A Study in Error: The ten worst Sherlock Holmes
|LISTS - OTHER LISTS|
The premier Brit movie/TV role is not as elementary to pull off as it may seem...
With Robert Downey Junior's inspired reinventing of the role in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (2009) and the BBC effectively bringing Holmes to the 21st Century in the popular TV series Sherlock (2010) starring Benedict Cumberbatch, the crime-solving antics of the Great Detective and his loyal colleague Dr Watson seem in good hands, and remain as popular as ever. Among the screen actors who have effectively brought Holmes to life include Arthur Wontner, Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer, Ian Richardson and Jeremy Brett. As an amazing and complex role to play, the right actor can add great depth to it.
But then there are others who turned out to be Not-So-Great-Detectives, either through miscasting or just being plain bad. One does not need the power of deductive reasoning to see why the following ten actors fell way off the mark...
Roger Moore - Sherlock Homes in New York (1976)
"My name is Holmes, Sherlock Holmes!" Not 007! Sir Roger may have been great saving the world from foreign powers as Bond, but both his tongue-in-cheek persona and eyebrows look out of place as Holmes! He needed to have fully mastered his third facial expression before donning the famous deerstalker.
Stewart Granger - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972)
This pedestrian made-for-TV version of the famous story has an equally pedestrian Holmes in the shape of miscast Stewart Granger, whose handsome, silver-haired, square-jawed appearance looks totally wrong. The fact that he walks through the role with no enthusiasm makes his performance all the more painful to watch.
Charlton Heston - The Crucifer of Blood (1991)
After transferring his stage role of Thomas More to a TV movie (A Man For All Seasons (1988)), Chuck Heston did the same with his Broadway performance as Holmes. Perhaps both roles worked better on stage, because his small-screen interpretations are mannered. Heston may have the voice and the presence, but his performance is just plain dull.
Peter Cook - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
This is without doubt the worst ever film version of Holmes' most-filmed adventure, with Peter Cook's Jewish Holmes nothing short of terrible. Inept from start to finish, Cook's ham-slicing turn is not helped by his already strained relationship with Dudley Moore (as a Welsh Dr Watson) - who was doing this film under protest. With Terry-Thomas (looking ill), Hugh Griffiths (looking sloshed), Kenneth Williams (looking bored) and a decent comic cast all at sea, the movie is an exercise in embarrassment.
Tom Baker - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982)
Swapping the long scarf and floppy hat for a deerstalker and pipe for his first post Dr Who role, playing Holmes could not have been a better start for Baker. But despite the distinctive voice and stage presence, he's not very convincing, his stocky frame and short stature being more suited to playing Dr Watson or Inspector Lestrade. His performance is also strangely flat. Perhaps he never quite got the Time Lord out of his system.
Christopher Lee - Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991)
After his bland Sir Henry in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), Sir Christopher's first stab as the Great Detective in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962) was marred by the fact that his voice was dubbed by another actor. Following his excellent Mycroft Holmes in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), he played the more famous brother once again in this TV movie. Unfortunately Lee's portrayal is a tad too stiff. He fared no better in the sequel Incident at Victoria Falls (1992).
Richard Roxburgh - The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002)
Another actor more suited to playing Inspector Lestrade, Roxburgh's performance in yet another TV/cinema adaptation of the story (and a dull one at that) is best described as charisma-free. But his association with Holmes did not end there; he made an equally lacklustre Moriarty in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003).
John Cleese - The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation as We Know It (1977)
Another Holmes spoof, and one that is thankfully long-forgotten. In an attempt to distance himself early from Fawlty Towers, Cleese, who also wrote the rather lame script, plays the Great Detective's grandson Arthur Sherlock Holmes, but seems unsure whether to play the part straight or send himself up.
Nicol Williamson - The Seven Percent Solution (1976)
This Holmes spoof has a brilliant idea, but sadly takes itself far too seriously to make it even mildly amusing. Holmes' increasing cocaine habit has made him so delusional that he's placed in the care of Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin). Looking suitably lost, Williamson's tired performance is unable to drum up any enthusiasm in the viewer.
Michael Caine - Without a Clue (1988)
Another spoof, another good idea, another misfire, and another miscast actor! Holmes is really a washed-up alcoholic actor who is used as a front for the real detective Dr Watson (Ben Kingsley). The concept is original but the execution dismal despite solid work from the leads. Caine tries his best, but he simply cannot convince, either as the Holmes of folklore or as his real drunken self. Perhaps it might have worked better if he had swapped roles with Kingsley, who at least has a more Holmesian profile.
Elementary, my dear Shadowlocked readers!
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