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|SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE SILK STOCKING (2004)|
|UK and World Television Premiere - December 26, 2004 - BBC ONE
Canadian Television Premiere - December 29, 2004 - CBC
US Television Premiere - October 23, 2005 - PBS
Dr. John Watson:
Simon Cellan Jones
|The year is 1902, it’s November and a thick fog has descended on the streets of London. The illustrious detective Sherlock Holmes, played by Rupert Everett, is drawn out of retirement by his estranged partner in crime, Dr John Watson (Ian Hart), when a case that threatens to overwhelm the privilege and tranquillity of aristocratic society comes to their attention.
When the body of a young girl is dragged from the Thames it is initially presumed she’s a street prostitute. However, the discovery of a stocking wedged in her throat suggests otherwise. Sherlock’s brilliant analytical mind and precise observation are quick to detect the error and he concludes the body is, in fact, that of a Lady.
As society prepares for the debutantes’ seasonal performance, Georgina, a young, vulnerable and heavily chaperoned young lady disappears. Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade tries desperately to hunt down the kidnapper, but he is too late. Georgina’s body is discovered, dressed in the clothes of the first victim, with a stocking lodged in her throat.
With the knowledge that a serial killer is now in operation, Holmes is galvanised into feverish action and Watson, despite his impending marriage to the beautiful Mrs Vandeleur (Helen McCrory), is drawn back to his friend’s side. Desperate to catch the killer before he strikes again, Holmes resorts to increasingly unorthodox methods...
Rupert Everett plays Sherlock Holmes, Ian Hart plays Dr Watson, Helen McCrory plays Mrs Vandeleur and Neil Dudgeon plays Inspector Lestrade. Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Season is an original mystery written by Allan Cubitt, who adapted Conan Doyle’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles for BBC One two years ago. It is produced by Tiger Aspect Productions.
|BBC Press Release|
|Region 2 UK
March 21, 2005
|It has been two years since the BBC inflicted Tiger Aspect's production of The Hound of the Baskervilles on an unsuspecting public and now we have Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking to contend with from the same source. Surprisingly, this new film is a remarkably engaging pastiche from the same writer (Allen Cubitt) that stands head and shoulders above its illustrious predecessor. As far removed as Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking is from Conan Doyle's work, being based on the hunt for a serial killer with a foot fetish who preys upon the daughters of English aristocracy, I find that not having to make unfavourable comparisons to Canonical source material allows for a far more refreshing and entertaining experience in my view. By no means a perfect Holmes film, in any sense of the word, it is, however a far more agreeable enterprise than the BBC's mangled HOUN.
This time out, alongside a returning Ian Hart as Watson, we have a new and much improved Holmes in the form of film-star Rupert Everett. Tall, slender, dark-haired and with a strong nose, Everett is a fairly good choice for the part from a purely physical perspective. Everett (when awake) was a marked improvement over HOUN's Richard Roxburgh, but still not as good as I would have liked. A tendency towards a drawling and rather languid approach to line delivery marred what was to me an otherwise interesting, if not exactly compelling, interpretation of Sherlock Holmes. Although Everett seemed to awaken somewhat to the part as the film progressed, a bit of nervous energy, or any energy for that matter, and he might have given us the most compelling Holmes to come along since Jeremy Brett. The big surprise for me however was that I found myself actually liking Ian Hart as Watson. Saddled with a too-large wig to help disguise his protruding ears, he still doesn't look like my idea of Watson, but a newly found warmth, to say nothing of some hint of a sense of humour, in his performance allowed me to overlook his physical shortcomings quite easily. As a result, I'd say that Hart provides this film's stand-out perfomance.
The film opens on a rather pointless, if striking profile, shot of Holmes smoking in an opium den before cutting to the discovery of a young girl's body along the banks of the Thames. At a post-mortem examination of the corpse it is found that she has been strangled with a silk stocking which remains knotted about her neck. Apparently Watson has been working as a police-surgeon since he strolls into the room just as Dr. Dinwoodie is about to untie the knot. In a nice touch Watson suggests that the knot be cut away, as much can gleaned by how a man ties a knot, which he explains as an old trick of Holmes'. Dinwoodie dismisses the corpse as a prostitute who was engaged in a "Sexual game with a client that got out of hand." Watson seems to think otherwise and tracks down Holmes,in the midst of a thick fog, as he is about to enter a Chinese Tea Shop . When Watson asks Holmes how he knew he was behind him, indicating that he wore no cologne, he quips that Watson has "The reek of the slaughterhouse - Eau de Morgue" about him. In the teashop Holmes appears disinterested and antagonistic, telling the waiter in Chinese to ignore Watson. He then accuses Watson of involving him simply for the sake of providing some sensational stories for him to write-up exclaiming "Why don't you do what you usually do...make them up".
