Friday, September 3, 2010
I’ve had a little splurge on DVDs at Amazon. Having too many unwatched DVDs is a vice only comparable to the number of unread books I have on those tbr shelves. If I live to be 100, & keep working full time, I probably have as much chance of watching all these DVDs as I have of reading all my books. Still, as vices go, it’s a pretty harmless one. The only threat is putting on too much weight if I watch DVDs instead of getting out into the garden or taking the occasional walk. This current splurge started when I heard from several members of my online book group about the new version of Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman. I’ve just watched the first episode, A Study in Pink, & I thought it was brilliant.
Set in contemporary London, it has all the aspects of the original stories that I love so much. Holmes is brilliant but odd. He seems even odder but somehow more understandable in the present because we’re so much more aware of medical conditions like Asperger’s & mental illnesses like sociopathy. The original Holmes was treated with deference by almost everyone, which I think was partly a class reaction of the period. His eccentricities were seen as brilliance rather than mental illness. The modern Holmes is quite openly called a freak by one of the police officers; the rest of the force, except Lestrade, beautifully played by Rupert Graves, are contemptuous of him & just think he’s a nut. Watson is an army doctor invalided out after serving in Afghanistan, just as the original was. The case involves a series of suicides. The victims have no links, except that they all use the same method of killing themselves. The fourth victim, a woman in a pink suit, is found in an abandoned house. In her last moments, she has scratched RACHE into the floor with her fingernails. Anyone who has read the original story, A Study in Scarlet, can see the resemblances here.
The scene where Holmes & Watson meet for the first time is exactly the same as the original, only the setting & the technology has changed. They decide to share a flat at 221B Baker St. Sherlock walks in & stabs a penknife into the mantelpiece. If he receives any letters, that’s where he will keep them. I wonder whose initials he’ll shoot into the wall? The flat is reminiscent of the Victorian period, it has the armchairs on either side of the fireplace where so many conversations will take place and, of course, their landlady is Mrs Hudson. Cumberbatch & Freeman are terrific in the lead roles. The script is witty, with enough allusions to the original to satisfy the fans but I don’t think it would matter if you hadn’t read the stories. I’m looking forward very much to the other episodes.
Then, I had a look at my Amazon wishlist & chose a few other goodies. The Peter Cushing versions of the Holmes stories were made in the late 60s. I’ve never seen them but they’re generally well-regarded so when I saw this boxset at a bargain price, I had to have it. Trent’s Last Case was another bargain. I’m a Margaret Lockwood fan & I’ve never seen this movie based on the classic novel by E C Bentley.
Then, a couple of classic serials based on books I love. I’ve read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth many times & I have the series on video but I couldn’t resist the DVD. Sooner or later my VCR is going to break down – well, that’s my excuse anyway. This is a beautiful adaptation of the classic book about a woman’s experiences during & after WWI. Cheryl Campbell & Rupert Frazer are especially good as Vera & her brother, Edward. Then, the 1970s series of Winifred Holtby’s South Riding with Dorothy Tutin & Nigel Davenport. I’ve never seen this but I loved the book & I love those sprawling 13 part TV series they used to make in the 60s & 70s. Nowadays they tell a story in just a few hours & so much necessarily has had to be left out.
There have been some excellent adaptations in recent years - the latest versions of Jane Eyre, Northanger Abbey & Emma – but also some dreadful ones – the latest Wuthering Heights & Persuasion. I’m looking forward to watching all these new acquisitions, I just have to find the time. Hopefully they'll end up on my excellent list rather than the dreadful one!