Monday, November 25, 2013

In-Class Movie: "The Snowmen" (Doctor Who, 2012)

“I am never precipitate in my actions, nor would I adopt so energetic and, indeed, dangerous a course, if any other were possible.”

--Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”

Austin: I like to switch things up a bit. Instead of just referencing Doctor Who in every post, we're going to do that but be on topic! Last year we talked about the Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) story The Talons of Weng-Chiang where The Doctor and Leela found their deerstalkers to investigate a wonderfully ridiculous Victorian mystery. Now we are back in that time, but it's an episode that was made in 2012 with Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor).

This may be the trickiest one to write because the Sherlock Holmes aspect is just a small part of this tale. It's really just a straightforward Doctor Who story with The Doctor hiding himself away after the loss of his best friends. He meets a mysterious barmaid with a secret that she doesn't even know she has---all will be revealed in the season finale! There's a monster from the Classic era of Doctor Who voiced by Sir Ian McKellen. There is silliness, sci-fi gibberish, the power of the human spirit and plenty of humor.

Ian McKellen is the one on the left. Far left.

This episode was written by the showrunner Steven Moffat who also co-runs BBC's Sherlock. Since both shows sparked fans so wildly, plenty of people have demanded a cross-over where Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith can chat about who has the most ridiculous bone structure in their face. Seeing how a time machine could ruin every single Sherlock Holmes story, Moffat has made the cross-over impossible by revealed who really is the inspiration for the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. 

So what would you like to cover first, Leigh? What do you think of who really is Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock and Watson or what do you think of the scene with The Doctor trying to imitate their style?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Book Report: "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" (Doyle, 1904)

“I’ll tell you Watson. He is the king of all the blackmailers. Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and reputation come into the power of Milverton! With a smiling face and a heart of marble, he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry.”

--Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

Leigh: This story might actually be my favorite. I know I say that a lot about a lot of them but this one might actually have the #1 spot. It is wacky and crazy and ends in a way that you don't really see coming, which I love. 

Charles Augustus Milverton is a blackmailer and is so despicable, Holmes calls him the worst person ON DA EARF which I guess is an easy roll to fill since Moriarty is dead. CAM decides to get letters of young women that would ruin their career and then blackmail them so that their lives aren't ruined. These young women agree because a young woman in Victorian England doesn't have many choices and if she doesn't marry rich, she's pretty much screwed. Holmes has a client that happens to be one of these young ladies who can't afford the ransom of her personal letters and so Holmes decides to break into Milverton's house and steal them but only after he has gotten himself engaged to Milverton's housemaid. This isn't one of those situations where Holmes falls in love (HA!) but one where he is emotionally manipulating a woman to get what he wants. He doesn't care about breaking the housemaid's poor heart but he CANNOT let that rich woman gets her heart broken! It seems classist to me and rude but again, it was another era.

Holmes tells Watson what he's done and Watson decides he needs to help Holmes break into Milverton's house. He even goes so far as to say, "If you don't let me come with you to break into some guy's house then I'M TELLING MOM, I MEAN LESTRADE!" So Holmes reluctantly lets Watson come along. And then they go so far as to wear bandit masks when breaking into Milverton's house which I thought was possibly one of the funniest images ever. And then shit goes down.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In-Class Movie: "Pursuit to Algiers" (Rathbone, 1945)

“Well, I kept my knowledge to myself, and waited to see what would come of it.”

--Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Black Peter”

Austin: So we return to the magical world of Sherlock Holmes and Watson ruled by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. We've had fun in the past, but this is the first time where we really delve into their time when they spent in 1940s European espionage. We've seen Sherlock Holmes in plenty of different time periods like 2012 and 2012 so we know that there is a wealth of stories that can arise from placing this iconic character in a new situation.

We'll get into the duo stopping Nazis later for today they're just escorting a Prince to safety. By stagecoach? By train? By armored car? Nope. BY A BOAT MOTHERFUCKERS! 

"Watson, fetch my nautical themed deerstalker."

The boat is filled with subjects just like Death on the Nile and there is plenty of false identity going on just like Death on the Nile. Also they occasionally stop like in Death on the Nile. It's very strange to see the most iconic detectives ever take its lead from the most popular mystery writer of all time. Especially when the results aren't that satisfying.

