The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Adventures With Jeremy Brett

Monday, May 4th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Brett46For several decades, Basil Rathbone, star of fourteen Holmes films in the thirties and forties, was generally the most recognizable and popular screen Holmes. And of course today, Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr are internationally recognized for their turns as the master detective.

But in between Rathbone and Cumberbatch, one actor (with apologies to Peter Cushing) stood above all other portrayers of Sherlock Holmes. And that was Jeremy Brett.

This is number one of a three part series looking at the first part (The Adventures) of the Granada television series, which ran in full from 1984 to 1994. To many fans, Brett is simply THE Holmes. So…

In 1980, Michael Cox was a producer at Granada, one of the Independent Television (ITV) contractors in England. At the same time in America, Charlton Heston was starring as Sherlock Holmes in the stage play, The Crucifer of Blood. His Watson was a handsome Englishman named Jeremy Brett.

The following year, Cox proposed an authentic Sherlock Holmes series; one that was as true to the original tales as could commercially be done in the television format. His idea was received positively, but Cox was told that an essential element of the deal would be a pre-sale agreement with American television. This would secure “up-front” money, which would be invested into the series. WGBH in Boston, host of the popular PBS series, Mystery!, was an ideal candidate for the partnership.

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Watch Stan Lee Give Tips on How to Give a Great Cameo Performance, in the Stan Lee Cameo School

Friday, May 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

I was watching movies on YouTube last night when an Audi ad popped up featuring Stan Lee. [I'd like to take a minute to point out that sentence would have been completely nonsensical 15 years ago. Ah, what a world we live in.]

It turned it to be well worth watching. Directed by Kevin Smith, “The Stan Lee Cameo School” is a hilarious two-minute short featuring featuring Lou Ferrigno, Tara Reid, Michael Rooker, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. I won’t ruin any more for you — check it out.

Audi has a long tradition of appealing to science fiction fans — check out their Star Trek ads. (And Volkswagen reunited William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy for an ad late last year.) All this talk of Audis does make me miss mine, however… tragically, it was destroyed in a head-on collision in 2011.


Blade Runner: Edmond Hamilton’s Tears in the Rain?

Friday, May 1st, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

HamiltonReturnToTheStars

“I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe…”

Get this:

I heard the sunrise music that the crystal peaks make above Throon when Canopus comes to warm them. I feasted with the star-kings in the Hall of Stars. And at the end, I led the fleets of the Empire against our enemies, the men from the League of Dark Worlds. I saw the ships die like swarming fireflies off the shores of the Hercules Cluster. I’ve shot the Orion Nebula. I’ve been into the Cloud, where the drowned suns burn in a haze of darkness. I’ve killed men, Doctor. And in that last battle, I —

Oddly familiar? Actually, that’s Gordon’s monologue to his shrink in Edmond Hamilton’s Return to the Stars.

How about this one?

I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like [small cough] tears… in… rain. Time… to die…

Of course, that’s Roy Batty’s dying monologue in Blade Runner. Hauer is supposed to have improved on the original script, which had…

I have known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been Offworld and back… frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound for the Plutition Camps with sweat in my eyes watching the stars fight on the shoulder of Orion… I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it, felt it…!

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See the BBC Trailer for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Susanna Clarke’s debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) won both the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award, and became a New York Times bestseller. The BBC announced they were adapting the book as a seven-part series staring Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan, Filth) as Mr Norrell, and Bertie Carvel (Restless, Matilda) as Jonathan Strange late last year.

The series is set at the beginning of the 19th-century, in an England where public belief in magic has begun to die off. The reclusive Mr Norrell stuns the city of York when he causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. With a little persuasion and help from his man of business Childermass (Enzo Cilenti), he goes to London to help the government in the war against Napoleon. It is there Norrell summons a fairy (Marc Warren) to bring Lady Pole (Alice Englert) back from the dead, a decision that has dark consequences…

The series begins broadcasting on BBC One on May 1st. It will air in Canada on Space, and in the United States on BBC America.


Adventures In Near-Future Sci-Fi: Black Mirror

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Black Mirror White BearI don’t watch television. Or not, let’s say, broadcast television. Since the first X-Files video tape showed up, I have, instead, binge-watched episodic TV in irregular, spasmodic doses via VHS, DVD, and Netflix. I watch with my wife, and we’re not (to the shows) faithful: if a particular series bores us, we move on. Even Breaking Bad, after three seasons, felt like a joke gone on too long.

But Black Mirror. Holy cats!

It’s the best sci-fi you’ve never heard of.

A British show made for Channel Four, Black Mirror is the brainchild of one Charlie Brooker — whom you haven’t heard of, either. The series aired in the UK from 2011 through 2013. Based on that time span, you’d think it was a fabulous success spanning dozens of episodes. Only half true. Black Mirror consists of six shows total (plus a 2014 “Christmas Special,” which I have yet to see), and each is self-contained, a hermetic “What If?” often compared to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. The reference is not especially apt, but like Velcro and old chewing gum, it’s a label that seems to have stuck.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Richard Diamond, Private Eye

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Diamond_PowellA topic that I’ve long intended to visit is that of old time radio shows. Of course, it’s no surprise that Sherlock Holmes has been a popular subject for radio dramas. Arthur Wontner (who I’m sure you read about here) and William Gillette (again, here…) reprised their film roles for radio.

Richard Gordon, John Stanley and Richard Hobbs had long runs as Holmes. And of course, the most popular film Holmes, Basil Rathbone, had a long-running serial with his Watson, Nigel Bruce.

