Sunday, 29 March 2015

The end for Elvey and Eille... The Sign of Four (1923), Barbican with John Sweeney

We were warned before the performance to expect some vintage British racism and a high-speed motorboat chase – and the film didn’t disappoint.

The Sign of Four was released some months after the third and final series of shorter Sherlocks from Stoll films and, as the audience clearly knew, their hero’s fall from Cheddar Gorge in The Final Problem (1923) was far from fatal.

It marked the return of Maurice Elvey as director and his deft touches ensure a thrilling end to the franchise as Eille Norwood exits in style being much more at the centre of things than in the first Stoll feature when the Baskerville hound tended to dominate as The Great Detective went deep, deep undercover. Here, as in the three shorts shown earlier this month at the Barbican, Norwood emphatically demonstrates what Conan Doyle described as: “…the brooding eye which excites expectation” along with  his “… quite unrivalled power of disguise."

"...unrivalled power of disguise..."
Norwood explained his Sherlock method in the Stoll newsletter in 1921: “My idea of Holmes is that he is absolutely quiet. Nothing ruffles him, but he is a man who intuitively seizes on points without revealing that he has done so, and nurses them with complete inaction until the moment when he is called upon to exercise his wonderful detective powers…”

Norwood is indeed a remarkably “still” presence and his darting eyes, hooded by decades of actorly observation, never reveal all they have clearly seen…

Now for the awkward part… The film is over 90 year’s old and the story even older…when the Orient was often associated with dangerous mystery. The film starts with the arrival of Prince Abdullah Khan (Fred Raynham… yes; Fred!) at 222 Baker Street who spooks the life out of Mrs Hudson (Madame d'Esterre) with strange and intense looks. He also bothers Sherlock and Watson (here played by Arthur M. Cullin following the untimely death of Mr Willis after the end of the last series) by pretending to be Russian before Sherlock exposes him as an Indian… The nuances are lost on modern viewers but in the early Twenties the former could be heroic White Russians and the latter rebellious nationalist-terrorists.

The Prince has come to enlist the detective in finding a missing woman but is sent away with a flea in his ear for his deception, coincidentally passing the woman in question on her way in as he skulks off into the pearly-grey bustle of Baker Street.

Isobel Elsom
The woman is one Mary Morstan (Isobel Elsom soon to be the third Mrs Elvey) who wants Holmes to investigate the murder of her father – killed by a most un-British poisoned dart - and the pearls she receives every year from an address in Twickenham. She also has a mysterious set of four signs found on her father’s body: what do they mean for his death?

Holmes looks to camera and the title card reads “This should be exciting!” The boys are back in their well-honed routine and Eille and audience couldn’t be happier.

Sherlock soon deduces that the signs indicate a conspiracy between four men and that, whilst Miss Morstan’s father was almost certainly one of the four, another must have broken away and, through guilt, started sending the gifts to his daughter. Clearly the Prince is also connected…

Mary receives a message asking her to rendezvous at the American embassy at 7.45 pm, where she will learn more of her father’s demise. She keeps the appointment with Holmes and Watson in tow. There’s a function on at the embassy and Elvey creates a fascinating scene with ordinary London faces gawping with envious curiosity at the bright young things arriving in their rich attire – it feels like a pointedly political moment.

Man of mysteries
A man approaches Mary and takes her, Holmes and Watson to a large run-down house on the river bank at Twickenham. The boys soon disarm the man and discover he is Doctor Sholto (Humberston Wright) part of the conspiracy of four and in fear of his life from the two others.

The scene shifts to what looks convincingly like location shooting in India where the plot was hatched by prisoners who knew the location of stolen treasure. Mary’s father was the governor and he was included in the scheme… but Sholto made off with all of the loot himself leaving the other two, the Prince and Jonathan Small (Norman Page) to suspect and kill the Governor as their prime suspect.

Sholto goes to another room to fetch the treasure but is killed before he or his assailant can locate the treasure… and the game is truly on…

Sherlock gets to try a few disguises as the plot turns slightly procedural and the police arrive to jump to the wrong conclusions. This is, of course, normally Watson’s role but when he’s not paying close attention to Mary he’s being tortured by the baddies about that lost loot.

In spite of the police contribution, Sherlock gradually establishes the actuality and everything culminates in a genuinely thrilling race between motorboats and cars during which Elvey ticks off London locations from bridges Kew, Hammersmith and Tower to Fleet Street and the Strand: like one of those contrived “races” on Top Gear only better and without that Yorkshire bloke.

