Thursday, January 15, 2015

Readers' Choice: Who's the Best... Sherlock Holmes?


Karen: Your turn again kids. "Who's the Best?" looks at a specific subject, like "Who's the Best Thor villain?" or "Who's the Best Tarzan Actor?" or even "Who's the Best Epic Storyline?" (it doesn't always have to be a person or persons). You'll need a topic where you can do multiple comparisons, obviously, but otherwise, comics, movies, music, heck, even snack foods -you know us, we'll talk about just about anything!

22 comments:

Humanbelly said...

Ooo-- is this where I can toss a SHERLOCK HOLMES conversation into the ring?? Man, he's just everywhere-- and he has been, gosh, pretty much ever since his creation (in one form or another). Movies, television, literature (naturally), stage, and radio-- his durability and adaptability never ceases to delight me!

HB

J.A. Morris said...

I have to go with Rathbone, with Jeremy Brett a close second.

dbutler16 said...

I have to go with Jeremy Brett, without hesitation. Definitely NOT Robert Downey, jr!

Colin Jones said...

I've never seen any Jeremy Brett so I'll say Basil Rathbone as he looks like the way the character was originally drawn but his Dr. Watson was an idiot. Peter Cushing also played a good Holmes in one film. And not Benedict Cumberbatch - Holmes shouldn't be set in the modern day (I know Rathbone's Holmes was set at the time those films were made though). If we're allowed to suggest another 'who's the best' what about the best Dracula - basically Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Peter Cushing is the definitive onscreen Holmes. Lee is the definitive onscreen Dracula.

Humanbelly said...

Although I usually tend towards staunch traditionalism in so many things, I find that I'm able to happily and enjoyably embrace a wide range of Holmes re-imaginings or updatings. . . as long as the creators are making a good-faith effort to use the source material as inspiration, and clearly have a love and respect for that basic, wildly-unique core character. And even at that, I can still get a kick out of some affectionate re-imaginings (such as Michael Caine & Ben Kingsley in WITHOUT A CLUE).

While Basil Rathbone may be the brilliant cinematic mold against which all other Holmes(es) will be compared-- I do think that Jeremy Brett (particularly in the earlier seasons) captures more truly the character's twitchy eccentricity and lack of regard for all of the niceties of formal Victorian social interaction-- which is much more in keeping with the Doyle's vision. My only knock against Brett is that he adamantly refused to clothe himself in the "traditional" Holmes wardrobe-- but I imagine that's understandable.

Still, though-- I absolutely love Benedict Cumberbatch in the UK series. I think he truly nails what a "traditional" Holmes would be in a modern London setting. And. . . blasphemous as this may sound. . . he may prove to be my favorite over the course of time.

BUT-- I also love the character that Johnny Lee Miller has created in ELEMENTARY. Only, it's such an alternate-universe version that it maybe ranks as an "inspired-by", rather than as a "based-on".

The RDjr Holmes-- enh. The movies are fun and he's a hoot to watch-- but he absolutely lacks any core relationship to any "Holmes" that we're familiar with. The portrayal also seems to be inconsistent with itself as far as temperament and focus go.

I'm. . . gonna go w/ Chris Lee as Dracula (which may get me pilloried!). Lugosi really only played the role (as named) twice on film: in DRACULA and in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (of all places). And even as a kid, Bela just didn't scare me at all. In retrospect, I can see that his performance was much, much more stage-sized than film-sized, and I think that was what put me off. Too my eye, he's honestly more believable in the later comedy.

Oy. Yammering too much, HB. Rein it in. . . !

HB

The Prowler said...

It is with a heavy heart and knotted brow that I admit I tried (and tried) to muster an opinion on both Holmes and Dracula and must finally admit, much as a great man once said, I got nothing! I had thought about offering as a subject: actor of our generation, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr, or John Cusack. But then I stumbled upon: Best Franchise Reboot!!! (Boot boot boot). Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or Star Trek? I have yet to see all of the Batmans or Treks and the Superman excitement is in the future, so my vote goes to Spider-Man. As I mentioned before, the rumor with Spider-Man is an Aunt May prequel.

