06th Jan2012

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes on Screen

by Paul Metcalf

Written by Alan Barnes | Published by Titan Books

When starting to write this review I thought I’d check something, just who is the most filmed character? And yes, as you are reading a review of a book calledSherlock Homes on Screen it would be in fact this character. All over the world, in TV series, films and even cartoons Sherlock has become a phenomenon and a character that is always popular not only with the people who watch but with the people who put him onto our screens as well.

Through the past few years of course he’s been brought to prominence through Guy Richie’s flawed but entertaining movies and the BBC show Sherlock created by Steven Moffat. In this new edition of the book Moffat does a foreword describing a conversation both he and Mark Gatiss had which led to the actual making of the show. They both show a love for this book and a love for the character himself which obviously went into what makes for a very good show.

The book is a virtual goldmine of information for any fan of Sherlock on the screen and provides all the facts you need to find like when and how many times many of the stories have been made and how good they were. Sometimes this can be tiring though as there are so many times you can read about Hound of the Baskervilles being filmed. Yes, that’s a hint that it was done a lot. This though only occurs if you read the book from cover to cover which many I think would not after the first read. If you do though you will find surprising facts such as the Real Ghostbusters actually had a Sherlock Holmes episode as did the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (or as Americans knew them the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Also lesser remembered cartoons such as Brave Starr featured the character and almost led to Sherlock cartoons being created as a branch off set in the future.

It’s interesting that the character has proven to be so versatile that it can fit into many different styles of story; this includes propaganda movies during World War 2 where he was fighting against the Nazis, this is one of the many times he’s been pulled out of his own timeframe and modernised for a particular use. The book will also be enjoyable for fans of movie history as it looks in depth at not only the stories that were filmed but the stories of production. Such actors as Gene Wilder, Peter Cook, Roger Moore, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and even John Cleese have played the role in the past leading to the latest with Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. show some big names that have taken the role. In fact it’s arguable that Sherlock is the breakthrough role for Cumberbatch who is moving steadily onto even bigger things recently, he really is in my opinion one of the best actors to bring Sherlock to the screen.

As a fan of Sherlock Holmes I found Sherlock Holmes on Screen very interesting and an enjoyable read. As I hinted before reading about the same story over and over again sometimes can get tedious and I did start to jump over some of the text but overall it is interesting to read the different variants of the same story. I’d argue this is the sort of book where you will dive in at certain points to read the about the odd story and how it was filmed, it’s the perfect book to flick through and suddenly notice something of interest for example when I first started reading the book the Real Ghostbusters was the first one to jump out at me. For fans of the character, movie history and TV history too this is a must buy, a well written retrospective at a character who has charismatically forced himself firmly into the world of the silver screen and still refuses to leave.

Sherlock Holmes on Screen is out now from Titan Books.

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