Friday, December 4, 2015

Movie Review - Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking
Inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Release Date: December 26th, 2004
Starring: Rupert Everett, Nicholas Palliser, Neil Dudgeon, Ian Hart, Anne Carroll, Tamsin Egerton, Perdita Weeks, Jennifer Moule, Eleanor David, John Cunningham, Michael Fassbender, Jonathan Hyde, Gina Beck, and Helen McCrory
Rating: ★★
To Buy

A young woman is found dead with a silk stocking tied around her throat, thrown up by the waters of the Thames. Her body comes to the attention of Doctor Watson and he thinks that this might be just the thing to interest his old friend Sherlock Holmes. The least it will do is get him to put down the syringe for an hour or two. Holmes is intrigued, though he'd never tell that to Watson. Within minutes of seeing the corpse Holmes makes the discovery that not only had a silk stocking been tied around the girl's throat, but that another one was shoved down her gullet. The more shocking discovery is that the girl isn't a young prostitute, but the daughter of Lord Pentney. Though the young girl's death is shocking, it won't be the last. As the aristocracy is reeling, Lady Georgina Massingham disappears out of her bedroom to be found the next morning, killed in the same manner. All of Belgravia is on alert as the killer targets their daughters. At Georgina Massingham's funeral another girl goes missing. But unlike the previous two victims she escapes. With the aid of Watson's fiance, the psychoanalyst Mrs. Vandeleur, Holmes finds the reason for the young girl's escape. She had a club foot. With the stockings and this new information from the intended victim, Holmes realizes that his supposition that the killer has a foot fetish is true. Holmes is confidant he can catch the killer, but he asks Georgina's sister Roberta to act as bait. Will this trick work, or will it needlessly put Roberta in danger?

Back when Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking first came to Netflix I remember watching it and quite enjoying it. It felt like a fresh take on Holmes and Everett seemed well cast. The problem is in the proceeding decade Sherlock Holmes has become a booming business, with Robert Downey Junior playing him on the big screen in Guy Ritchie's films, to Jonny Lee Miller on Elementary, but most importantly, there's Benedict Cumberbatch on Sherlock which has developed such a rabid fanbase. With so many competing properties quality and production values have skyrocketed. We as the audience demand more of our stories and watching Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking, we see the flaws, and not just in that annoyingly long title that I have to keep typing out. What will strike you most is that they didn't even bother to film this TV movie on a decent film stock. It lends that faux reality to it, wherein it almost feels like you're watching the news. This is actually a problem I have with all high definition film conversion, which this is obviously not. But there's a weird surreality to them making them hyper real. If you doubt my theory watch Jaws on a high definition TV, it's like watching a documentary about the seventies. But they coupled their bad film stock with a bad transfer, wherein the PAL to NTSC transfer is jittery, making it look even more shitty. But the worst decision of all was they stuck to the when in doubt use a fog machine for atmosphere school of Victorian filmmaking. There is so much fog you can barely make out any of the action in outdoor scenes, yet incongruously there wasn't enough fog to hide the modern metal structures near the cemetery!

The lack of production quality seeped over into the historical details. They very obviously had no historic adviser like Downton Abbey does. Instead they had a slouching Duchess smoking filtered cigarettes almost thirty years before they existed. I mean seriously, she wouldn't show exasperation and insolence to a police officer, she would show hauteur! And that doesn't even cover the telephones and the improper titles for the King and Queen! They seemed to want to update Holmes, but instead of going all out like Elementary or Sherlock, they added incongruities that exasperate the audience versus adding to the story. But oddly enough what annoyed me the most was the lackadaisical floorplan for 221B Baker Street, which in an odd error is actually once referred to as 222B Baker Street. Of all locations in books and films, I don't think there's any one more regulated than 221B Baker Street. Everyone knows the floorplan, and yet, here they decided to create something entirely other. An obviously ground floor great room that looks like it is part of a house, not terraced apartments. Amd seriously, Mrs. Hudson just wanders in when she feels like from the large hallway? No no and no again. If you are going to take on the greatest detective ever, the least you can do is get it right!