"Help" from the Police
Elvey cuts quickly throughout and this last passage has smoothly multi-tracked perils like DW Griffith on fast forward – and yet this is a very British application of the technique being used to move the story along with maximum efficiency. A fitting end to the series and one that felt thoroughly modern.

John Sweeney was seen warming up his hands before kick-off and he needed considerable dexterity to keep pace. His improvisations expertly supported the story and, along with Messrs Brand and Horne he shows what a difference individual style makes to the silent experience. Every live performance is unique and this adds musical tales of the unexpected to every “fixed” silent text… Excellent entertainment for a windy Sunday afternoon!

The Sign of Four is only available from the BFI archives but hopefully these Barbican screenings will help it and the other Elvey/Norwood films get greater recognition.

Meanwhile, there’s more! Stephen Horne will be playing along to three Stoll shorts at the Phoenix Cinema on Sunday 5th April - details on their website.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Richard Oswald's house of horror... Uncanny Stories (1919)

From the enduringly-disturbing Dead of Night (1945) through to the Hammer comic-thrillers Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Vault of Horror (1973) I’ve always liked horror compilations: short-sharp shocks featuring tales of the mildly unexpected with enough time to develop an idea without over-staying its welcome. Most horror films lose their impact after the scene setting or maybe I just don’t like long drawn out un-pleasantries which have increasingly relied upon prescribed physical shocks for visceral impact.

The same is true of the genre in fiction and from the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson onwards, horror has been a dish best served in controlled portions. That way, even if the entrée fails to excite the pallet there is always the main course left… and maybe just desserts…

Reinhold Schünzel, Richard Oswald and Conrad Veidt
Richard Oswald had already directed a number of literary adaptations (his second name taken in tribute to a character from Ibsen's Ghosts) as well as horror films and the episodic opera Tales of Hoffman before he came to Uncanny Stories or Eerie Tales (Unheimliche Geschichten) in 1919. He made the film directly after Different from the Others and, whilst he may have wanted a simpler project, he took two of that film’s main performers for this project, rubber-faced Reinhold Schünzel and the angular Conrad Veidt. They were joined by Anita Berber who was just 19 at the time and already no stranger herself to the outer limits of Weimar self-expression… (she was posthumously described as the "Devil's spawn" by Adolf Hitler: well, he’d know…)

Anita Berber
A small but perfectly formed cast for these five tales of mystery and the imagination…

The stories are framed by a sequence in an antiquarian bookshop in which The Devil (Schünzel), Death (Veidt), minus his horse Binky… and a Strumpet (Berber), animated after closing time from oil paintings on the wall, relax by leafing through the stock for the most sinister stories.

 The Apparition by Anselma Heine

Reinhold Schünzel
Here Veidt plays a man who rescues a woman (Berger) from the violent attentions of her former husband (Schünzel). No matter where they go the deranged man follows and the two soon fall under each other’s spell: hero and rescued damsel.

They take rooms in a hotel and the woman, feeling unwell retires early… the man goes downstairs to enjoy some after dinner drinks and, returning with un-chivalrous intent in the early hours, he finds her room not just empty but cleared of all furniture and with the walls scorched bare… What madness can this be? The answer is still shocking.

Schünzel clearly relishes the chance to extend his flexible features as the spurned husband – his face contorted by the madness of rejection.

The Hand by Robert Liebmann

Conrad Veidt
It’s Veidt’s turn to show his uncanny expressiveness in the second segment. He and Schünzel are in competition over Anita again and, like gentlemen, they agree to throw dice for her.

Schünzel throws a ten but Veidt responds with an improbably eleven – to the winner the spoils! But things don’t quite work that way as the sore loser throttles the victor who falls dead, his hand twisted by the desperate final struggle.

The cheat takes advantage of the girl’s grief but if he thinks he’s in the clear he has another thing coming…

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Three's a crowd...
Next up is a classic from the man who may well have invented both the detective and horror genres: The Godfather of Ghoul anyone? (With apologies to James Brown….)

Once again our three are caught in a love triangle and as the debonair Conrad sweeps in to win the maid, Schünzel snuffs out the object of attraction whilst at the same time throwing her precious pet cat against the wall.

Veidt smells a rat but the police are baffled: yet how many lives does a cat actually have. As usual with Poe it’s the very matter-of-factness of his narrative that evokes the greatest chill…

The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson

Oswald brings a consistent creepiness to all of these stories not just through his use of the same actors but through his expressive visuals and economy.

