23 September 2003 | vox-sane
Here we say a fond fare-well to the finest Holmes on film. And not a minute too soon. Though the series was cut short by the tragic and untimely death of Jeremy Brett, the series should've died before this. The earlier "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" (with David Burke and Edward Hardwicke, respectively, as Watson) were superb visual retellings of the Doyle stories. They even had moments of humor (cf. "The Red Headed League", when Holmes and Watson hear about the artificial kneecaps; or "The Solitary Cyclist", when Holmes is interrupted in his experiments -- no spoilers, though!) Holmes might be oddly whimsical (as in "The Naval Treaty"). But at some point melancholy fell over the stories. Certainly the lengthening of stories into artificial movies in "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes" didn't better the series. Instead of telling the stories in a straightforward way, stories begin to be blended into one another. Bizarre elements found their way into the tales. In one disastrous episode in the "Case Book" days, "The Sussex Vampire", the makers diverged from Doyle altogether for a totally whacked-out story that ought never have been told. "Memoirs" suffers from story blending -- part of that is Doyle's fault, since some of his Holmes stories are paper thin and could barely sustain an hour. But melancholy had claimed the series for her own. There were too many close-ups, the make up is weird in cases, and at some points hindsight makes you worry about Jeremy Brett's health. Naturally in the eerily title "The Dying Detective" he looks bad. But he looks pretty bad in the rest of them, too. Though I'm sorry they couldn't have finished all the stories in the canon, they came close; and the way they were mucking about with stories and camera work and make up and overarching sadness in "Memoirs" makes one wish they hadn't gone this far. The loss of Jeremy Brett to the acting world casts a further pall over the proceedings. This is not the place to start for Brett's finely limned Holmes, and truly is for someone who obsessively has to own every episode.