I'll get into this more in a bit, but I found this to be very disappointing mostly because at just a bit over an hour this seemed to be stalling for majority of its run. Am I just being mean or did you find some charm in this one?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Report: "The Adventure of the Black Peter" (Doyle, 1904)

“[Sherlock’s] increasing fame had brought with it an immense practice, and I should be guilt of an indiscretion if I were to even hint at the identity of some of the illustrious clients who crossed our humble threshold in Baker Street.”

--Watson being coy in “The Adventure of the Black Peter”

Leigh: This week, the story we read was one that could have easily turned out awful but I found it surprisingly pleasant. An old sailor called Black Peter is murdered by a harpoon (which is pretty badass) and then a possible suspect is arrested and Sherlock Holmes' logic proves that he didn't do it. 

"We're going to need a bigger harpoon gun!" Shut up Quint." 

I enjoyed this story. Much like the rest of the book so far, it was more adventurous than the older Sherlock Holmes stories and yet it still had some of those older elements that made it a lot of fun. Sure, sitting around waiting for the bad guy to show up can be boring, but doing it in the middle of the night with Holmes and Watson is instantly more fun. Also there's the element of a Red Herring that we don't get too often with Doyle's stories. It is something that can be overused (Law and Order and Scooby Doo come to mind) but I thought it was well done in our story and it gives Holmes another chance to show his line of thinking without just jumping to that.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Extracurricular Reading: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Meyers, 1974)

Warning: The following blog entry contains spoilers for the entire novel of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and briefly has one for Series Two of Sherlock that is marked. So go read/watch those. Because they're awesome.

"But--" I was running alongside the train now--"what about your readers--my readers! What shall I tell them?"
"Anything you like," was the bland respond. "Tell them I was murdered by my mathematics tutor, if you like. They'll never believe you in any case."

--Nicholas Meyers, "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution"

Leigh: Lately we've been reviewing a lot of various movies that play with the idea that Holmes is crazy. Moriarty isn't real, he's a figment of his imagination and Holmes really just needs to get a grip on reality. But what if Holmes were crazy? What if he had succumbed to his addictions and became insane and created the fiend that is Moriarty? The Seven-Per-Cent Solution explores just that idea.

The story starts off with Holmes showing up in Watson's sitting room like he has numerous times, but this time he is high as a kite. He is mumbling and sweaty and resembles more of the traditional idea of a crazy person than of Sherlock Holmes as the audience knows him. Watson, as a doctor and the detective's best friend, decides that something needs to be done. He actually hunts down Professor Moriarty and finds out he's an elderly mathematics tutor that taught Holmes boys when they were younger. He's completely harmless and quite upset that Holmes is now stalking him and accusing him of being a criminal mastermind. 

At this point Watson decides that Holmes needs to go to rehab and Mycroft agrees. The two men, along with the often forgotten Mrs. Watson, plan a dastardly plan to get Holmes all the way to Vienna to meet Sigmund Freud. Now, here is where most of the time when an author decides to introduce a real person that actually existed into a fictional universe that I get skeptical and start purposefully trying to find flaws. I know this is a fault of mine but as soon as I decide that I don't like something, I try to find all of the problems with it ever. I honestly didn't do that with Seven-Per-Cent. I thought the addition of Freud (even though I'm incredibly skeptical of a lot of his research and findings [women like orgasms? NO WAY!]) was interesting. 

That's not what Walter Jr. has learned from his experiences.

But I wanted more. Half of the book, and it's relatively short (I'm trudging through the Harry Potter series again right now so ~224 pages is short to me) is all about Watson and Mycroft getting Sherlock to Freud. And while I liked that wackiness of it and a Rube Goldberg machine of a plan to get Sherlock to willingly go to Vienna. It was fun but I wanted more with Freud and Holmes. To me, once it finally got to the one-on-one between the two, it's just a Sparknotes version of what happened. I wanted more.

So what did you think of it? Do you buy that Holmes was crazy? Do you believe the wackiness of the it all? And what about the lack of mystery? Can it be a Holmes novel without a mystery?