This tale of a most unusual gentleman’s club is given considerable spin by Veidt’s unnerving turn as the titular club president but the director’s eye for detail has him use repeated motifs of playing cards and an expressionist ticking clock to ramp up an unnatural tension before Stevenson’s more conventionally heroic tale twists its way through.

The Haunting by Richard Oswald

The last tale is written by the director and is the lightest: perhaps he wanted to send his audience away with a spring in their step after the preceding death and disturbance.

The intertitles are in verse and the cast dressed in fairy tale garb for the story of an injured knight who takes advantage of his host’s generosity by making merry with his wife. Schünzel plays the bawdy Baron and Anita Berber gets her chance to shine as the girl who can hardly say no.

Her husband (Veidt) decides to teach both a lesson and mild amusement ensues…

I watched a copy of the 2002 restoration which was aired on ARTE which is a little better than the version on YouTube… The film is now available on DVD from but with German intertitles only… a staging post on the route to Caligari and proof of Oswald’s diversity.

Berber back to the day job in The Hand
Of the players, Veidt’s versatility needs little exposition and here he is matched by Schünzel. Anita Berber has arguably the least to do (she dies twice which is unfortunate) but the trained dancer carries herself well and brings a cabaret cutting edge to proceedings: she knows where the next whiskey bar is alright.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mountains of the mind… The Holy Mountain (1926)

Arnold Fanck’s The Holy Mountain (Der Heilige Berg) premiered on 17th December 1926 and starred dancer-turned-actress, later director, propagandist, wildlife and anthropological documentary film maker, Leni Riefenstahl - one of the most loaded names in cinema history.

Its opening credits announce that all the outdoor shots were filmed on the mountains with the aid of local climbers whilst the film’s ski race was also filmed “live” using experts from Germany, Austria and Norway. It is described as “A Drama Poem with scenes from nature by Dr. Arnold Fanck…” and one which is “Dedicated to his late friend, mountaineer Dr. Hans Rhode with reverence…

Leni Riefenstahl
Clearly a lot of ice flowed under the bridge to make the story but that is as nothing in comparison with the avalanche that followed in the 1930s. Still it's surely all too easy to portray The Holy Mountain as a proto-Nazi film as some appear of have decided. This was made well before Hitler’s coming to power in 1933, when the NSDAP had seemingly peaked with just 14 seats in the Reichstag falling to 12 in 1928. Riefenstahl hadn't yet read Mein Kampf (published in 1925 and 1926 ) and her falling under its author's influence came after seeing him speak in 1932. Triumph of the Will followed in 1934.

There’s a theme of loyalty, self-sacrifice and team work – traits that apply equally as well to the British - but also respect for nature and one’s truth – can the restless “Sea” of Diotima the Dancer (Riefenstahl) ever be matched with the Rock of immovable masculinity that is “The Friend” (Louis Trenker)? The film worships the great outdoors, health and efficiency and as such is an extension of German kulturfilm as evidenced by Riefenstahl’s previous film, Ways to Strength and Beauty (1925).

The themes were part of contemporary cultural currency and whatever Leni and indeed Dr Fanck did later is a whole other story: their time of dark compromise was yet to come.

The Holy Mountain begins with an half hour section introducing the two protagonists and leading up to their eventual meeting and love at first sight. Diotima is seen dancing against the natural backgrounds of sea and sky and Fanck cannot get enough of her movement. 

Dancer on the shore
Riefenstahl was a highly-trained dancer whose professional career had been curtailed through injury forcing her interest in the less-demanding medium of film. Her energetic contemporary dance movement is perfectly attuned to the environments and she matches choreography with radiant smiles and a manic alertness.

We begin to get glimpses of The Ski Master/Karl climbing through the snow and heading towards what looks like the Matterhorn. Trenker has a craggy masculinity to match the mountains; he looks like a pro with snow-tanned skin and sure-footed confidence on slope and tone.

The Ski Master and his climbing partner/student Vigo (Ernst Petersen) go to see Diotima dance and both are entranced. Karl leaves early but Vigo remains and meets the dancer after placing a flower (Edelweiss?) in her car. Virgo is smitten but Diotima is merely charmed… giving him her scarf as a thank you.

