Reynolds & Hearn Ltd.
With Robert Downey Jr. looking to capture box-office bucks come Christmas Day with the release of “Sherlock Holmes,” expect a resurgence of the great detective on TV and DVD, as well as in print. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic sleuth has been a staple of cinema even before movies carried sound, and Alan Barnes covers them all in “Sherlock Holmes on Screen: The Complete Film and TV History.”
Aside from straight adaptations of Conan Doyle’s short stories and novels, Holmes has been animated (“Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century”), age-regressed (“Young Sherlock Holmes”), parodied (“Without a Clue”), thriller-fied (“Murder by Decree”) and even co-opted by science fiction (in select episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”). With Dracula close behind, he is the fictional character who has been portrayed on the big screen the most, so prepare for a thorough examination.
Organized alphabetically, Barnes’ book is like any of the regular movie guides published annually, only focused on one single subject. Each title bears perfunctory credits before getting into a history, a summary and a critical analysis. The more visible and memorable the film, the more Barnes has to say; these have their plots even further broken down into “The Mystery,” “The Investigation” and “The Solution.”
Barnes appears to be unable to fully separate the source material from the flicks; in other words, if a movie is too far removed from the canon, he’s apt to have a problem with it, rather than just enjoy it on its own merits. Still, it’s a pleasure to read him unload on something he dislikes, penning such pans as “manifold idiocies of this cynically manufactured multiplex software.” His British heritage is to the book’s benefit, when someone is described in such rich terms as, say, “a whey-faced malcontent.”
Plenty of black-and-white photos pepper this guide “ essential to hardcore Sherlockians, and worth a look to film buffs with only a casual knowledge of the detective.