Friday, September 6, 2013

Tour de Hound - Chapter Three - Granada's loss

Rode the tour omnibus back to Baker St. with Sherlock Peoria (OK, yes, I follow that blog! There, I came out of the closet and admitted it.) and found us comfortably ensconced back near the fireplace at 221b.

I sat down last night and watched the opening segments of Granada's adaption of Hound and came away very disappointed.

I am a Brett fan, and will always wish he had remained healthy enough, and enthusiastic enough to do all 60 stories in a way respectful to the Canon.

Hound by Granada is a very good example, during the opening segments, of good material given to a bad screen writer. While trying to capture almost four chapters from the Hound in one fairly short opening segment, it failed to deliver any of the Gothic atmosphere, history or suspense captured so well by Doyle.
Many of the great lines from the Canon are either painfully abridged or aborted all together.
The deduction and observations by Holmes are almost completely over looked and left out, sadly.
The examining of the historic document and telling of the tale is almost as an after thought to the whole introduction.

For me, in the Canon, these opening couple of chapters of Hound are everything we want from Holmes and Watson when they are in residence at 221b. We are invited into the sitting room to share in the observations by Holmes and the missed observations by Watson, with the sometimes humorous repartee between the two over these observations. We are also, usually, given images of the atmosphere and accouterments of 221b.

Luckily by the time Granada and Brett got to Hound we had become comfortable enough in their 221b that we were still mentally fill in what was lacking in photography. But even with that, the cinematography of that episode wasted the visual atmosphere of the location.

As Sherlock Peoria so correctly stated in his review of Chapter Three, Watson uses very few lines to describe to postures, movements,the tension or mood of it's inhabitants. We have to supply those images from our memories and imagination. Or rely on a faithful adaption of at. And Granada did not do that in this case.

I think I will continue to watch the Granada version while we ride the tour omnibus and see how the rest comes together.

With that said.

SP (Sherlock Peoria) also made a fine statement a few days ago about the perceived ages of Holmes and Watson at the time of the Hound and how cinematic portrayals can determine, for good or bad, our perception of the ages of Holmes and Watson at this times.

If we agree with the commonly excepted date of 1854 as being the year Holmes was born, it would make him about 35 years old at the time of Hound. (Depending of course, as James points out, when you place the occurrence of the story.) Not real young, but not old either. It could be argued that 35 in the Victorian age could be considered middle age. But one would not necessarily have to appear middle age or old.

When Rathbone played Holmes in Hound he was 47. If you look at photos of him from that film he could probably easily have passed as a 35 year old Holmes. But, unfortunately, Rathbone had to usually stand next to Bruce (who was three years younger than Rathbone) who always appeared older than his age.

The Rathbone version of Hound is sometime criticized for not so much being a Holmes story as an attempt at a love story with Holmes in it.

In 1988 when Brett played Holmes in Hound, he was 55 years old, and due to his health problems could not pull off a 35 year old Holmes.
And although Brett had some good scenes in Hound, it was not his best work.

Where is this going you probably started asking about a half hour ago.

Carefully re-read, again, the dialog that takes place in these first few chapters of Hound, especially as they take place between Mortimer and Holmes.

And then imagine Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman delivering them.
The 'Sherlock' adaption of Hound, which is my favorite story, was a very big disappointment to me, and the waste of a great opportunity. I don't know how the story could have been done set in 2011, but I don't think how it was done was the right approach. But than can be argued another time.

My point is, if you imagine Benedict and Martin doing those lines in those first couple of chapters as we have come see them as Holmes and Watson, flamboyant and reserved, respectfully, I think we would have had one of the best opening episodes of a Holmes story yet. The humor and surprise and emotion would definitely come out.

Mr. Cumberbatch would have been about the same age of Holmes at the time they filmed Hound for 'Sherlock'. And although I don't always like the writing for 'Sherlock' I definitely think Benedict has the acting chops to pull of a faithful version.

So perhaps with all that said, we could consider these three adaptions as missed opportunities.
At least that is my take.

Of the three, the Rathbone one is my favorite.

Well, I better go get back on the omnibus before the tour leaves without me.

"Hey, B.K.! Wait up. I'm coming!"


  1. I haven't seen the Granada "Hound" yet, so I can't comment on that, but as to the the age of Holmes and Watson in "Hound", young is in the eye of the beholder. You are right; the date Watson tells us that "Hound" occurred is Sept-Oct 1889. Holmes, if born in 1854, would have been 35. As Holmes says in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery" (also general dated as 1889), "Lestrade, being rather puzzled, has referred the case to me, and hence it is that two middle-aged gentlemen are flying westward at fifty miles an hour, instead of quietly digesting their breakfasts at home." Both Holmes and Watson are active and fit at this time in there lives and the ages of Cumberbatch and Freeman would fit nicely. Personally, I'm of the Sept-Oct 1900 school in dating the "Hound" so Rathbone works for me, but you're right he was a youthful 47. Despite the Turkish bath of "Lady Frances Carfax" (Watson: ""Because for the last few days I have been feeling rheumatic and old. A Turkish bath is what we call an alternative in medicine - a fresh starting-point, a cleanser of the system."), I've always thought Holmes and Watson as vigorous men, and in no way "old".

    The problem with BBC Sherlock's "The Hounds of Baskervilles" is that the focus is not on Henry Knight and the "curse" of Baskerville, but on Cumberbatch and the intense emotion of fear and loss of mental control he felt. Freeman spends all his time with Cumberbatch, Henry Knight suffers his debilitating hallucinations alone and pretty much forgotten. You could cut out all Knight's scenes that occur in Dartmoor and still have a coherent narrative.

    1. I just have a lot of trouble with the whole story on Sherlock and almost started going to science fiction for me.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. At Comic Con this year, during the Q & A there was this exchange: What will we see in Series 3 – what’s different compared to Series 1 & 2?
    Steven Moffat: “It’s moved on a bit. It’s slightly more human, more real. We’ve got some scenes in this that we would never have contemplated in S1″ No Time Lord involved in Cumberbatch's fall.

    Your point about Cumberbatch and Freeman doing a faithful version of the first couple of chapters and capturing the humor, surprise and emotion of the Canon is spot on.

  3. I watched the Granada "Hound" today and agree with your assessment. The "Baskerville Curse" document is integral to setting up the whole Gothic atmosphere that pervades the story and Brett's muttered reading of a few choice phrases weakens its effect. I can understand if Granada wanted to save on the budget by not filming the legend, although they must have had a special deal on period trains and train stations because almost all those scenes were unnecessary. However, the writer of the teleplay realized that it was important because we hear Brett in voice over say three times, "Above all avoid the moor where, as the old parchment quaintly puts it, the powers of evil are exalted." Both Brett and Hardwicke seen old and sluggish. I think I'll have to rate the Rathbone/Bruce as the better version.

    1. It unfortunately proves, just like 'The Hunger Games', that if you don't read the book first, you could really miss the stuff the holds the story together.

    2. And yea, big budget for trains, but not screen writers??

  4. I actually quite like Brett's Hound. You need to have read the story before you watch it (in order to mentally fill in the blanks) and there are many issues with it. However there are worse adaptations. I'd pick Matt Frewer's for an example.

    1. There are definitely worse, but we had come to expect so much from the Brett series that it just didn't measure up.
      With that said, Brett did some great lines in show, and I don't think he was the one who let it down. Mostly what bothered me would be the editing and the cinematography.

    2. You are correct about Matt Frewer's Hound. But I did like Max Headroom.