Holmes returns to a ridiculously huge Baker Street sitting room, throws about his unopened mail, spiking a piece to the mantel with a large jack-knife, seems utterly restless, dismisses Mrs. Hudson (Anne Caroll) with a "7:30 ...the day after tomorrow" bit when asked about his meal, and then heads off to the morgue.
While examining the body he is told by Watson that no sexual congress has taken place and that the girl was a virgin. Holmes then, in what is clearly a direct influence from The Silence of the Lambs, finds another silk stocking stuffed down the girl's throat. He quickly deduces that she is not in fact a prostitute but is Lady Alice Pentney, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Narborough. Lestrade brings the icy Duchess (Eleanor David) to identify the body, which she rejects as being her daughter, the clothes were not hers, until Holmes, in a particularly effective bit from everett, stares her down. Watson and Holmes then head to Baker Street, where Watson admonishes Holmes for requesting a brandy in the middle of the day then bugs him to eat and look after himself. Holmes takes an odd telephone call just before the Duke of Narborough (Jonathan Hyde) arrives to hire Holmes to investigate the death of his daughter, spurring the old "Fixed scale" speech. Neither Holmes nor Watson seem too impressed by the arrogant Duke. Holmes then informs Watson that the telephone call was an invitation to dinner from Watson's fiancee, Mrs. Jenny Vandeleur.
Before dinner can be had however, Holmes visits the Narborough home with Lestrade to hunt for clues as to how Lady Alice might have been abducted. Shouting at Lestrade about all the policeman trampling about he scans the room taking in everything. It is a good bit from Everett, as no crawling about on all fours is needed to convery that Holmes sees everything. Lestrade turns around only to find Holmes heading out the window to the roof where he finds a brandy bottle and cigarette stubs, the latter he identifies as being of turkish tobacco. It is clear to Holmes that Lady Alice knew her killer and he insists that everyone in the household be fingerprinted. One again the Duke and Duchess seem cold and put out by Holmes attempts to determine what happened.
Holmes then goes to his dinner engagement. Now the dinner sequence and introduction of Watson's American fiancee Mrs. Jenny Vandeleur is both a distinct highpoint of the film and simultaneously, the most jarring. When Mrs. Vandeleur wonders why "Sherlock", as she insists on referring to Holmes (this being the jarring bit), has a dislike of women, Hart has a wonderful panic striken moment as he frantically reaches for a bottle exclaiming "Quickly, pour more wine" to distract Holmes. Once Watson leaves the room things get decidedly strange as Mrs. Vandeleur informs Holmes that she is a fully qualified psycho-analyst and suggests that women's clothing may have some special significance to the killer. She suggests Holmes read Krafft-Ebbing's Psycopathia Sexualis as it may have some bearing on the case, and then begins reciting a detailed list of some of the many sexual perversions to be found in the book. While she recites her list the camera is locked on Everett's face, whose eyebrows are in some danger of rising right up and off of his face! It is a pricelessly funny sequence that had me laughing out loud. Although the character of Mrs. Vandeleur is ridculous on one level (Why bother with a fiancee at all? Why such an unlikely character as a female psycho-analyst in 1902? As a plot device surely anyone could have suggested Krafft-Ebbing to Holmes? Why is Holmes himself not familiar with Krafft-Ebbing to begin with? Etc...), her inclusion actually helps balance the relationship between Holmes and Watson, plus presents a wonderful opportunity for a bit of fun.
Shortly afterwards it is found that the daughter of Lord Hugo (Julian Wadham) and Lady Judith (Penny Downey) Massingham - Lady Georgina (Jennifer Moule) - has gone missing. The contrast between the Massinghams and the Pentney's is sharply marked as this family clearly cares deeply about their children. Their elder daughter - Lady Roberta (Perdita Weeks) implores Holmes to help them. He goes up to the missing girl's room to investigate where Lestrade then find him looking down from an attic access hatch in the room. Obviously, once again, the victim has been abducted over the rooftops although this time she has been drugged using clhoroform. As he is leaving Holmes indicates that he assumes the girl is already dead, which is proven to be correct as the scene cuts to a fog-bound street where a girl is found hanging dead from a streetlamp. It is clear that a serial killer is on the loose.
After Holmes spends some time reading Krafft-Ebbing he comes to the conclusion that the killer is a sexual sadist and presents his profile to Lestrade and a number of police officers in an effective briefing scene. He is also determined to find the first victim since the first is likely to present the most clues. He again examines the clothing found on Lady Alice's body finding a pay slip from a shoe shop where it is determined the murdered girl must have been employed and sends Watson to investigate. At the shop of W. G. Bilney (Guy Henry, a former Sherlock himself, having appeared as Holmes in Young Sherlock: The Manor House Mystery) Watson pretends to be an American looking for his missing daughter and finds that the first victim was named Sarah O'Brien and that she reportedly committed suicide. Meanwhile Holmes has paid a visit to Lady Roberta and suggests that the girl leave her dead sister's dancing shoes attached to a wreath at the funeral service as a Memento Mori.
