Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mr. Sherlock Holmes

As I already announced before, this is a post about "Sherlock Holmes", or rather about a series of movies featuring Mr. Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Nigel Bruce (I might have given a wrong name in one of my last announcements, but currently I'm too lazy to check) as Dr. Watson. Here it is.

The movies I'm referring to are in black and white, naturally, as they were filmed in the late 1930s and early 1940s by Universal. At that time movies in colour were still some years away (though I've not researched how many exactly. They are released in Germany at the moment in four DVD-boxes (three are currently out, I got No. 3 this Saturday) and that means they're digitally remastered and - in this case - also complete. They were first released in Germany - for the movie theatres - in the 1950s and had been cut (although today it's hard to say why ... but then, that's usually the cause with censorship after a few decades). The DVD-boxes contain the complete movies, fitting in the cut scenes with the original English voices (and, of course, the English version is on the DVDs as well).

Technically speaking the movies aren't great these days, but then, that's to be expected. During the time the movies were produced, it was normal to do no - or almost no - outside production. Instead of taking the actors and all the other stuff (automobiles, coaches etc.) to some place in the countryside, the countryside was filmed and then replayed in the studios with the actors in front of it ... and so on.

But technical means is one thing, a good movie is another one. A new, technically up-to-date movie can be boring and uninspired and an old movie (or one made by amateurs) can be interesting and great to watch. And, as a lot of time has passed, the real bad movies from that period are mostly forgotten, so the modern viewers don't have to deal with them.

The movies are loosely - in some cases extremely loosely - based on the original stories and novels written by Arthur Conan Doyle. There isn't one story which is true to the original from Doyle, but on the whole that's not too bad, either. Some of them (only a few) have nothing to do with Doyle at all and were produced in the early 1940s to serve - at least to a certain degree - as anti-Nazi propaganda. From my modern point of view that's not a problem, but it's one explanation for some of the cuts in the German version. (And, in fact, there's two German versions of most movies, because at that time there were two German states, after all.)

When I first saw those movies I was still a child (and I didn't see all of them) and - as those were the first - and in some cases only versions of the stories I saw - they are still in my head and I'm reminded of them every time I watch one of the innumerable versions of "The Hound of the Baskerville" (which is one of the most filmed stories ever since the beginning of the art of movie-making).

So even today, after all those years, I really like those stories and am fascinated by them. It doesn't matter to me how old they are.

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