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SHERLOCK HOLMES ON SCREEN
THE COMPLETE FILM AND TV HISTORY - 2nd
Published by Reynolds & Hearn Ltd
ISBN: 1 903111 78 1
There have been several books about the
many film appearances of Sherlock Holmes, and almost as many about the
various television adaptations, but few have so concisely consolidated the
two as Alan Barnes' excellent guide Sherlock Holmes on Screen.
Barnes' book is perhaps the first to
give equal weight to the TV series and movies, and certainly the first
whose entries on the Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer and Richard Roxburgh TV
portrayals (for example) are as detailed as those on the Granada
Television series, which starred Jeremy Brett. The Brett series is widely
regarded as the best adaptation, and it introduced many people to the character
who would go on to be long-term fans, but it also tends to eclipse other
adaptations which are equally worthy of close study.
a smidgeon under three hundred pages, nothing is covered in any great
depth, of course, but the book offers a good overview of each production,
together with a discussion of its merits. Each entry is accompanied by a
cast list, and basic production details. The reviews also note where they
deviate from the canonical Conan Doyle
stories. The book covers all live-action productions featuring the
character (including episodes of series like Star Trek - The Next
Generation, which feature one of the Holmes characters). Excluded are
comedy sketches and animated films, (something we should perhaps be
grateful for, given the almost uniformly awful quality of such
The book is full of interesting
information, especially about productions which have not been scrutinised
before, such as the series of Russian TV adaptations made between 1979 and
1986, which were generally untainted by influences inherited from
generations of previous adaptations.
Navigating the book presents the casual
reader with quite a problem. The
book is arranged alphabetically, which, naturally means that there are
clumps of entries with similar titles (particularly around "Sherlock..."
and the canonical titles, "Hound..." and "Sign of...", for example).
Perhaps in recognition of this the author has seemingly bent over
backwards to differentiate titles. Some entries are listed by their foreign
language titles; others are to be found under the umbrella title of a
particular series of plays, which might not be
immediately obvious to many readers. A case in point is a 1951 BBC series,
which is listed under the rather tortuous title We Present Alan
Wheatley As Mr Sherlock Holmes In... It's a shame that the book has
not been given a comprehensive index: at least one other Reynolds &
Hearn publication (David Miller's equally indispensable The Peter
Cushing Companion) gained one between its first and second editions.
Instead, a chronology is offered, but even that doesn't offer the
addition of the relevant page numbers for each entry.
Having established its bona fides as
a worthwhile addition to the bookshelves of anyone interested in Sherlock
Holmes, or to those interested in vintage film and television, let's look
at what the second edition offers by way of incentive to upgrade from the
The most notable change is that the new
version is a hardback. Reynolds & Hearn have produced many fine books for
their niche markets, but relatively few of them have been offered in this
format, which is a shame. The new edition of Sherlock Holmes on Screen
comes with a new jacket design showcasing Basil Rathbone as Holmes,
instead of Peter Cushing, who featured on the cover of the first edition.
Beneath the jacket is a plain black volume with gold embossed lettering on
new edition is about sixty pages longer than the first. Some of this can
be attributed to a different layout, one where many photo's have been
enlarged. There are, however, a significant amount of new additions. Some,
like two recent TV movies starring Max Headroom's Matt Frewer (The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire and The Royal Scandal) have been released since the book was originally published, in 2002.
The most significant addition is arguably the one for the BBC's frankly
insultng adaptation of
The Hound of the Baskervilles, which starred Richard Roxburgh. Other
new entries include an overlooked 1976 NBC pastiche, The
Return of the World's Greatest Detective, which featured Larry Hagman
as Sherman Holmes; the misguided 2002 TV movie Sherlock
(a.k.a. Sherlock: Case of Evil); and the recent Hollywood
blockbuster The League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen, which featured Roxburgh, again, this time
as Professor Moriarty. It's in this review that Barnes' offers the
sobering observation that there hasn't been a theatrically-released
Sherlock Holmes film since Young Sherlock Holmes, eighteen years
ago. It's astonishing to think that such a fertile property has been
ignored for so long, apparently no longer likely to draw a cinema audience.
There are about a dozen new photo's in the
second edition, featuring everyone from Tom Baker, in the BBC's 1982
version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, to Arthur Wontner in
1932's The Missing Rembrandt. Most are new additions, but a few
have replaced less impressive ones. The reproduction of the photo's in the
new edition seems slightly better, with improved contrast and density.
There are some subtle improvements in the
book's layout. Little has changed, but some photo's are now placed closer
to their respective entries in the text, and there are a few other minor
tweaks to the position of the captions.
Sherlock Holmes on Screen is a book
you'll probably find yourself referring to regularly. The second edition
is a substantial improvement on the first, and should
offer enough incentives for those who have well-thumbed copies of the 2002
edition to upgrade.
The book is currently listed by Amazon (at
£13.99, a saving of £6 on the publisher's list price of £19.99), but it's
not easily found, because Amazon has botched the title. Click
here, or on the sleeve
image, above, to see Amazon's listing - and support Zeta Minor by using
our affiliate link!