When I was in HMV (RIP) looking for Christmas presents, I discovered that the complete Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett as Holmes was on sale for £25. All four television series and the two TV movies (The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles) in one beautiful box set? I didn’t hesitate. I snapped it up. I’ve been making my way through the archives with delight for several weeks and am now halfway through the second series. Watching Brett play Holmes has made me realise all that’s missing from the very popular current BBC Sherlock.

He is perfect as Holmes. Just perfect. He has all the mannerisms and the look of Holmes. The ability to change position from recumbent lounging to wiry, cheetah-like poise in the blink of an eye. The tall, lithe strength of Holmes. The pale, ascetic face. Crucially, he also has a sense of humour (sadly lacking in the Cumberbatch version). And not the RDJ camp style either, which is funny and I love it, but isn’t canon Holmes. I mean he has Holmes’ sense of humour: the sudden flashes of merriment, the barks of whole-bodied laughter, at moments seemingly inappropriate to other people. The brief wry smile. He can also transform himself into the myriad characters that Holmes adopts during his sleuthing - a bent old bookseller, a down-and-out tradesman. Cumberbatch is seemingly capable of only playing Holmes as Holmes, half-hearted attempt at impersonating a priest in A Scandal in Belgravia notwithstanding.

Plus, my favourite aspect of the Holmes mysteries - and I suspect that of many others, given the popularity of the BBC’s Sherlock, the plots of whose episodes only vaguely resemble the originals - the relationship between him and Watson, is so sensitively portrayed by him and his counterparts. (Watson was played by David Burke in the first series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and by Edward Hardwicke in the succeeding series.) In the post-Reichenbach episode, when Holmes shocks Watson and makes him faint with his dramatic reappearance, there’s a moment when Watson is still unconscious and Holmes is checking him before bringing him round. He runs his hand over Watson’s face, and the combination of quick professionalism and genuine tenderness expressed in the gesture is worth a thousand of the overt quips about gayness in the present BBC Sherlock to this Loony Fangirl.

Rosalie Williams makes a fantastic Mrs. Hudson (as does Una Stubbs in Sherlock). She aids and abets and perseveres, with a gentle bustling air that helps her steal scenes in her moments on-screen.

I have one confession of impropriety to make. During the episode featuring Tim McInnerny as Vincent Spaulding/John Clay in “The Red-Headed League”, McInnerny popped up through the floor at the climax. I couldn’t resist. I shouted, “HELLO, DARLING!” (Blackadder fans will understand, I’m sure.)

From: [personal profile] magister


Oh, I do as well. I watched them as they were originally shown. Episodes like Sign of Four, Final Problem, Empty House and Red Headed League are as close to definite as I'm likely to see. Yay to Darling in Red Headed League, but did you notice that he's working with Victor Meldrew?

After you've got through Brett, if you've never listened to them, I'd suggest the Radio 4 series with Clive Merrison and Michael Williams - the only pairing to have done every Holmes story Conan Doyle wrote. Absolutely excellent.l

From: [personal profile] strangecharm


I'm surprised that a combination like Holmes and Radio 4 is something I have not yet encountered, but this is more than made up for by the delight of now getting to look forward to listening to them some day :)
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From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info


I've been meaning to get those for *ages* -- Tilt has raved about them to me before now. I'll check audiogo right now...
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From: [identity profile] andrewhickey.info


Yeah, I've bought the four novels as downloads, to start with. So many people have been telling me that these versions are even better than the Brett ones (and the Bretts are the best Holmeses I've ever known of, and I've seen and heard a lot) that I *had* to get them -- it just took a while to get round to it.

From: [personal profile] eruvadhril


Clive Merrison and Michael Williams are the greatest Holmes and Watson OF ALL TIME.

From: [personal profile] magister


Damn right. Brett's excellent, but the R4 versions are just superb.

From: [personal profile] caulkhead


I caught a few of this on Lovefilm last year (the series is no longer available) and have been stalking them every time I went into HMV ever since - without success, and now no more. Alas. I particularly like the way Watson is the everyman to Holmes' genius, rather than the idiotic old buffer he's often portrayed as (that's one Sherlock *did* get right, IMO).

Seconding the radio 4 series.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)

From: [personal profile] davegodfrey


Nigel Bruce is a great comic performance. But it isn't Watson. My favourite Holmes/Watson scenes are the ones where either Watson has a go at using Holmes' methods (and usually gets it wrong, but his reasoning is sound), and in the Case of The Dying Detective, where even though Holmes is a master of disguise, he wasn't going to fool Watson for more than five minutes.
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)

From: [personal profile] holyschist


I know nothing about the period myself, but it sounds like a fun interpretation of Holmes!

From: [personal profile] soliano


I agree. He has been the best Holmes. As much as I loved Basil Rathbone, I adored Jeremy Brett's habits and finicky portrayal. I have to say I prefered the Hardwicke Watson. My favorites are the Blue Carbuncle and the Musgrave ritual.

From: [personal profile] eruvadhril


ILU Blue Carbuncle. Holmes making the bet with the poulterer is one of my favourite scenes in the whole canon.
eruvadhril: (my other car is a time machine)

From: [personal profile] eruvadhril


I was so excited that Brett played it exactly right.

He did. It was fantastic. I love how Burke played Watson in that scene, too; he knows exactly what Holmes is doing, and he's not even trying to keep a straight face.
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From: [personal profile] castiron


Agreed that Brett's Holmes is the definitive performance, and both the Watsons are excellent. I don't have a particular preference between them (and in fact, the first few times I saw episodes, it took a while for my brain to register that they *were* different actors).

(I'm trying to imagine a similar actor switch in BBC Sherlock. The fannish reaction would be interesting to say the least.)
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