|Watson and Holmes: a very civil partnership|
It was interesting to see the names of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat – current creators of the modern-day Sherlock, on the list of thank-yous from the restoration team for one of the very first screen representations of the original. This version was arguably as much a re-working of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories as their modern version as it drew content from three stories A Scandal in Bohemia, The Final Problem and A Study in Scarlet whilst adding something of its own.
It was based on the hugely-successful 1899 play written by and starring William Gillette which, as Bryony Dixon pointed out in her introduction, not only had a long run in the USA but also ran for some five years just over the water in London's Lyceum Theatre where once it counted a young Charles Chaplin in the cast.
|Great mind at work|
Gillette is credited with introducing some of the standard visual elements of Sherlock, over his 1,300 stage performances and this recently-recovered film is no doubt all the more precious for preserving such an iconic performance for this enduring and malleable character: we all like to believe in detectives with super-intelligent.
|Gillette and Kay|
The film was originally presented as a series and the version uncovered and restored (full details are here) is from a French print which broke this down further into four parts with nine sections. This adds to the slightly disjointed feel of the narrative but it’s Sherlock Holmes; then, as now, it doesn’t all have to add up!
|Alice defends her sister's honour in front of the Prince's men|
|Berthelet closes in on the action with a repeated disolve...|
Briefly… Alice Faulkner’s late sister had an affair with a prince and had kept some rather incriminating correspondence which his relatives are very keen to recover. Baron von Stalburg (Ludwig Kreiss), the prince's assistant, and Sir Edward Leighton (Hugh Thompson), a high British official, are trying to negotiate their return before the author’s impending marriage but Alice is refusing to budge.
|Sherlock confronts Madge and James|
Holmes,who has been enlisted by the Prince to retrieve the letters, easily outwits by the Larrabees aided secretly by his agent Benjamin Forman (Stewart Robbins) posing as their manservant: how very cunning Holmes! They decide to call for help from master criminal Professor Moriarty (Ernest Maupain) – who’s hatred for Holmes they hope will guarantee his support.
We don’t see too much of Doctor Watson (Edward Fielding) until later in the series when Holmes is sharing his house after an unexplained fire at his own apartments… but the template has recognizably been set.
|Subtle gesturing from Mr Gillette - perfect for the big screen|
This was the first screening in Britain since the recovery and for longer than a lifetime: a special occasion that did not disappoint.
|The Larrabbees are no match for Brand, Buchwald and Davenport!|
There is soon to be a Flicker Alley DVD/BluRay release which - I think? - includes the boys' music as well - one for the Christmas list! Available from Amazon or from Flicker Alley which also has a downloadable press kit explaining more about everything!
|Because the Cat just refused to be trained...|
|A Holmes for all times|
|Young Miss Kay considers her next move|