The Brettish Empire
Vol. I #6

April 2, 1995
(Revised November 26, 1999)

Hello Brettfans!

Spring is here and so is Issue #6 of The Brettish Empire. So, let's tiptoe through the tulips (and the hyacinth and the daffodils) to our first article...

TIME WELL SPENT

TBE'er Sonia Fetherston recently brought an interesting book to my attention. It's called The Critics' Choice: The Best of Crime and Detective TV by Max Allan Collins and John Javna. It was published in 1988 and contains reviews of dozens of crime TV classics. One of those classics is Sherlock Holmes, particularly the Granada/Jeremy Brett series.

The funny thing is--I've had this book for years, but I never thought of putting its SH review in TBE until Sonia reminded me of it. So, here is the review (minus a couple of non-Brettish paragraphs to cut down on length--and to spare my typing fingers!):

"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic creation, Sherlock Holmes, first appeared in 1887 when A Study in Scarlet was published in a British magazine called Beeton's Christmas Annual. Over the next forty or so years, he was featured in three more novels and fifty-six short stories; he became the most famous detective in the world. In fact, one critic has called him 'without question the most famous character in English fiction.'

"Holmes set the pattern--and the standard--for private eyes and amateur sleuths alike. Like the classic tough P.I.'s, Holmes was a two-fisted dick who frequently fought hand-to-hand with his foes; but like the dignified amateur detective, upper-class Holmes was an intellectual who achieved astonishing results by analyzing obscure clues. And of course, he refused payment for his work.

"Holmes transcends any category in which we--or any other critics--might try to confine him. He is, in fact, a category unto himself.

"He has been portrayed countless times on stage, in movies, and on radio, by such actors as William Gillette, Basil Rathbone, John Barrymore, and Nichol Williamson. He and his stalwart sidekick, Watson, have been frequent visitors to the small screen as well...

"The definitive television Holmes, however, is unquestionably Jeremy Brett, star of the Granada Television series which has aired in America on PBS's Mystery!. In fact, Brett is so good that he has, in many critics' eyes, supplanted Basil Rathbone as the best Sherlock ever. 'Indisputably the best screen interpretation of Holmes I have seen,' wrote one British reviewer. Another raved, 'Brett is Sherlock Holmes.'

Brett is aided by David Burke [This review was written pre-Hardwicke--llo] in the role of Watson providing an unusual--and refreshing--interpretation of the Doctor. Instead of Nigel Bruce's bumbling nincompoop, we get an average man with perhaps above-average intelligence, doing his best to keep up with a certified genius. Watson is an ordinary man in the company of an extraordinary one. After one case, Holmes remarks that Watson is too concerned with 'forms.' But forms, Watson replies, are the essence of society. He adds, 'You know, Holmes, we're lucky you're unique.'"

The review also has two nice photos of Brett and Burke as Holmes and Watson. The caption on the first photo reads "Jeremy Brett and David Burke star in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes a seven-part British series airing on PBS in America. Brett is the 39th screen actor to play Holmes." [An interesting bit of Brett/Holmes trivia!--llo] The caption on the second photo reads "One of the more attractive features of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is its authenticity: The stories and characters are generally faithful adaptations of the Doyle originals; plus, Victorian Baker Street was authentically reproduced on Granada TV's backlot."

Thanks, Sonia, for bringing this review back to my attention. BTW, I sometimes see this book in "bargain" book stores such as Half Price Books. With a little sleuthing, you may be able to find a copy for yourself. I originally bought it because it had good reviews of two of my other favorite crime shows, Baretta and Crime Story (I don't know what it is with me and those crimefighters...:->). It was a special bonus to discover the Sherlock Holmes review in there, as well.

BRETTAPES

Jeremy Brett can be seen (and heard) on a variety of Holmes and other tapes.

MPI Home Video  recently released The Eligible Bachelor (MP7069) and The Last Vampyre (MP7068) on videocassette. The list price is $19.98 each, but careful shoppers can usually find them cheaper at stores such as Media Play and Suncoast Video. MPI has also re-released some long-unavailable goodies such as The Speckled Band and The Solitary Cyclist. These have been shown ad infinitum on A & E, but the re-released tapes are uncut and unedited (A & E trims them slightly to make room for commercials). Now's the time to add to (or start) your Granada/Holmes video collection. (Special thanks to MizPat for the nice article she forwarded to me re: the MPI tapes.)

And, did you know that Jeremy Brett's dulcet tones are available on audio tape, too? He's done some Shakespearean tapes such as Merchant of Venice, Troilus & Cressida, and Richard III. Some libraries have these tapes; also, Love's Labours Lost is available from HarperCollins Audio. BTW, can anyone add to this list of Brett audio tapes? (I know Edward Hardwicke has done some Holmes audio tapes--has JB, also?) Thanks!

DIS-N-DATA

Just a couple of items I came across which might be of interest...

If anyone is looking for a copy of the script of The Secret of Sherlock Holmes (the stage play Jeremy did with Edward Hardwicke in 1988), try Ian Henry Publications, Ltd., 20 Park Drive, Romford, Essex RM1 4LH, England. Sorry--I don't have any price information (info came from alt.fan.holmes).

BRETT TV ALERT

Just saw this in our April cable guide--Florence Nightingale, a 1985 TV docudrama about the famous British nurse starring Jaclyn Smith (?!) and co-starring Mr. Brett, will be shown on the A & E cable network at 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, April 29, 1995. Get the VCR (and the popcorn) ready! :->
Well, as that porcine star of Warner Brothers cartoons likes to say, "That's all, folks!"

Thanks for reading. Take care, everyone, and I'll see you next time!

--Lisa :-)


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