Gradually the film moves the dancer and climber together as they work their ways around the mountain until finally meeting with an instant recognition of exactly who the other is. Their relationship is solidified very quickly. Soon they talk of getting married on the most beautiful mountain in the Alps and Karl spends as much time as possible in his search for a natural wonder to fit their human love.

Meeting on the Matterhorn
Meanwhile Diotima supports Vigo in the local Alpine sports cheering him on in a spectacular ski jumping competition – camera’s slowed down in the manner of Riefenstahl’s later work on the 1936 Olympics. He beats his rival Colli (Friedrich Schneider) on the last jump before the two renew their contest with the long distance race.  Here again the “nature photography of Dr Fanck and his Freiburg School is superb. Hans Schneeberger and  Sepp Allgeier were Fanck’s main cameramen for this exciting set piece which featured the aforementioned expert skiers.

Jumping in slow motion and off piste filming
The action is real enough with twists, turns and tumbles galore all ending in a dizzying victory for the young man. Diotima is delighted for him and the two wander drunk on the adrenalin to a small cottage where Vigo asks for a favour in return for his victory. He buries his head on Diotima’s lap in an action more familial than sexual: he is too immature to properly express his sexuality to the older woman and she does not regard him as anything other than a sweet child… and yet; that’s not quite how it looks… Descending from the peak, at just the wrong moment, Karl spots what looks like love-making and falls back out of view instantly shattered.

Later Vigo visits his friend’s mother (Frieda Richard) whom he confesses his love too not knowing that Diotima and his tutor are already planning to marry… or at least they were. Karl arrives and tells him that he must accompany him on the most dangerous climb in the territory: the North Face of Mount Santo. It’s getting dark, the weather is changing and this could be dangerous but he agrees all the same: they are friends with loyalty.

The climb begins
Diotima prepares for her evening performance and is completely unaware that her lover has got the wrong impression or indeed that she may have encouraged Vigo (probably… the Sea does pull up on a lot of different beaches after all…). The men begin their treacherous ascent and the narrative clicks from their struggle to the gradual realisation of friends and lover that they are missing.

Will envy twist Friend’s passion towards brutal revenge or will love triumph over all: friendship, loyalty and indomitable will… It’s Germanic all right but that doesn’t necessarily make it fascistic.

Inevitably the stunning scenery overpowers the performances and sometimes Riefenstahl is more of a dancer than a film actress when faced with the duty of trying to show elevated emotion in the midst of so much natural turmoil. Fanck paces his narrative very well and the closing section is as genuinely tense as the opening section is peacefully pastoral… In the end The Holy Mountain is a poem and not a docu-drama on outdoor pursuits with amazing cinematography worth the price of admission alone.

The original score was from Edmund Meisel but the version I watched featured a modern composition from Aljoscha Zimmermann for the 2002 restoration. It’s available on DVD from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series from Amazon and includes Ray Müller's three hour documentary The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl - the clue is in the title...

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mean streets… Crainquebille (1922)

How did people view films before video and the chance to rewind, freeze-frame and simply watch again? Do we understand more about the work of silent directors than their contemporary audience or – more likely – are we just bringing additional context to an experience that can never engage to the same extent as when it is “now”?

This film begins and ends with an identical shot of a bridge over the Seine at night indicating the perpetual motion of the life cycle of night and day: individuals may be crushed during this eternal motion but the days carry on.

Paris by night
Would I have spotted this from a single viewing in 1922? Maybe I’d have paid more attention in the first place… does the DVD kill spontaneity and focus? Whatever, watching this film unfold was interesting the first time and fascinating the second: a beautifully structured civilian symphony detailing working man’s Paris in 1922 and the perils of looking “justice” straight in the eye.

It’s told – largely - in almost documentary style by Jacques Feyder but for some reason kept reminding me of the expressionist masterpiece of Murnau’s The Last Laugh: one man taken by surprise by a swift turn of fate and then crushed by the indifference of the powers that be.

Maurice de Féraudy
Where Murnau had Emile Jannings, Feyder has Maurice de Féraudy whose Jérôme Crainquebille clings on in quiet desperation to a simple life of routine and gentle hope and who is ready to accept the comforts of his fate until the one thing that really matters is taken from him: the respect of other people. It is a tremendous performance.

Based on the story by Anatole France, Crainquebille has a screen play from Feyder and superb cinematography from Léonce-Henri Burel and Maurice Forster. It unveils itself in measured steps as it shows Paris emerging from another busy night of human weakness.

