In my review for “Sherlock Jr” (1924) I mentioned my interest in Sherlock Holmes. I though I’d take the opportunity to talk about the first season of the BBC series “Sherlock” (2010).
A modern interpretation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic, “Sherlock” sets the title character as a hyper-intelligent, tech savvy cynic (Benedict Cumberbatch) supported by his friend Afghan war veteran Doctor Watson (Martin Freeman). Season one is three 90 minute episodes, more like individual movies than a television show, that tell the familiar stories in a new way. For example, episode one “A Study in Pink” is a direct adaptation of “A Study in Scarlet.”
I find the series to be wonderfully cast with pitch-perfect portrayals of a Holmes for the modern world. The tone is far from Basil Rathbone, but I feel fits very well with the literary works. On top of that, Freeman’s presentation of Watson as an everyman with a thirst for adventure seems more genuine in his tenuous relationship with Holmes than previous incarnations where he seems to be a bumbling idiot.
If you are a fan of Holmes, like mysteries, or are looking for something that requires a little brain power, give “Sherlock” a try. Me, I’ve already set my mobile ringtone for the title song.
I’ve been on a British mystery kick. After watching way too many episodes of “Midsomer Murders” I decided to go with a classic. Agatha Christie, the best-selling mystery writer of all time, meets Billy Wilder, writer-director extraordinaire in the script of “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957).
The film is a riveting court drama the tops any seen today. Christie’s tale leads you to question your own suspicions and plays wonderfully with Wilder’s quirky sense of humor seamlessly inserted into the dialogue. Additionally, Wilder’s decision to minimize music puts greater emphasis on the inflection on words spoken and stretches of silence.
Marlene Dietrich is accused murderer Tyrone Power’s wife whom he brought to England after WWII. The complications of their relationship are nearly the opposite of those she played in “The Blue Angel,” but carry as much intrigue. Charles Laughton as Banister Wilfrid is both a comic curmudgeon and brilliant analytical mind. His performance was the reason I had a repeat watch immediately.
While there is a sequence where you find yourself doing a face-palm with Dietrich, it’s not too hard to forgive and carry on. The end of the film requests that I “not divulge the end,” so all I can say is that as I sat watching this film, exclaimed to my hamster, “CharlesLaughton is Amazing!”
If you’re a Billy Wilder fan, check out my reviews of “The Seven Year Itch” and “Double Indemnity.”
I’ve really gotten into BBC’s “Sherlock.” The way they’re adapted the Arthur Conan Doyle character of Sherlock Holmes for the modern age is completely engaging and entertaining. So I thought I might go back and see other inspirations from the past. But instead of critiquing the iconic Basil Rathbone encarnation, I took the way-back machine a little further.
Buster Keaton‘s 1924 film “Sherlock Jr.” (1924) is a wonderful example of how the character has influenced popular culture for a century. Keaton stars as our young hero who is trying to woo his love interest by day and works in a cinema at night. Fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, he dreams himself into a mystery. This movie completely tickles my film nerd bones, for as the character dreams, he imagines himself not only as Holmes, but as apart of the cinema world that, as a theater projectionist, he views everyday. Of course, reality always spills into a dream, and he finds his lady deep in a mysterious robbery and kidnapping, that only he can solve. The rest is less mystery and more silent comedy hijinks and fantastic stunts. In this Keaton is an absolute master, keeping you constantly engaged and oblivious to the skill involved in the flawless execution and timing.
I love this film. Its brisk 45 minutes goes by far too quickly and leaves me wanting to start it all over again.
While I was working on my undergraduate degree, one of the classes I took was a study of the director Billy Wilder and addressed the question what makes his films so identifiable. My professor called this identification “Wilderesque,” and while his work spans seven decades and multiple genres they all have a common feel unique to this director. Part of this stems from the fact that as he also wrote his own films he had the ability to impart his vision to the story more completely.
For “Double Indemnity” (1944), Wilder crafted a film that is undeniably Noir but differs from the common hard-boiled-detective plot line. Fred MacMurray is an insurance salesman who becomes embroiled in murder after he falls for dangerous beauty Barbara Stanwyck. The entire story is told through flashbacks with plenty of fast-paced dialogue. The use of shadow to create mood and effect only help to illustrate that it’s what you don’t see in the film that’s the most important. MacMurray is at his all-time best and his performance is complemented by Eddie G. Robinson’s portrayal as both friend and foe.
Like Wilder’s classic comedy “The Seven Year Itch” (1955), “Double Indemnity” has direct, witty dialogue that is complimented by well thought out imagery. If the film feels dated at all, its only due to 1940s gender roles and slang. This film is one of the staples on my shelf and should be viewed by anyone who appreciates a well-told tale.