I should begin this TV/Movies review by saying that you probably saw Jeremy Brett years before you thought you had seen him. If you remember the scene in My Fair Lady (1964) with Eliza’s young suitor dancing and singing down the street where she lived, then you know where you first saw Jeremy Brett.
It is for this reason, that when you see these Sherlock Holmes shows, you will clearly see what a lithe dancer Jeremy Brett was. He sometimes seems to simply pirouette through the air, leaping and bounding as gracefully as a dancer would.
But, Brett brought much more than just large movements to his Holmes’ character! Brett’s facial ticks, all-too-brief attempts at smiles, meditative poses (almost yoga-like trances), and pensive gazes into space ( just to name a few smaller physical movements) were all part of the Sherlock Holmes persona that we have grown to anticipate and love. Brett conveys emotions through his acting, and instead of having to verbalize his feelings, he simply shows us. How many times, during the many episodes, do we see Holmes sit in his chair, smoking his long pipe, flashing a (not even) momentary smile? He doesn’t have to say one word, we know exactly what he is thinking…
The sets and costumes of these delightful Sherlock Holmes productions are period-appropriate, and exactly what we have come to expect from the folks at the Granada production company.
There are several different sets that are now available for us to enjoy. Here is a list of the shows in order:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1984 (13 episodes)
The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 1986 (11 episodes)
Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four, 1987
Sherlock Holmes: Hound of the Baskervilles, 1984 (I know that ’84 comes before ’86 & ’87, but the official site puts this show in this chronological spot… not where I initially thought it should go…)
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, 1991 (6 episodes)
Sherlock Holmes: The Master Blackmailer, 1992 (a 2 Hour Movie)
Sherlock Holmes: the Last Vampyre, 1993 (a 2 Hour Movie)
Sherlock Holmes: The Eligible Bachelor, 1993 (a 2 Hour Movie)
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, 1994 (6 episodes)
This is one television series that was almost seamlessly able to switch actors playing a leading character. Dr. Watson was played by David Burke until 1985, with Edward Hardwicke taking over from 1986 until the end of the series. I enjoyed both of the Watson portrayals… I have found that in several other Sherlock Holmes adaptions, Dr. Watson is portrayed as (almost) a bumbling idiot. I doubt that Holmes would have kept him around for longer than it took for him to dismiss him>>> with a wave of his hand! (No words needed if it is Jeremy Brett doing the dismissing!)
Although a small part, Rosalie Williams was perfect as Mrs. Hudson. She neither coddled Sherlock nor shied away when he would bellow out orders…. She held her own!
We should remember, while watching these wonderful productions, that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote these stories as newspaper installments. He was one of, if not the first, prolific mystery writer. (Edgar Allan Poe was more of an author of suspense.) Doyle had actually tired of the Holmes stories, and killed him off… only to find that he “had to bring him back to life” when the public “demanded” more Sherlock Holmes newspaper stories.
The one very bad thing about this series is this: Once you see these television productions, you will never be happy with another actor’s portrayal of the great Sherlock Holmes character!
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*****I wrote this entry back in 2007. Since then, I have seen several different renditions of Sherlock Holmes, and I still think Jeremy Brett’s is the absolute best. April 2014