We can just about forgive Disney’s Basil the Great Mouse Detective; we can even smile at legendary Oscar-winning luvvie Peter O’Toole doing the voiceover for a series of clunky Holmes cartoons in the early ’80s, but Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century? The story goes thus: for reasons best known to the British police they kept Holmes’ preserved body in a ‘honey-filled’ coffin in the basement of New Scotland Yard. So, when some enterprising scientists decide to revive him using cellular rejuvenation in order to fight a clone-Moriarty, they’re in luck. He even gets a robot Watson for a companion. What’s that we hear? It’s the sound of a certain man turning in his grave.
Ritchie watch: No robots, Ritchie! And stay away from honey-related cryogenic stasis – the science just isn’t quite there yet.
Britain’s BBC is one of the worst offenders in this case. Perhaps the most cynical attempt to modernise Holmes for the 20th century (and pull in an American audience) came with this X-Files-style ‘Christmas special’. Madonna hang-on Rupert Everett is rarely a steadying influence; here, he just looks frightening, as the Beeb go a bit too far on the make-up (Holmes was not a ghost!). Not only are there psychic twins but Holmes invents CPR. Did they even read the books?
Ritchie watch: Hiring Robert Downey Jr is about as shameful a ploy as any director can stoop to, but, given Ritchie’s Madonna links, at least Everett won’t make an appearance.
Probably the wooden spoon for Baker Street fools has to go to Michael Caine’s 1988 Without a Clue, the premise of which is that Holmes is really a drunk actor hired by real sleuth Watson (Ben Kingsley). A mugging Caine doing his drunken shtick is amusing for about two seconds before you want to punch him. Other notable turkeys include Peter Cook’s innuendo-laden Hound of the Baskervilles (complete with Dudley Moore as comic Welsh Watson) and former Python John Cleese’s truly bizarre The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation as We Know It (YouTube it) in which Watson has ‘bionic bits’. Yes! Alas it doesn’t get much more sophisticated than that.
Ritchie watch: Holmes is an easy target: a committed bachelor who enjoys a pipe and a good violin fiddle. Treat the man with respect.
Holmes, glorious Holmes
He picked a pocket or two as Fagin in Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, but Ron Moody also starred in Sherlock Holmes: The Musical, a late ’80s British attempt to bring Baker Street’s finest to the Exeter stage. With such winning songs as ‘Apples and Pears’ and ‘A million years ago – or was it yesterday?’ how could it fail? It lasted five weeks.
Ritchie watch: No singing, Guy. The world doesn’t need another Sweeney Todd.
Infamous as possibly the worst Holmes adaptation ever, Roger Moore, a man whose only conceivable talent is to raise one eyebrow above the other, was never going to make a compelling detective, and so he proved in Sherlock Holmes in New York. A bizarrely distinguished cast including Charlotte Rampling as the love interest and legendary director John Huston as Moriarty still couldn’t hide a flimsy plot (Moriarty plans the ultimate Big Apple bank heist) and Moore’s festering lack of talent.
Ritchie watch: Just don’t hire Roger Moore. It’s as simple as that.