March 29, 2015
4:00 pmto6:00 pm

I shamelessly only acquired membership to the Barbican in London so that I could get discounted and earlybird tickets to performances of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch. Having paid for membership, I decided I should probably make the best of it, and have been attending a few things here and there, as well as going for drink and food at the place whenever I can. Recently, however, something did genuinely catch my eye amongst their programme. They have been showing a series of very old (and silent), Sherlock Holmes movies.

The first one was The Hound of the Baskervilles on 15th February – a full length feature. Then, on 8th March, they showed a series of three shorter episodes in one sitting – A Scandal in Bohemia, The Man with the Twisted Lip and The Final Problem. On 29th March, they are showing The Sign of Four, and I would highly recommend getting a ticket, if there are any left.

The films are all part of the same series made by the same production company (Stoll Pictures), and featuring the same two actors in the leading roles: Eille Norwood as Sherlock Holmes and Hubert Willis as Dr Watson. They really do have a great chemistry together on screen (considering they don’t say anything), and I’ve rather fallen in love with Norwood as Holmes. He suits the role perfectly and his facial expressions are just perfect and hilariously funny at times. It was fantastic to hear the entire cinema chuckling in the appropriate moments. I’ve always been a big believer that Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be funny. When my mother comes downstairs and finds me cackling to myself watching The Seven Per Cent Solution, the finds the concept very strange but I will always insist to anyone who actually cares (which isn’t that many), that Holmes is definitely funny.

Most of the films are actually available on YouTube, as my good friend Alistair Duncan was kind enough to point out, but there was nothing quite like seeing them on the big screen, up close and personal, and with a live piano accompaniment to boot. The second time I attended, the guy wasn’t just playing piano. He had a flute, and a harpsicord, and occasionally, he even reached down into the piano itself to pluck at the strings ominously. It was incredibly impressive and really added something to the entire experience.

My favourite one out of all that I’ve seen so far is a very close toss up between Scandal and Final Problem, as there were pure genius moments in both. The best part of Scandal was that it wasn’t just a straight forward adaptation of the story, but taken in a different direction (at least initially). Irene Adair (as she is known in this for some reason…a sort of strange mix up of Irene Adler and Ronald Adair), is starring in a play, and both Watson and Holmes go to see her. They sit in the box and Holmes looks rather bored out of his mind, forgetting to clap whenever he’s supposed to and only very half heartedly joining in at the end out of social convention (another really classic funny moment). But amazingly, Holmes hasn’t just been sat there daydreaming…he’s been studying one of the actors in the play, whom he then proceeds to get very drunk so he can take his part in the matinee the following day. Then, whilst he’s on stage – in between curtain calls – he drugs Irene and knocks her unconscious, so he can gain access to the photograph she keeps stuffed in her bra. Genius stuff!

The best bit of The Final Problem was undoubtedly the emotional Johnlock moments, where Holmes arrives near the beginning all bruised and hurt from his various murderous attacks throughout the day, and Watson very carefully tends to his cuts and washes them, then holds his hand a lot as they’re talking about Moriarty. Then of course, there’s the epic battle between Holmes and Moriarty on the side of a cliff (but not the Reichenbach Falls, it’s actually in a place called Cheddar, which I’d never heard of but does actually exist…don’t question my poor Geography please). Anyway, Holmes hurls Moriarty to his death then ends up toppling over himself too. How he gets out of that one is a real mystery… *runs to watch Empty House hoping for a better explanation than BBC Sherlock*

To sum up, I had no idea what to expect when I went to watch these movies, but really enjoyed all of them, and I’m looking forward to seeing what The Sign Of Four is like. After that, I’ll definitely go digging for the others on YouTube and have fun watching them too. :)