Sherlock Holmes

Novels and stories,
Movies (and TV series)
Sherlock Holmes (1922)

Director Albert Parker; writer Earle Browne, Marion Fairfax, William Gillette; featuring John Barrymore, Roland Young, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Carol Dempster

Early failed Sherlock Holmes (1929–1933)

Four films, variably featuring Clive Brook, Reginald Owen, Warburton Gamble, Raymnd Massey, Athole Stewart, Lyn Harding

The Wontner Sherlock Holmes (1931–1937)

Five films featuring Arthur Wontner, Ian Fleming (1931–32, 1935–1937), Ian Hunter (1932)

The Rathbone Sherlock Holmes (1939–1946)

Fourteen films featuring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1954–1955)

Also called Sherlock Holmes
Television series featuring Ronald Howard, Howard Marion-Crawford, Archie Duncan

Sherlock Holmes (1959–1984)

Sherlock Holmes films and television series, variably featuring Peter Cushing, Andrι Morell, Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Nigel Stock, John Mills

The Lee Sherlock Holmes (1962-1992)

Sherlock Holmes films, variably featuring Christopher Lee, Thorley Walters, Patrick Macnee, Morgan Fairchild

A Study in Terror (1965)

Director James Hill; writer Donald Ford, Derek Ford; featuring John Neville, Donald Houston, Anthony Quayle, Judi Dench

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

Director Billy Wilder; writer Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond; featuring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Christopher Lee, Genevieve Page

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)

Director Herbert Ross; writer Nicholas Meyer; featuring Nicol Williamson, Robert Duvall, Alan Arkin, Vanessa Redgrave, Laurence Olivier, Charles Gray

The Sherlock Holmes spoofs (1975–2002)

Two films and four television movies, variably featuring Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn, Marty Feldman, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Matt Frewer, Kenneth Welsh

Murder by Decree (1979)

Director Bob Clark; writer John Hopkins; featuring Christopher Plummer, James Mason, Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Donald Sutherland, Genevieve Bujold

The Brett Sherlock Holmes (1984–1994)

Also called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Television series featuring Jeremy Brett, David Burke (1984–1985), Edward Hardwicke (1986–1994)

The Downey Sherlock Holmes (2009–2011)

Film series, directed by Guy Ritchie, featuring Robert Downy Jr., Jude Law

Sherlock (2010–2017)

Television series, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman

Sherlock Holmes 1962

Christopher Lee, right, does some sleuthing as a disguised Holmes in 1962 flick.

Sherlock Holmes


Sherlock abroad

Peter Cushing's good friend and colleague in horror classics, Christopher Lee, also had a long association with Sherlock Holmes in films. After being featured in The Hound of the Baskervilles with Cushing in 1959, he played the title role in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962).

It's a strange and interesting film. Deadly Necklace was a joint German-English production filmed without sound, which was dubbed in afterwards. But for the English version different actors were used for the voices of the two leads, Lee and Thorley Walters.

The screenplay by horrormeister Curt Siodmak is quite good but the action is set perplexingly in what appears to be the 1920s, though with visual cues ranging from 1918 to the early 1940s.

At the helm though is Lee's old Hammer-horror director Terence Fisher, so the British-isms are done right, despite German and Irish locations standing in for London. And the black-and-white cinematography is more artful than found in most Sherlock Holmes films.

Lee as young Holmes

Lee as young Holmes.

Tall, dark and aristocratic Lee is as natural a Holmes as he had been a Dracula—too bad about his masterful voice being stolen this time. His partner in crime detection, Walters, walks a line between earlier Watsons as a stuffed shirt and as a complete buffoon, acting as a perfect stand-in for the audience.

Best of all is the cat-and-mouse game Holmes and Moriarty (German actor Hans Sφhnker) play over the latter's attempt to hold onto stolen jewellery attributed to Cleopatra. Plus there are a few lovely scenes of Holmes guiding Scotland Yard's finest in solving a murder, Holmes going undercover in disguise several times, and Watson getting picked up by a hooker.

A lot of fun is also had over how much Holmes uses London's most famous newspaper for getting clues. Once when the inspector asks him if he knows the answer to an arcane question, he replies, "Naturally, I read the Times."

The Deadly Necklace is not overly thrilling, but a passable entertainment. Not at all the disaster that Lee himself called it, claiming his best work to date was destroyed by the voice substitution and by the film being cut in half to sell to television.

Sherlock for the ages

Lee didn't give up on Holmes work though. In 1970 he played Sherlock's brother Mycroft in Billy Wilder's better, though still Doyle-unrelated, film of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Then finally he was back as the big guy himself in a couple of European made-for-television mini-series, Incident at Victoria Falls (1991, also known as Sherlock Holmes: The Star of Africa) and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). The overall title of these series together is The Golden Years of Sherlock Holmes.

Lee as old Holmes

Lee as old Holmes.

As with Cushing's last outing as Holmes, Lee in this mini-series plays the detective being drawn out of retirement. Old age has sweetened him though. Lee's Holmes is only intermittently cranky and usually downright sociable, even charming. Patrick Macnee (of TV's The Avengers fame) is an even more affable Watson.

Worse for purists, Holmes has a love interest in the second film: no less than Irene Adler (she of "A Scandal in Bohemia") and played by no less than one-time TV sex symbol Morgan Fairchild.

The two mini-series are both sumptuously produced, running about three-and-a-half hours each. Not bad little adventures, but a fallible, congenial gentleman is probably not what most fans are looking for in an aging Holmes.

Myself, I'd prefer a cynical, drug-taking, going-out-in-a-blaze dotage for the old fellow.

— Eric