While Watson is engaged at the cemetary to dig up the body of Sarah O'Brien, Holmes stays close to the funeral services for Lady Alice, keeping an eye on the wreath he had placed there. Watson examines the disintered corpse and finds a stocking jammed in her throat, confirming her as the first victim. Meanwhile, at the cemetary, 13 year old Imogen Helhoughton vanishes into the fog practically under the great detective's nose! A dejected Holmes returns to Baker Street, clearly depressed at his failure he plays the violin and tells Watson that his trap with the dance shoes failed and they can only wait patiently to see what happens next. It is obvious the patience is not a virtue for Sherlock Holmes as he turns to the cocaine bottle to wash away his sense of failure and presumably pass the time.
Surprisingly young Imogen is not dead, but found wandering the streets. Holmes immediately wants to question the girl but both Lestrade and Watson indicate that she is in shock and tha Holmes brusque manner would do the girl no good. Holmes then suggests that Mrs. Vandeluer would be the best person to speak with Imogen.
While this is arranged Holmes determines that Charles Allen, footman to the Duchess of Narborough was once employed in the same household as the first murder victim. Although he has a water-tight alibi, Holmes requests he be brought in for questioning. While Holmes questions Charles Allen, Mrs. Vandeleur questions Imogen and finds that the girl clearly saw her abductor. Imogen explains that as her abductor was undressing her, specifically removing her stockings, he became enraged and threw her out in the street. When Mrs. Vandeleur explains this to Holmes he is determined to see Imogen's feet and discovers that her right foot had undergone surgery to correct a clubfoot. The scarring had saved her life.
To bring matters to a head, Holmes arranges that Imogen and Charles Allen will pass each other in the hall which results in Imogen screaming "That's him". Although he is positively identified, the fingerprints do not match and he has an unimpeachable alibi, so Charles Allen is let go when the Duke and Duchess arrive to collect him. The Duke dismisses Holmes from the case and Holmes catches an interesting look that passes between Allen and the Duchess as he helps her into her carriage.
With the help of the plucky Lady Roberta, Holmes sets another trap to capture the killer at a society ball. In disguise, Holmes stops the killer from making off with Lady Roberta at the ball. Sometime later that evening however, Lady Roberta is chloroformed and abducted from her bedroom and the final chase to catch the elusive killer begins in earnest...
As I noted at the beginning, it is a remarkably engaging pastiche of a film, but a flawed one. The plot plays like modern television police drama, asking the uninspired question "What if Jack the Ripper preyed on society girls instead of prostitutes and Sherlock Holmes investigated?" Sort of an Edwardian CSI blending in strong elements from Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs and James Patterson's Kiss the Girls. While this may work in, say, the Murder Rooms series, it just doesn't make for the sort of case I expect to find Sherlock Holmes investigating. While I was unimpressed with Holmes depicted cocaine usage in the midst of The Hound of the Baskervilles, here it is decidedly less gratuitous in that Holmes seems to resort to the drug out of desperation and perhaps shame over his failure. It is also, in a rather simplistic manner, a sort of key to Holmes understanding of the killer's motives...one addict recognizes the addiction in another, or so we are told. The relationship between Holmes and Watson, while still somewhat strained, is also far better than in HOUN. Sure there is once again some mutual antagonism on display here, but it seems far less caustic due to the playing of the leads and burns out fairly quickly as the film progresses.
Supporting players all gave fine performances, although both Jonathan Hyde and Guy Henry seemed somewhat wasted in their minor roles. Perdita Weeks, Neil Dudgeon and Michael Fassbender were particularly good.
Visually it was a solid film. Costumes were well-designed with not a deerstalker or inverness in sight. Sadly though, neither Rupert Everett nor Ian Hart look particularly good or comfortable in head wear. Interior sets were effective and looked right for the period. Exteriors, well, hard to say really, since almost every exterior shot was obscured by an ever present heavy fog. Still, the film looks good and is embellished by a very strong musical score that perfectly fits mood and atmosphere.
Bottom Line: Recommended for pastiche film enthusiasts who are not troubled by the idea of Sherlock Holmes hunting for a serial killer who is motivated by a sexual foot fetish. Solid entertainment, good performances on the whole, but doesn't ring true as a Sherlock Holmes story. Guaranteed to irritate traditional Sherlockians.
|By Charles Prepolec|
|Read the Review
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