‘Sherlock’ Special Headed to U.S. Theaters

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Sherlock’ Special Headed to U.S. Theaters.

Shadrach Voles, Upchuck Gnomes, Rockhard Scones and Blowback Foams: None of these great made-up detectives appear in Otto Penzler’s giant compendium of fake Sherlock Holmes stories, or Sherlock-Holmes-stories-written-by-persons-other-than-Sir-Arthur-Conan-Doyle. The special theater engagement will include 20 minutes of exclusive content not shown on TV, including a guided set tour of 221B Baker Street hosted by co-writer and executive producer Steven Moffat and a “making of” short film featuring stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Thankfully, the BBC’s masterful miniseries will return for one episode this January — and voracious fans will be able to watch it on the big screen in the U.K. and U.S. On Hemlock Jones’s shelves are glass jars containing “pavement and road sweepings” and “fluff from omnibus and road-car seats.” When he thinks, his head shrinks, “so much reduced in size by his mental compression that his hat tipped back from his forehead and literally hung on his massive ears.” Jones’s diamond-encrusted cigar case, a present from the Turkish ambassador, has gone missing. Jones lays out the case, deduction by damning deduction. “So overpowering was his penetration,” declares the narrator in a fit of purest proto-Kafka, “that although I knew myself innocent, I licked my lips with avidity to hear the further details of this lucid exposition of my crime.” We in 2015, we the entertained, who live in a fun house of Sherlocks — Cumberbatch Sherlock, Downey Jr. But the fact that Bret Harte, revered and shaggy forebear, of whose stories Conan Doyle felt his own early efforts to be but “feeble echoes,” could come out in 1900 with such a spot-on and beautifully modern satire of a Sherlock Holmes story tells us something of the immediacy with which Holmes franchised himself into popular consciousness. News of Sherlock’s theatrical residency come as the lines between television and film continue to blur; The Abominable Bride will come to theaters just under a year after Game of Thrones released “The Watchers on the Wall” and “The Children” in IMAX.

He quickly overcame his creator, of course: Having plunged Holmes — for good, it seemed — into the Reichenbach Falls in the fatal embrace of his shadow-self, Moriarty, in 1893’s “The Final Problem,” Conan Doyle found himself, 10 years later, rewriting his own story. “We tottered together upon the brink of the fall,” Holmes explains to a not unreasonably astonished Watson in 1903’s “The Adventure of the Empty House.” “I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. But Sherlock is particularly ripe for the big screen: the show’s 80- to 90-minute episode run times, darkly whimsical music by David Arnold and Michael Price, and exponentially bankable stars have always made it more of an event than an average TV series. A few quick strokes — pipe, brain, violin, Watson — call him into being, while beyond these scant markings an abyss of personality instantly suggests itself.

There’s his tragic side, the paradoxically romantic ennui that arises from his being such a brilliant micro-materialist, knowing everything about train timetables and typography and trousers but finding himself lonely, so lonely, in this suddenly atomic and demystified universe. There were things I didn’t understand about Bon Jovi, for example, until I saw, in a bar in Boston, a band called Jovi. (I just Googled them, incidentally. Now they’re called Bon Jersey.) So in Penzler’s Big Book we find the various parodists and imitators zooming in on key elements: Stephen Leacock, in 1916, lampooning the “inexorable chain of logic” that leads Holmes to an absurd conclusion, and John Lutz, in 1987, describing a Holmes who in the absence of a good case “becomes zombielike in his withdrawal into boredom.” It’s all, properly defined, fan fiction, some of the fans (Stephen King, H.R.F. Keating) being quite distinguished, others less so — long-forgotten bookmen lowering themselves into the Holmesian atmosphere as into a hot bath, with many a grunt and sigh of luxury. Kingsley Amis puts on a good performance in “The Darkwater Hall Mystery” — although because he’s writing for Playboy he has Watson go to bed with a servant called Dolores, “raven hair, creamy skin and deep brown eyes.” I loved Neil Gaiman’s elegiac and dreamlike “The Case of Death and Honey,” which really breaks up the mood.

Anthony Burgess’s contribution to the genre, “Murder to Music,” is rather too elaborate in its formalities, but it does give us a Holmes of thrilling and merciless aestheticism: “If Sarasate, before my eyes and in this very room, strangled you to death, Watson, for your musical insensitivity, . . . I should be constrained to close my eyes to the act, . . . deposit your body in the gutter of Baker Street and remain silent while the police pursued their investigations.

So much is the great artist above the moral principles that oppress lesser men.” Grinding our Holmesian gears slightly, let’s turn now to “Mycroft Holmes,” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse. Of his many triumphs I will always chiefly prize the line from “Airplane!” — “We have clearance, Clarence!” — that he delivered while playing the co-pilot Roger Murdock, but that’s because I know nothing about basketball. At any rate, here’s his novel about Sherlock’s older, fatter, cleverer brother, Mycroft — tantalizingly alluded to in the canon — who works for the British government. The idiom of “Mycroft Holmes” is genially chaotic sub-Victorian with 21st-century lapses — someone over here is “assailed” by a coughing fit, while someone over there “splurges” on a new overcoat — but the plot is a solid romp. Young Mycroft, early in his career, is dispatched to Trinidad to investigate certain grisly goings-on: missing persons, children turning up on the beach with their bodies drained of blood, that kind of thing.

Mycroft is additionally in love (with the ravishing and enigmatic Georgiana) and watching with interest the development of his faintly inhuman younger brother, Sherlock, whom he tutors in deductive reasoning while administering boxing lessons. Given that Mycroft is, legendarily, a kind of database on legs, I might have made him a bit more cyber, a bit more “Terminator”-like — but Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse have gone another way, and the mood is very expressive. “ ‘Whatever is the matter?’ Holmes bleated. ‘You must keep me apprised as we go along,’ Douglas blurted out.” Bleats, blurts — not quite the Holmesian vibe. But the narrative rattles along, and the plot ramifies impressively, and it’s by (with Anna Waterhouse) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for God’s sake, an extraordinary man, a novel in himself, about whose fictionalized post-C.I.A. older brother — 15 feet tall, with purring Spock-like mind — there will one day, for certain, be a book.

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