(It's a trap).

Karen said...

HB -just couldn't wait til February, huh? I guess I'll just scratch that post...sigh...

I enjoy watching Basil Rathbone, but I have to admit I haven't seen a lot of the other interpretations. I recently caught Benedict Cumberbundle...Cumberbund...whatever...and it was interesting. I may watch some more episodes. I'm not quite sure what to make of it yet. I liked Martin Freeman as Watson quite a bit.

Didn't care for the Downey movie at all (only saw the first one). Far too amped up for Holmes.

KevinFermoyle said...

Basil Rathbone remains the ultimate film version of Holmes for me. However Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman make an excellent "modernized" Holmes and Watson.

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Jeremy Brett. I wonder if one's choice is based on generational exposure.

As for the Downey Holmes. I bought the DVDs, watched them each once, and threw them in the trash.

I, however, have the Granada Green Box set of the Jeremy Brett Holmes and it is a much-watched and much-enjoyed item in my DVD collection.

The Cumberbatch Sherlock is superb but only the first two series. The third is among the most disappointing follow ups ever (with The Phantom Menace forever holding the #1 spot).

Edo Bosnar said...

I haven't watched enough Holmes films/shows, nor am I steeped enough in Holmes lore to make a really well thought-out opinion, so for me it's a toss up between Nicol Williamson (who portrayed him in the Seven-Per-Cent Solution) and Cumberbatch. And yes, I rather like the new Sherlock series, primarily because I really like Freeman as Watson. In fact, I'll stretch this topic a bit and say Freeman is hands down, without a doubt, the best on-screen Watson.

And HB, I'm also rather fond of Without a Clue. Cute movie...

And Colin *dons BAB continuity cop hat and affixes badge*, the Labels section on the sidebar is your friend: Who's the Best Dracula? was already quite thoroughly discussed here.
Right answer: George Hamilton :P

Humanbelly said...

Oh rats-- Karen, I am so sorry! In my early morning, at-the-breakfast-table fog, I totally spaced that you had mentioned earlier the likelihood of this topic officially coming up! (And now it is indeed ringing a faint bell. . . )

Oh, what a bad citizen. . .

How do reprimands work 'round here? Something formal and written in the permanent file? Rapid-fire berating by all gleeful, willing participants?

An enforced lunch date with Brian Michael Bendis. . . ? (Oh, the humanity!)

HB

Anonymous said...

Agree with Edo's comment about Martin Freeman's excellent Watson portrayal. In fact, I have yet to see Martin Freeman in any role that I haven't enjoyed his acting.

Kevin

Pat Henry said...

The Brett episodes attempted to faithfully reproduce the Doyle stories, so based on that it is hard not to favor them in preference to other incarnations that have adapted the character to suit different stories, however creative they are. I found that series remarkable because it offered the first depiction of Watson as something other than a doofus or stooge—intelligent and useful to Holmes. The man was a medical doctor, a hardened soldier, and a faithful enough observer of the human condition to write about it quite elegantly.

To me the most interesting thing about Holmes is, when we first meet him, he is undoubtedly in his early-to-mid 20s. Very few depictions, if any, ever make that point.

Humanbelly said...

Yes, Pat-- it was indeed very nice to see Watson returned to his original conception as a dependable, sturdy, somewhat-reluctant man of action (when necessary)-- and as the social catalyst between Holmes and, well, the rest of the world. But I do get why the bumbling Nigel Bruce cinematic (and loooong-running radio!) version became so enduring. The Doyle stories are darned short on comic relief and don't have a lot to offer in depth of characterization. Rathbone's portrayal was intense, but not heavily quirky, IIRC, so the easy way to draw a film audience in is to give them a comic-relief mainstay to "hang with", as it were. From a structure/formula perspective, that's a solid bit of problem-solving, and helps get the dust off of source material that may otherwise be a trifle dry.