As the carts of street sellers make their early morning march to the centre of town, Feyder introduces his main players along the course of their journey. The good Doctor Mathieu (Charles Mosnier) is roused from fitful sleep by the clatter of wooden wheels on suburban cobbles…  he checks the time then wearily rejoins the fight for rest.  The carts move onward through the fashionable areas where “people are only thinking about getting home to bed” where we meet Mr Lemerle (René Worms), attorney-at-law, entertaining two young women in a cab, one of whom picks a cabbage off a cart and puts it on her head…

Marguerite Carré and friends, Jean Forest and his best friend
Then the traders move through “disreputable neighbourhoods where people live more by night than by day” where we meet Madame Laure (Marguerite Carré) a street walker who is rounded up in quick measure by a fatuous Police raid. A “war on pleasure” that can never be won…

The girls are released soon after and Mme Laure returns home. She amuses herself by playing cars and dreaming of a better future… meeting her parents and younger sister once a month. Then we meet a young newsboy called Mouse (Jean Forest - impressive here as he would be again in Feyder’s Faces of Children) who lives on his wits, eking out just enough of a living to feed his pet dog.

Madame Laure dreams of good fortune and a quiet pastoral retirement
At dawn, the carts finally arrive at the market area of Les Halles, now the location of a modern shopping precinct but which in 1922 was a bustling trading post with thousands moving along vegetable valleys, between chock-a-block choux-fleurs, an over-flow d'oignons and pomme de terre piles. It’s a superb sequence.

Finally we see Jerome Crainquebille a she sets out his stall and prepares to great his favourite customers, Mme Laure first of all. He rescues young Mouse from a gang of local children before engaging with shoe-shop owner Mme Bayard (Jeanne Cheirel) over the purchase of some onions. She pops into her shop as a policeman, L'agent 64 (Félix Oudart), tells him to move on but he refuses until Mme Bayard – who has become distracted by a customer of her own – gives him his money.

Les Halles
The flustered Policeman thinks he hears Crainquebille say “kill the cops!” and a real argument begins. Dr Mathieu has seen all and tries to tell Officer 64 that he is mistaken but, pushed into a corner he drags the old man off to the station.

Crainquebille is now stuck in the unreality of the judicial system and begins to lose his bearings as the process carries his liberty away. The trial sequence is a tour de force from Feyder – optical effects showing the victim’s inability to comprehend proceedings, as Officer 64 looms as large as the importance of his evidence whilst the Doctor, for all his good intentions, is diminished by his testimony.

Félix Oudart and Maurice de Féraudy
Crainquebille has the misfortune to be represented by lawyer-about-town Lemerle who lazily ignores his client’s testimony in order to portray him merely as a victim of circumstance – a man subjected to 60 years of poverty who is, therefore, literally without responsibility.

As Lady Justice is animated to stare down disapprovingly, the Judge ignores all in his rush to convict, condemning Crainquebille to two weeks inside and a 50 Franc fine he’ll never be able to afford. Luckily the Doctor secretly pays his debt and the old man comes to enjoy his two weeks of bread and board…

Big testimony versus the small truth of the Doctor...
Crainquebille emerges somewhat refreshed by his experience but as he goes back to work, his true punishment begins as his customers are less willing to forgive or forget his “crime”… Has one injustice led to another and will any of the good citizens help their former friend?

I watched the Lobster films Rediscover Jacques Feyder DVD set which comes with a suitably wistful Antonio Coppola score performed by a small ensemble. It’s available from Amazon but at a “collector’s price” – hopefully Lobster will re-release.

D. W. Griffith supposedly described Crainquebille as “…a film which, for me, precisely symbolizes Paris" – spoken like a true Kentuckian! – but you can still recognise the persistent spirit of the city in the film even as it finds it falling short on liberte, egalite and fraternite!

“Justice is the means by which established injustices are sanctioned.” Anatole France

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Detective deceptive... A Scandal in Bohemia (1921) and other shorts, Barbican with Stephen Horne

And this is the real me...on the right.
You know how TV series adaptations rarely work as well once transferred to the big screen? I think that the same may have been true of the Stoll Sherlock Holmes serials and their feature length off-shoots.

Between 1921 and 1923 three series of 15 roughly half hour episodes were made by the company all of which featured Eille Norwood as Holmes and Hubert Willis as Dr Watson. Two feature films were made of which the first was The Hound of the Baskervilles from 1922. Directed by Maurice Elvey – who directed the first series – the film doesn’t quite have the intensity of the short form blasts that had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle so impressed with Norwood’s performance.

