Years ago when I was in college studying English, I had two summer classes with a 45 minute break between them. The walk from the building I was in to the Student Center was about 15 minutes each way, but the library was right next door. So, in between these two classes I would head to the library for a comfortable couch and air conditioning during the hot Florida summer. For eight weeks, I spent this time at 221-B Baker Street with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, reading every novella and short story in preparation for an upcoming class where I knew students would be required to pick an author with a substantial amount of work and research the author’s time period, its customs, music, etc.
I was already familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, having discovered him at an early age either from TV, movies, or both. I don’t remember exactly when my first exposure to Holmes and Watson occurred, but I do know my fascination with the characters has never ebbed.
I’m not a purist, either. I love mash-ups where Holmes partners up with other fictional detectives of the time. I love when he crosses paths with Jack the Ripper or finds himself wrapped up in H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. I’ve loved watching the old black and white movies that I’ve occasionally caught on TV as well as the latest iterations that include Sherlock (BBC) and Robert Downey, Jr.’s spin in both films.
I was recently provided a copy of Titan Book’s newest edition of Sherlock Holmes On Screen: The Complete Film and TV History by Alan Barnes, and I have to say that I am blown away by how many TV shows and movies there are based on the fictional detective. The book is an unbelievably detailed look at every appearance, with credit details such as writers, producers, directors, actors, and alternative titles. In addition to the credit details, however, are the essay length reviews that provide not just synopses of the stories but also the behind-the-scenes information about the goings-on of various series and movies such as music selection, variations of the canon stories, and much more.
As I worked through the book, I was surprised at just how many TV shows and movies I’d actually seen over the years. My memory was refreshed as I recalled the parodies with Gene Wilder (The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother) and Michael Caine (Without a Clue). I smiled when I read about Tom Baker of Dr. Who fame and recalled seeing this version of The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was unaware of Baker’s more famous role. I read more details about Jeremy Brett and his version of Holmes of which I’d only caught a handful of episodes and am now determined to track down the yet unseen ones. (And although I’ve seen many of the old movies with Basil Rathbone and understand what many fans see in his performances, I still prefer Brett’s version.)
Along with the versions that I’ve seen, I also enjoyed discovering other actors who’ve played the famous detective of whom I was completely unaware. Roger Moore. Matt Frewer. George C. Scott. And Christopher Lee. (I’ve seen a few with Peter Cushing, but was completely unaware of Lee’s role.) And then, of course, there are dozens of actors (many foreign) who I am unfamiliar with and dozens of TV and movie mysteries that I’ll never have time to hunt down, let alone watch. But it sure is nice to know that I’ve not even scratched the surface of what’s available when it comes to Sherlock Holmes on the screen.
The book presents all the details in an alphabetical listing of the titles, but at the very back of the book is five page title list by release date along with key dates of Doyle’s writing and a few other key events of the day. For any extreme fan of Sherlock Holmes wanting to view the progression of the detective over time and in different mediums, the list will be a valuable resource.
While I won’t be hunting down the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1993 animated episode where the team is whisked back in time to fight alongside Holmes against Moriarty, I do plan on purchasing John Cleese’s take on Holmes. And while my 4-year-old son might enjoy the Scooby-Doo team-up with Holmes, I’m more interested in snagging Christopher Lee’s appearances.
Sherlock Holmes On Screen is a well-researched book, and it’s been updated to include the latest information on movies and TV shows since the book’s previous 2004 edition. If you’re a fan of Holmes, you’ll want to grab a copy, start reading and keeping score. I’m certain even the most rabid fan will find something in this book that comes as a surprise, making for a personal game is afoot moment as the hunt begins.