But then again, watching it all these years later, I seem to have nothing but problems with this production. I even question the casting of Rupert Everett as Holmes. He brought nothing to the role other than the required hawk-like profile. Holmes is fun for his excitability, his dark humor, his mood swings, yet Everett plays him almost atonally. But I blame this more on Everett's transitional period than anything else. This TV movie was made as he was switching his period focus from the humor of Oscar Wilde to the more dour dark bearded days of Parade's End, wherein I actually didn't recognize him for the first few episodes. I actually place all the blame on this shift firmly with Catherine Deneuve and that bizarre French adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Can you think of anything in recent years on television more pretentious than an all French adaptation of this story set in the 60s with Rupert Everett struggling with French dialogue? I dare you to! But Holmes is supposed to be balanced by Watson. And Ian Hart was miscast abysmally as a lecturing antagonistic parental figure for Holmes, with a very rat like face. With their ongoing bickering one wonders why they are even colleagues at all, because with this behaviour they are certainly not friends! Plus I hold a personal grudge against this actor, he played Emma's father on Bates Motel so wonderfully in the first season only to be badly recast in the newest season because Hart wouldn't return. Well Hart, I'm marking you down as the second worst Watson in history, my hatred of Lucy Liu will forever save you from the number one place.

And as with every British miniseries that mishandles Americans, my rant must now commence. I don't know what it is with Britain and their American Problem, but it is so pronounced that I seriously want to just ship them a few actors so that I will never have to listen to a bad faux American accent again. Firstly, the changing of Watson's fiance and later wife from being Mary Morstan makes no sense. Unless this is his second wife... but I think they could have bothered to mention that don't you? (Note, I think this is supposed to be his second wife, which was mentioned only once in passing in the books). Mrs. Vandeleur seems to be nothing more than an annoyingly forward American psychoanalyst  who is a slightly scandalous plot device, recommending the book Psychopathia Sexualis to Holmes. Firstly, I'm sure Holmes has read this book and doesn't need the recommendation, secondly, why did we need all this build up just so she can talk to the one surviving victim for five minutes? Anyone could have filled this need, it didn't need this non canonical character to be thrust on us! But the worst part is Helen McCrory's accent. I first want to make it clear that I am actually a fan of hers. In fact one of my most favorite new shows, Penny Dreadful, wouldn't be complete without her and her wicked ways. She is a very talented, very accomplished actress, who is never allowed to do an American accent EVER AGAIN. Her husband Damian Lewis can successfully do one, just look to Homeland. She can not. It's broad, it's flat, it's overly loud, it's annoying, it's WRONG WRONG WRONG! Don't the people who make these films realize that by doing something like this they are alienating their audience and pissing them off majorly? And it's not like this is a problem that in the intervening decade has just gone away, just look to the newest season of Mr Selfridge and those damn Tointon sisters and you'll see what I mean.

Yet all these flaws could be overlooked if the conclusion and the revelation of the killer hadn't been so absurd. Though if you're familiar enough with British actors you will know the killer from the opening credits. The motive of the killer, his being "taunted" by the young girls of the aristocracy could work, kind of. But then why is he a foot fetishist? This is never once addressed in the entire movie. I think that this would be more important than just a red herring used to suspect the shoe maker. And in what is an even weirder turn of events, it isn't Holmes who expounds on how he figured it all out and when and why, but it's the killer explaining himself FOR NO REASON to his latest victim that we get his lame reasoning for killing. He's not a Bond villain for crying out loud! In fact, Holmes is a bit of a nonentity, he doesn't matter so much for the solving of the case, in fact he bungles it more than aids it. Despite having a thousand questions as to why this and why that, it comes down to me wanting to know one thing. Why did the killer start killing? What set him off? To catch a killer you must understand him, and there is no explanation here, just a shallow foot fetishist. Plus, the reasoning that to catch a killer the first victim is of extreme importance... yes, OK, that makes sense, but why did he kill his first victim. She doesn't fit his profile at all and no reason for this is ever given. Also, the whole doubling, why would you be doing it all your life if you hadn't been planning something nefarious all your life? The fact is the more you take apart Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking, the less sense it makes. It might fool you into thinking it was OK, but then you start to poke at it and it falls apart like a house of cards. I long for the minutely plotted details of Sherlock after ninety minutes with Rupert and his friends.


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