Thursday, 3 September 2015

Five Batshit Things You Never Knew About Sherlock Holmes

For almost 130 years, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective has captured the imagination of audiences in print, on the airwaves and on screen. Presented here are - however improbable - some curious footnotes in the history of Mr Sherlock Holmes.

The Kid

The Baker Street Irregulars, a gang of street urchins who made several appearances in Holmes' adventures, were originally inspired by the cheeky hi-jinks of a troupe of child performers in London's music halls. Among them was one Charlie Chaplin, whose costume of rumpled, oversized clothes and clown-like but indefatigable persona were to form the basis of the Irregulars' young leader Wiggins.

It's Good, But It's Not Right

Holmes' catchphrase in response to his associate Dr Watson's exclamations of awe at his deductive prowess went through several versions before settling on 'Elementary, my dear Watson'. Here are a few examples from Conan Doyle's early submissions to The Strand magazine:
  • "Yes it is."
  • "Let's do a deduction!"
  • "I loooves me a mystery."
  • "Let's wait until more suspects have died."
  • "Durrr Watson, you joey."

Gibt es ein Ostwind

Adolf Hitler was purportedly an incurable Holmes fan, going so far as to view reels of Basil Rathbone movies in the private screening room of his Wolf's Lair. When Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror came out with its strong anti-Nazi message, Hitler was incandescent with rage and immediately ordered propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to produce his own Aryan version of Holmes on screen, one which would espouse strong National-Socialist values.

The result, Sherlok Holmes und das Geheimnis des bayerischen Forellen, was screened to Panzer crews before the Battle of the Bulge, but was said to be so laughably bad that it was never shown again, with all existing prints subsequently burnt or else impounded by the Soviets after the war.

The Affair of the Pimlico Pigeon Fancier

In his later years, Conan Doyle struggled to capture the magic of those early Holmes stories, and began experimenting with ever more unlikely scenarios, such as the use of monkey glands in The Adventure of the Creeping Man. An even more improbable tale was The Affair of the Pimlico Pigeon Fancier, where the culprit in a series of seemingly impossible rooftop robberies is found to be a not-so extinct pterodactyl, in an unofficial crossover with the author's own The Lost World.

A staunch believer in metaphysical phenomena such as the Cottingley Fairies, the writer was said to be working an even more fantastical adventure for his most famous character at the time of his death, His Master Stroke, in which the now-retired detective uncovers the incredible truth behind the strange disturbances around his precious beehives.

Adopt, Adapt and Improve

Like any popular work of fiction, Sherlock Holmes has been endlessly revisited, reimagined and spoofed, from early Ellie Norwood to classic Rathbone and Cushing, from the teenaged Rowe to the sepulchral Brett, from two-fisted Downey to the ethereal Cumberbatch. Here are three less well-known adaptations of the consulting detective mythos:
  • Carry On Sleuthing - one of the lesser entries in the Carry On... series, this TV special featured Sid James as a leering 'Sidlock Holmes', Peter Butterworth as his bumbling assistant Doc Whatsup, and Kenneth Williams as a braying Professor Moribundy.
  • Sherlock, Homes - 90s US comedy adventure series transplanting a Latino Sherlock and his posse from Baker Street to Bakersfield, CA. As the script for the pilot puts it:
SHERLOCK: (inhaling deeply) "It's a three pipe problem, ese."
  • Elem-Entry, My Queer Watson - the most notorious example of the burgeoning Holmo-erotica sub-genre that has blossomed in recent years.

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