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.”
Alfred Hitchcock was the unequivocal master of suspense. Of his 55 feature films “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956) is one of his better known, though not as iconic as “The Birds” (1963) or “Psycho” (1960). The film has undergone a recent restoration and is looking better than I’ve ever seen it with its vibrant Technicolor and clean process shots.
“The Man Who Knew Too Much” stars Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day as a couple on vacation in Marrakech whose son is kidnapped after they become entangled in a plot to assassinate a foreign dignitary. Stewart and Day don’t have an extraordinary amount of chemistry, but their portrayals of a married couple under tension are so complimentary one forgets how different they really are. The pacing is steady, and the story throws just enough curve balls to keep you on the edge, wondering how they’re going to get to the Hollywood ending you expect from a mid-50s film. Of course, with Doris Day appearing in a roll, its required for her to sing at least one song. To its credit the film utilizes this as a tool and it feels more integrated than in other Day films.
“The Man Who Knew Too Much” was actually a remake of a film Hitchcock had made through British Gaumont in 1934. Also titled “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” it featured Leslie Banks and Edna Best as a couple whose daughter is kidnapped by villain Peter Lorre. The title was the only one of his films that Hitchcock ever remade and both received box office success. If you care to compare the two versions, both are available on DVD.