Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In-Class Movie: The Resident Patient (1985)

“Absolutely,” said I. “And now that you have explained it, I confess that I am as amazed as before.”
“It was very superficial, my dear Watson, I assure you.”
--Watson and Holmes, “The Resident Patient”

Austin: Let's talk a little behind the scenes for a moment. Both of us are happy users of Twitter. I like to think that I tweet a large amount, but that is nothing to what you tweet, Leigh. (We don't need to get into who has more followers.) I can't remember when--I think it was before our blog's creation--that you were live-tweeting a Grenada presentation of Sherlock Holmes. Previously I had heard good things but your many many tweets suggested it was an embarrassing affair wrought with over-the-top performances and pacing issues.

"And if I move my finger to the other side of my mouth, my hair parts the other way. Pay attention, Watson!"

So now we're finally watching our first Jeremy Brett episode. Brett famously played the Great Detective on ITV in the 80s and 90s to great acclaim. The episode we're watching today is from their first season of their show The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. (They later changed the name of the show to match different collections of Arthur Conan Doyle. So then why is this Memoirs episode in their Adventure set? Dunno. They probably thought the idea of changing the name of the show later on in the run.)

What did I think of this adaptation of "The Resident Patient"? I really liked it. It was filmed in a dynamic way that was missed from some of the Basil Rathbone adaptations. It had a creepy opening and a patience to the rest of the story that allowed for characters to take their time in unveiling the mystery (in the pure Doyle flashback fashion) and solving the mystery. I'm perhaps a bit torn on Brett's performance at the moment, but I'm curious to see more. It's a very human take, which is always a nice change of pace.

Now I must know. Do you hate this episode as much as whatever you ripped apart on Twitter? And am I questioning your critical integrity by asking if any wine was consumed before or during that first Grenada episode?

Leigh: I was sober! (I think. I'm pretty sure...Probably) I started watching Scandal in Bohemia, which is the first episode in that series, and so I guess it can be sorta excused for how bad it was. My biggest complaint is that the actress playing Irene Adler went to the William Shatner School of Acting and couldn't say a single sentence without it being...the...MOST...import-tant sentence. Ever. I know a lot of people are fans of this series and after two episodes, I don't really know why (which will probably get a bunch of fangirls yelling at me). Jeremy Brett seems to overact a bit, in my opinion. Sherlock Holmes to me should be a bit more aloof and less "THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CASE OF MY LIFE." And once I realized it, I couldn't stop putting Mel Brooks in Watson's place. The actor who plays Watson looks an AWFUL lot like Mel Brooks circa Blazing Saddles. It made it hard for me to pay attention to the mystery.

"It's elementary, my dear President!"

Now, was The Resident Patient better than Scandal? Yes. Someone gave Brett the direction to not overact as much and his aggression was more appropriate for Holmes. The supporting characters were generally better too, although they all seem to have gone to the Guiding Light School of Dramatic Arts. Everything seemed a bit soap opera-y to me, which also cheapened the story. It's a pretty serious story full of deceit and bank robbery and murder. And yet the only parts that didn't feel cheap were the beginning with the creepy dream and towards the end with the murder. 

Am I being to critical? Do I expect too much? Will Blessington/Sutton's evil twin return to avenge him? Was he the one who sank the boat?

Austin: I will admit that tonally it is a bit strange. The dream sequence stands out to establish a darker feel than most Sherlock adaptations. Not gothic horror, but just a morbid feel. But then there are a few amusing scenes of comedy with the broadest being Mrs. Hudson's reaction to an extremely messy room. Then there is a very dry comedy scene at the end where Watson is slowly conflicted about what to call the mystery--with him trying to mentally figure out how deep Sherlock is manipulating him while finally succumbing to Sherlock's title of "The Resident Patient."

Perhaps one of the reasons you like Jeremy Brett more was because Sherlock is not in this story as much. I don't know if this is a regular thing with this series, but the flashbacks do take up a large amount of time. I feel that Trevelyn had more screen time than Holmes, which is a strange concept. In this, Sherlock does have a tough exterior. He's very grumpy and agitated--No, I'm sorry he' s just mentally playing an entire opera--which I think adds a more human element to him. In mysteries you have the light detectives and then the hardboiled ones who get so caught up in the case they have to drink all the time to calm their intense emotions. For a change of pace, it's fun to see Brett play Sherlock as the detective on the edge. Will it get a bit old if that's what he does every week without any difference? Sure, but right now I'm game.

Also we have a competent Watson which is what we always enjoy!

"I did win an Oscar for the screenplay of The Producers."

Can something be soapy and still be enjoyable? Sometimes that's needed for procedural shows. I know you watch more than I do, but when things are too light week to week I lose the need to watch. This series seems to have the gravitas right up front but it's not overly depressing like watching a season of Wallander in a day (which I've regrettably done.) There's no irony attached to this series so the seriousness plays better even though I don't believe "The Resident Patient" is the most important case in Sherlock's career. 

So asking a very genuine question, what makes this different than a season of Law and Order? I'm asking this because you've seen more of that show than I have....which means you've seen more than the pilot.

Leigh: I think the biggest difference between Law and Order and this episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is that when it comes down to it, Law and Order is about the crime and bringing the bad guy to justice. This episode at least didn't feel as much about solving the crime. I know that the story that it's based off of isn't the most action packed and crime solve-y but the whole feel of the episode wasn't so much crime drama/mystery solving but more of storytelling. Maybe the story itself is at fault here for again being a not so great mystery but this is one of the better ones. It could be more of the direction and the actors. Law and Order you can (sorta) believe that those actors are cops or lawyers but this Sherlock Holmes doesn't feel like a private detective. The doctor doesn't act much like a doctor. I think the only person who really gets the feel of their role is paranoid patient/bank robber/squealer, but in his defense, it is really easy to play a crazy person. It just didn't feel serious enough. We don't talk about a lot of production stuff but one thing that was constantly said to me in my Video Production 2 class was to make sure when we lit a set, it didn't look like a soap opera. There are a couple of times where the production looks a little soap opera-y on top of the melodramatic acting. 

The story was good though. It was close to the original so, there's that.

Next time we meet the other Holmes brother and realize that we don't speak Greek.

Is this really the best moving pop culture reference Austin could have made? Probably!
Speaking of next time, we're going to take a couple week break because I'm moving across the country! My boyfriend and I are making a 1000 mile move in a few days to a state that I haven't been to since I was still in diapers. So to make the move a teensy bit less stressful, we're gonna take a break. Posts should resume the beginning of June and we got a lot of cool movies lined up matched with a lot of cool stories so stick around and bear with us while I try not to completely freak out in the process. 

And now Austin with the final words!

Austin: But not in the name of the patient!
Honestly, Austin could have put a thousand more Doctor Who references during this entry. This is restraint.

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