As threatened, I’m now going to review a few of my favourite Sherlock Holmes adaptations—well, let’s face it, it’s mostly a collection of edited caps and ramblings about Holmes and Watson’s bromance, but whatever, I’m having fun, and I hope the inclined reader may have some, too.
If you’re ready to go down the rabbit hole and, as Holmes puts it, ‘dirty your fluffy white tail,’ onwards after the jump.
The Case of the Silk Stocking, BBC, 2004
Starring Rupert Everett and Ian Hart, this adaptation is both unusual and very close to Arthur Conan-Doyle’s original at the same time. This is for precisely two reasons: Holmes does drugs with the implicitness with which Watson changes his underwear—and the consulting detective and Watson’s American fiancée, Jenny Vandeleur (played by the delightful Helen McCrory!), hit it off like a house on fire and continue to do so throughout the movie, with the exception of Jenny being fundamentally pissed off when Holmes tricks her into exposing a young girl that had gotten away to the suspected killer, traumatizing her all over again.
Which is, to say it plainly, awesome. Jenny is brilliant, straightforward, not the least bit impressed by stuck-up English formality, and not the slightest bit offended at Sherlock’s utter disinterest in her existence as John’s future wife; just curious, fascinated even, as he visits to have dinner with the couple one evening, shortly before their wedding. Besides, he’s not completely out of the loop: Sherlock being Sherlock, he looked up the current fashion trends on wedding gowns. Smooth, reindeer.
Anyway, after dinner, they sit down and chat while Watson makes coffee, and, in all Victorian nonchalance, start talking about the current case—did I mention? Young girls are being abducted, gagged with silk stockings, molested, and stuck into the clothes of the previous victims, then killed by a sadistic misogynist—when Jenny recommends to Holmes a fascinating book on sexual derangements and perversions, suggesting that the killer is a foot fetishist gone-too-far. Holmes, to say the least, is amazed.
Watson, on the other hand, is only marginally surprised.
So, what kind of Holmes & Watson is this? A slightly estranged one, I have to say—Watson’s been away from Baker Street for a while, having lived with his fiancée for the past few months; and Mrs Hudson has never been so glad to see Sherlock’s former flatmate. The detective is wearing himself out with drugs and no solid food, driving poor Watson to distraction, prompting him to nag, nag, oh, and NAG, which pisses Holmes off, which results in this fight and staring match:
In addition to that, they’re soon back to the other old conflict they could never settle: Holmes keeping vital information about his plans from Watson in order to make sure his schemes work out. And Watson hates it. It’s a theme for Ian Hart’s Watson—he spends half the time alone with Holmes explaining to him that, no, he doesn’t trust him, and that he wished Holmes would put more faith in him; which leaves both his two Holmes’s incapable of telling him that, for God’s sake, he’s all they’ve got and of course they trust him, they’re just sociopathic assholes who can’t help forgetting to factor in his feelings once in a while. But more to that later. Anyway, it’s this that Holmes keeps from him this time:
He’s smoothly disguised as an unlikeable French (jeez, thanks, Arthur!) aristocrat—or, as Watson calls him, a “pompous oaf”—to prevent the abduction of Roberta Massingham whom he’d used as bait for the murderer: the icy and bitchy Duchess of Narborough’s footman (and clandestine affair). Watson and the oaf manage to intervene on time, but they’re still on the wrong track. They have figured out that the killer must have a twin brother in order for the deranged of the two having an alibi in case someone should recognize them or place them at the scene, but they haven’t factored in the possibility that his sane brother might be actively helping him to get the girls.
Thus, they have the wrong man in custody while Roberta is, in fact, being abducted by the killer. WHILE WATSON AND THE GIRLS FATHER ARE DOWNSTAIRS IN THE STUDY, DRINKING BRANDY. I have never screamed at my screen so insistently.
Speaking of custody: I like this Lestrade, as does Holmes, if only for professional reasons—he might be clueless on his own, the consulting detective concedes, but as “tenacious as a bulldog” once he knows what to look for, and damn successful at it. But he also beats information about the killer’s hideout out of his brother, revealing the nastier business of policing, something usually glossed over in any Holmes adaptation.
Ian Hart’s Watson is a little stout, but heartwarming—and badass. He’s present at the autopsy of what they initially believe to be the first victim, Alice Pentney, daughter of the Narboroughs’, and gives the coroner a few lessons in assisting the police rather than ruining evidence. He also calls on Holmes to draw his attention to this case that he doesn’t think is open-and-shut at all. Later, he assumes the role of an American searching for his daughter, the real first victim—before having to exhume her corpse to look for the trade mark silk stocking.
Rupert Everett’s Holmes is a languid, long-limbed creature with a drawling voice, and, even though thoroughly debauched and off his face on cocaine when he’s alone, impeccable and sober whenever he pokes his head out the window. He doesn’t have the nervous energy of a Jeremy Brett, or the cheekbones of Benedict Cumberbatch, but he’s an impressive Holmes, with a confident and atom-dividing stare, perky comments directed at your graces, and a fixed scale of payment.
Also, he appears compassionate with Roberta, whose sister Georgina had fallen victim to the serial killer, and actually consoles her about her ordeal—whether that was uncharacteristically genuine Holmes or just a clever bit of manipulation to make her more accessible to the idea of acting as bait for her sister’s murderer… who knows. Everyone knows he’s an excellent actor, though.
The plot is interesting and the suspense kept up throughout, although the shit-we-have-the-wrong-brother-in-custody gets a bit predictable the second time around, if you think about it—still, it opens a can of worms labeled Now Watson Has to Go and Leave His Inner Gentleman at the Door When Shouting at the Duchess to Reveal Where Exactly She Shagged Her Boyfriend—both of them, in fact. They shared everything. Oh, Arthur Conan-Doyle, some of the women featuring in your stories… Anyway, the final confrontation between the brothers in blood and the brothers in bond is well-executed and fast-paced, while leaving enough room for Holmes to coax an explanation out of the killer, even offering his own experience with addiction as guidance. Turns out, the young servant was frustrated by the young girls in his charge not even noticing him, so his inner psychopath convinced him to start abducting instead of dreaming of wooing them. Hey, that worked well.
On to the next adventure, on page 2! »