Guy Ritchie’s adapation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, opens in theaters Christmas Day, and Turner Classic Movies is celebrating with a marathon of classic films chronicling the adventures of the world’s most famous consulting detective and his partner in crime-busting, Dr. Watson.
Starting at 8 p.m. Eastern on Friday with The Hound of the Baskervilles and continuing for a full 24 hours, most of the works star Basil Rathbone in the iconic cinematic portrayal of Holmes and Nigel Bruce as a particularly befuddled Watson (pictured).
Personally, I prefer Jeremy Brett’s Holmes in the Granada television series — but you won’t see that here. What you will see is Peter Cushing, who had a brief but memorable role in the original Star Wars as Grand Moff Tarkin, in yet another version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday. You might also catch John Neville in 1966’s A Study in Terror (4:15 a.m. Saturday), which pits the sleuth against Jack the Ripper. Neville is perhaps better known for the title role in the 1980s fantasy epic The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and for playing the Well-Manicured Man in The X-Files.
The Baker Street regulars never faced Jack the Ripper in Doyle’s works — although they were written around the time the real-life serial killer was terrorizing London — but this is far from the greatest liberty taken with the character on screen. Although probably best forgotten, included in TCM’s marathon are Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon and Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1942-43), all of which inexplicably bend the laws of time to pit Holmes and Watson against the Third Reich. They air at 6, 7:15 and 8:30 a.m. Saturday, respectively. Although hard to take seriously if you know anything about Doyle’s work, they’re prime examples of the use of a powerful fictional figure in wartime propaganda. Yes, Sherlock Holmes fought the Nazis!
Criminally not included in the marathon is the 1985 Steven Spielberg production Young Sherlock Holmes, which featured the first fully CGI character, a nightmare vision of a knight composed of fragments of a stained-glass window. John Lasseter, then at Lucasfilm, created the special effect before going on to lead Pixar and create Toy Story.
Look for my review of the new Sherlock Holmes movie to be posted early on Christmas Day.