With the publication of A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle kicked off a Sherlock Holmes phenomenon that has yet to abate. Sherlock and Elementary are just the latest in a long list of “reinventions” of Holmes and Watson.
We’re all familiar with the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies and Grenada Television’s mostly faithful adaptions of the Canon starring Jeremy Brett. But I have an odd affection for some of the weird and forgotten tales that I’ve found through the years and here are some I wanted to share.
A forgotten gem, Christopher Plummer as Holmes highlights this film in which the Great Detective chases Jack the Ripper. It’s a shame this was Plummer’s one outing as Holmes as he fits the role perfectly. The supporting cast includes Jason Mason as Watson, Frank Finlay (as Lestrade), Donald Sutherland, Susan Clark, John Gielgud, Anthony Quayle, David Hemmings and Geneviève Bujold.
Without a Clue (1988)
Ben Kingsley is a Watson who invented Sherlock Holmes. Michael Caine is an actor hired by Watson to play Holmes. Hijinks ensue as the good Doctor gets more than his due as a brilliant detective and even Caine’s fake Holmes manages to help defeat the bad guy.
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
Sherlock Holmes (Nicol Williamson) and Sigmund Freud (Alan Alda) save a lady in distress (Vanessa Redgrave) in Vienna, with Robert Duvall pitching in as Watson. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds. The climatic swordfight is aboard a moving train, done in old-school special effects rather than CGI. Based on the book by Nicholas Meyer.
Sherlock Holmes & the War of the Worlds by Manly W. Wellman and Wade Wellman
Sherlock Holmes investigates the aliens from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds in a deeply odd story that also features Holmes in a passionate affair with Martha Hudson. It’s hard to find, but I just love the mash-up despite the strangeness.
The West End Horror
Nicholas Meyer’s lesser-known sequel to The Seven Per Cent Solution, as Holmes becomes entangled in a mystery involving the theater folk including Bram Stoker and the cast of a Gilbert & Sullivan play.
Enter the Lion by Michael P. Hodel and Sean M. Wright
This story features young Mycroft Holmes as an action hero. (Mark Gatiss eat your heart out!) This Mycroft of 1875 is thinner and far lighter on his feet as he stops American Civil War veterans from entangling the British government in a plot to overthrow the current U.S. Government.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1987)
Lucy Liu’s Joan Watson on Elementary was preceded by the underrated Margaret Colin as Jane Watson in this television movie that thawed out the original Holmes (Michael Pennington) and placed him in then modern-day Boston to solve a mystery based on The Sign of the Four. I liked the humor a great deal and wanted more. Alas, this was never developed into a series.
Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century
My teenage son and his friends watched the entire series just to enjoy how utterly bizarre it is. Holmes has been revitalized to a 25 year-old via cellular regeneration (after being preserved in honey). Moriarty comes back to life via the same regeneration method because, for some reason, Holmes once preserved his enemy’s body in honey too. Oh, and Watson is a robot. The third episode, called “Hound of the Baskervilles,” is about werewolves on the moon.
I wouldn’t say this show is good, exactly, but get a bunch of Sherlockians together, some popcorn and have a good time.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom blog at Wired and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.