose focus, but overall I’m fairly happy with this series and looking forward to Series 4.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

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19Jan/140

Video Theater 048: The Sleeping Cardinal

Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Wontner) is on the trail of Professor Moriarty in a tale of intrigue and murder.

Release Date: February 1931

3Nov/130

Video Theater 046: The Speckled Band

Sherlock Holmes (Alan Napier) investigates the case of a frightened heiress.

Original Air Date: March 25, 1949

11Aug/130

Video Theater 043: Sherlock Holmes: The Case of Harry Crocker

An escape artist shows up at Baker Street asking for Holmes' help to clear him of murder. Episode 9 (1954)

7Jul/130

Video Theater 042: Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Winthrop Legend

Holes is brought in by the brother of a man who will soon die-according to a strange family Curse.

Episode 7

Original Air Date: 1954

27Jun/130

EP0984: Sherlock Holmes: The Empty House

John GielgudSherlock Holmes returns from the dead to solve a locked room murder.

Original Air Date: April 17, 1955

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20Jun/130

EP0978: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem

John Gielgud
Sherlock Holmes battles his archenemy Professor Moriarty in one of his most perilous adventure.

Original Air Date: April 10, 1955

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