More recently, Clive Merrison starred in the entire Canon (and more) for BBC Radio. Also, Jim French’s Imagination Theater features new Holmes radio dramas (along with several other characters). I’ll certainly be writing about those two.

In the forties and fifties, detectives, newspaper reporters and even insurance investigators were popular heroes for radio dramas. Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, The Fat Man (ostensibly created by Dashiell Hammett) and Johnny Dollar were some of the radio stars of the day. One of the most fun was Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

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The Fantasy and Science Fiction Films of Thomas Edison

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

The original Frankenstein's monster from the 1910 Edison film.

The original Frankenstein’s monster from the 1910 Edison film.

In the annals of early silent film, the name Thomas Edison stands out prominently. The American inventor racked up a series of firsts–building the first film studio in the U.S., registering the first copyright for a film in the U.S., making the first sound film in the U.S. (and arguably the world), and many other innovations.

Edison Studios was launched in 1894 and ran until 1918, when an antitrust lawsuit led Edison to sell the company. In that time, the studio’s host of directors made almost 1300 films. The vast majority were shorts, with the earliest efforts being “actualities” such as The Sneeze (1894) and the historically interesting Sioux Ghost Dance (1894). For the first few years of film, simply seeing people moving on screen was enough, but soon audiences wanted stories. Edison Studios churned out dozens of shorts a month, most of them rather forgettable comedies or dramas as well as a few Westerns such as the very first in the genre, The Great Train Robbery (1903).

A few, however, broke new ground in fantasy, science fiction, and horror. The most notable are The Night Before Christmas (1905), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910), A Christmas Carol (1910), Frankenstein (1910), A Trip to Mars (1910), and the powerful The Land Beyond the Sunset (1912). Click the links to watch the movies. None are longer than 13 minutes. Spoilers are coming.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Peter O’Toole as Holmes

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

O'Toole_ValleyCoverAs famous a (costumed) character as Sherlock Holmes is, it is no surprise that he has lent himself to animation. Of course, you’ve seen images of Daffy Duck, Snoopy and Mickey Mouse, among many others, imitating Holmes: usually with an oversized magnifying glass.

Actual Holmes characters can be found in such animated efforts as Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (Watson is a robot) and Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes. Of course, Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective features Basil of Baker Street, an excellent, if tiny, Holmes.

In 1983, Burbank Films produced forty-five minute animated versions of Doyle’s four Holmes novellas: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear. To voice the great detective for the television movies, they tapped eight-time Academy Award nominee Peter O’Toole (he did receive an Honorary Award in 2003).

O’Toole, who passed away in 2013, had a long, successful career in films, was best known for his sweeping performance in Lawrence of Arabia.

He was a solid, if not inspired, choice for these four productions. O’Toole’s manner and delivery, while rather flat, fits the animated Holmes well. An antic, Jeremy Brett portrayal wouldn’t have worked as well. I can see how some folks don’t like O’Toole’s almost constant monotone. But for me, it works here.

It’s Elementary – Billy Wilder envisioned a Holmes/Watson pairing of O’Toole and Peter Sellers for his The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, but could not pull it off.

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80′s Barbarian Showdown: Conan vs. Beastmaster

Monday, April 6th, 2015 | Posted by Brandon Engel

The BeastmasterNo discussion of early ’80′s film and movie subgenres would be complete without mentioning the sword and sorcery segment of fantasy films that included such gems as Conan the Barbarian and The Beastmaster, both released in 1982.

Coinciding with the continued popularity of such fantasy role-playing games as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, both the subgenre and these films quickly found a devoted following. As contemporary sword and sorcery fans prepare for the latest book from George R. R. Martin, let’s take a look back at the 80’s swashbucklers which helped to establish modern trends.

But let’s settle something, too — which hulking, loincloth clad swashbuckler reigns supreme — The Beastmaster’s Dar, or Conan?

The Barbarian King of the Sword and Sorcery Subgenre

When considering this subgenre, inevitably Conan the Barbarian is one of the first names to pop up. Conan was a forerunner for many popular titles that came after. He first appeared in pulp stories penned by Robert E. Howard in the 1930′s (which even predated J.R.R. Tolkien’s best-known fantasy fiction).

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Ode to the Sacrificed On the Battlefield (Or Before. And After)

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

I started planning this post by thinking: Hey, Good Friday, awesome time for a post on sword and sorcery crucifixion. That evolved into: okay, that might be in poor taste (that’s personal growth, that right there). How about just on hero sacrifice, then? They bring us lessons by sacrificing stuff, right?

I am He-Mullet!

I am He-Mullet!

Yes, right. And the stuff (or people, whatever) they sacrifice is often forgotten by the time we’re screaming cheers and profanities during the final battle. We feel that something good has been accomplished and we forget everything that was left behind. Well, no more. Today, let us take a moment to ponder these sacrifices.

Hair
Let’s just start this with an important one, with a view to the 80s movies boom of S&S (sounds kind of Fifty Shade-ish when it’s put like that. Ha.) A mullet covered in lice is just not an easy look to pull off. Sadly much hair was sacrificed in the name of victory.

Weapons
So many weapons are cast aside. They’re special for one scene, then they get stuck in a rib cage and game over. Just abandoned like it never mattered. Let us remind the swords that yes, they did matter.

Rib Cages
On the same line, with the sword stuck in them and all. Perhaps if it had been protected by more than a bikini, the story could have ended differently .

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