Love Freeman as Watson.
Also liked Jude Law quite a lot, to tell you the truth-- a darned good Watson stuck with a slacker Holmes.


HB

Colin Jones said...

Oops, sorry about the Dracula suggestion - Edo, I will study the sidebar from now on :)

William said...

Ahhh, great topic. I love me some Sherlock Holmes. He's in my personal Top 5 of the greatest fictional adventure characters ever created. Which also includes Indiana Jones, James Bond, Batman, and Superman.

That said, I have to go with Jeremy Brett on this one. I've read all the Sherlock Holmes books (and short stories), and the TV series with Brett was the closest thing ever done to bringing those stories to life, IMO. Things looked exactly as I imagined them in my head.

Anonymous said...

Well I think Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as Holmes set in modern day London. The Victorian era Holmes used (at that time) cutting edge technology like fingerprinting so of course the modern Holmes is a compulsive texter! Johnny Lee Miller comes in second as a NY based version with a female Watson! Lucy Liu is easier on the eyes but Martin Freeman makes a more compelling Watson.

I love RDJ but sadly I have to admit his interpretation of Holmes is way too far out there for me to vote him highly. Basil Rathbone did a great job but to me there is one and only one definitive Holmes - Jeremy Brett. When I think of Holmes, Jeremy Brett is the mental image that first comes to my mind. To me, he encapsulated the essence of what Holmes should be - the eccentric personality, the devotion to logic tied to the art of observation and deduction and the tireless pursuit of activities no matter how unusual to combat crime.

As for Dracula, Bela Lugosi will always have a special place in my heart. He was the first modern suave gentlemanly vampire, and all others followed from his example. However, the scariest definitely has to be the great Christopher Lee. He just has to stand there motionless and you still get the chills!


- Mike 'Come Karen & Doug, the game is afoot!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Humanbelly said...

Oh brother, how did I not even think to mention this before? I am going to toss in a vote for a Sherlock Holmes that I actually shared the stage with. A truly, wonderfully nice and exceedingly talented British actor named Tim Brierly (has some film & TV credits, I do believe). In 1998 I was cast in one of the most delightful productions I think I have ever done in my life. . . a "new" Gilbert & Sullivan venture entitle SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE PURLOINED PATIENCE. An incredibly loving (and sincere) send-up of both Holmes and G&S operettas, all mashed up together in one package. I was initially Lestrade. . . and later took over as (a Nigel Bruce version of) Watson, and there could not have been a more gracious, highly professional, and wonderfully connected actor to be out there with than Tim. And he made you utterly believe that Sherlock Holmes could be a painfully handsome, slender leading man in a musical. So, yep, he's gonna get the sentimental vote from me in the end.

Gosh, I hadn't thought about that show in years and years. What a good time. (Tim and I shared a dressing room w/ Fred Grandy, in fact-- former Senator, and recognized as "Gopher" from Love Boat. . . )

HB--- rememberin' the glory days. . .

Edo Bosnar said...

Hope this isn't considered inappropriate, but the topic reminds me of a book I recently read that I want to recommend to anyone here who likes reading Holmes prose:
Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective Volume 6 put out by the good folks at Airship 27. (Full disclosure, I know the author of one of the stories in that collection.) Also, scroll down, and there's a bunch more books - the PDF versions are quite cheap.

And HB, I think Gopher was just a Congressman, and not a senator (geez, now I'm even policing off-topic political references...)

Kid said...

You may be interested to know that Vincent Price considered Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett (who he both knew) as top equal in the role as far as actors go, but I think he leant towards Brett's series because it was set in the correct period. (As were the first two Rathbone movies, if I remember correctly.)

Humanbelly said...

Yep, yep-- that's right, edo. He served in the HoR, not the Senate-- my slip. He did like to chat about his subsequent run for Governor of Iowa, which sort of capped the political phase of his career. (He played d'Oyly-Carte in our production, btw--)

HB

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