Eille Norwood's disguise fools Joan Beverley... or does it?!
In these shorts we see far more of the Great Detective and his special abilities, intuitive leaps based on uncanny close observation all disguised by a moody detachment as well as his mastery of disguise… We may laugh a little now – not me but some of the audience – but Norwood was so adept at these physical transformations that he often tricked Elvey – who failed to recognise the bearded, shorter man before him as his Holmes rather than another hopeful come to audition for Watson.

Such japes are set out in the July 1921 copy of The Strand magazine which can be found on the Internet Archive. There’s an interview with Norwood in the very magazine in which Doyle first serialised Holmes and it reads like a very modern behind-the-scenes tale of the actor explaining his craft. Clearly Sherlock was as big a deal in 1921 as it was in 2010 when the Cumberbatch version took off, although Benedict will never know just how close the original author thought he was to his creation.

Is it a non-conformist minister or... a detective?
A Scandal in Bohemia (1921)

This was the seventh in the series and Norwood crams a lot of character into his screen time able enabled by Elvey’s economy and focus. So many stock Sherlock moments are concentrated into this film that it presents a much better impression of the actor Doyle described as having that rare quality of “glamour”.

Doyle was also impressed with his “quite unrivalled power of disguise…” and in Scandal we’re treated to a taxi cab driver so convincing that The Strand reported he was nearly ejected from the studios as a trespasser! He also plays a non-conformist minister in his attempts to trick Irene Adler (Joan Beverley) into revealing the whereabouts of her incriminating pictures of her affair with the King of Bohemia (Alfred Drayton).

A cab driver or a violin player?!
Of course Watson (the ever-present Hubert Willis) is fooled every time but Miss Adler proves to be altogether as smart as Sherlock…  

Miles Mander makes an appearance as Godfrey Norton, Irene’s true love interest and – surprisingly perhaps for those who have seen his later silent work, he’s not a bounder but a thoroughly decent chap!

The Man with the Twisted Lip (1921)

Made just after Scandal, this twisted tale was not one of Sir Doyle’s finest narratives… but the film does again show a playful, energetically-committed performance from Mr Norwood who was clearly having the time of his life.

Fooled you again Watson!
The story revolves around the disappearance of suburbanite Neville St. Clair (Robert Vallis) who is "something in the City" and its mysterious connection to the titular beggar man. Mrs. Nellie St. Clair (Paulette del Baze) witnesses the abduction and Sherlock is called in when the police can find no trace of her husband.

It’s a mystery and – as far as the plot is concerned – the Sherlock quote “… when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” was never more apt…

Elvey does, however, create a wonderfully dark London and the beggar’s pitch near Piccadilly is well chosen. You can find the film on YouTube but the 35mm prints we saw tonight were far cleaner and very well preserved. It’s always good to watch projected film!

The Final Problem (1923)

This was the last of the series and was directed by George Ridgwell who covered series two and three after Elvey moved on.

Here Holmes faces his greatest adversary Professor Moriarty (Percy Standing) both me n nearing the end of their tether after a series of bruising score draws in the streets of London. Sherlock makes a number of early signifying references to being willing to stop his nemesis even at the cost of his own life.

Will the make up come off for the last time?
He thwarts the evil schemer one more time and heads of for some relaxation with Watson at Cheddar Gorge… it’s not quite the Reichenbach Falls but you may guess what’s coming.

Two years on from the first two films and with a less able director, the film isn’t quite as enjoyable but that’s probably also because we know what’s coming…

The Final Problem was written in 1893 and viewers would have been fully aware that Sherlock would return in 1903’s The Adventure of the Empty House… at least Doyle told his audience how the Great Detective pulled it off.

Actor and author
Musical support was provided by Mr Stephen Horne who provided sympathetic syncopation on his usual array of instruments. Stephen’s music is improvised but he wove common themes across the three films and we may have a theme tune in progress for any future box set!

I took my mother, no mean pianist herself and a season ticket holder at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (for which her brother played for three decades) and she loved Stephen’s playing both in technical terms as well compositional: playing without music and on the spot he always manages to merge his sound with the vision.

Stephen is also playing along to another triple bill of Sherlock at the Pheonix Cinema on Sunday 5th April – details are on their website. Don’t miss it if you want to see the closest thing to the real Sherlock Holmes… and that’s according to Sir Conan Doyle himself.