Tag Archives: movies

a howl on the moor

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 Ah, and here it is… the long-awaited second half of my comments on “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

When we left our heroes, Holmes had shed his beggar disguise, and he and Watson were headed back to Baskerville Hall.  As they walk across Dartmoor, suddenly, they hear a howl…

  • How can they “follow” a sound that has stopped?
  • “Notting Hill Murderer”?  Where did this subplot come from?  Are Will & Anna involved?
Should they be worried about the Notting Hill Murderer? 

Should they be worried about the Notting Hill Murderer?

  • Ah, the boot is properly explained.  This was a good clue.
  • Again with Stapleton recognizing people whom he has never before met!  That’s quite a skill.
  • Why is Stapleton not at all shocked by the dead body at his feet?  Shouldn’t he show at least a bit of horror?
  • Holmes is kind when he breaks the news to Mrs. Barryman.
  • Again!  These “upper-crust” types have no lasting sympathy for underlings– they are to be considered and then dismissed.
  • Oh, Rathbone!  That was nearly straight to camera.

  • I like these discussions on the train between Holmes and Watson, explaining the plots & plans.  It is very reminiscent of what I like best about the radio series.
  • Ah– Mr. Franklin, you are so spunky!
  • How unfortunate about the wagon.
  • What a sweet touch with the broach.
  • That’s quite the dress & jewelry Beryl is wearing!
  • The Stapleton’s hall looks like it was designed by a high-school acting company on a budget.
  • Ah– an what is the cunning Stapleton up to now?  Black gloves bode no good.
  • Poor doggie!  But that explains the “grave-robbing” charge.
  • Now, given the size of Dartmoor, I find it rather inconceivable that Holmes and Watson can find the moving dog by his growls.
  • Quite the savage dog attack, actually.  Pretty intense.
  • Again, the poor doggie.  Was it really necessary to shoot at him?
  • “Mr. Holmes…” you were wrong.
  • It was pretty clear that “IT” was a dog, Sir Henry.
  • Nice bit of tracking by Holmes and good sound effect touches in the background– noticable for the general lack of music through the rest of the film
  • Oh, Holmes!  You should have seen that one coming.  We all did.
  • Why aren’t they treating Sir Henry for rabies?  He was just attacked by a vicious dog.
  • Why does Stapleton want him dead?
  • No, Don’t Drink It!

Don't be like Alice, Sir Henry!

  • Awfully clever of you, Holmes!  How did you manage that trick?  {we’re never shown}
  • About that dog:  I seem to recall that the dog in the book was painted to glow in the moonlight. Maybe they couldn’t manage it in the studio?
  • A cute plot, young Stapleton.  Completely mad, but cute.
  • So, where did Holmes get these constables, eh?  He hasn’t been to town since he left with Watson on the return train.
  • Uncharacteristic of Holmes not to go running after his quarry.  The man just disappears, and we never hear about him again.  What an anti-climactic ending.
  • Holmes’s face during Mortimer’s effusions is classic.
  • Wait?  What?!  He just goes to bed?  That’s it?!  And everyone takes this?
  • Wow.  “Oh, and Watson, the needle.” — First off, kudos for sneaking that reference past the censors; Second- -pedants would know that Holmes would never use his needle right after a case– only when he got bored.

Ok– Overall, a decent first-effort towards telling the story on film and contains an excellent pair of Holmes & Watson.  However, the plot is over-simplified and the ending falls very flat.  A shame, that.  It’s a fairly short movie, and there should have been plenty of room to fill in the details.

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Holmes and the Hound, part 1

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“The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1939) 

80 minutes; black & white

Starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce 

As promised, here are my comments on this film.  I’ll be presenting them in two parts.

I’ve owned a set of the “New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” radio dramas (1939-46) since high school, so I am very familiar with Rathbone & Bruce’s voices and their acting styles.  In 46, Rathbone bowed out, and Bruce then continued the series for a bit with Tom Conway as Holmes.  I’m considerably less familiar with their film work, though I have seen a few movies.  “The Hound of the Baskervilles” was Rathbone & Bruce’s first movie together, and its popularity inspired all of the later films, as well as the radio series.  So, this is an important film in the Holmesian canon.

 I’m working with a foggy memory as regards the plot of this story, as it has been donkey’s years since I read Conan Doyle’s novel, not since my ill-fated attempt to teach it to seventh graders.  Yeah, it didn’t go well, but never mind.  It wasn’t the book’s fault. And… we’re moving on…

The preceding paragraph will probably be the last truly coherent one in this post.  I could write a sophisticated and erudite analysis of this film’s cinematography and its pivotal role in our modern collective consciousness’s image of Sherlock Holmes, but what fun would that be?

 

Instead, what follows are my scribbled thoughts as I made my way through the film.

 

–    As they run the credits, I am reminded that a new Holmes movie is on its way to our theaters.  I’m tentatively anticipating it. 

–    Who is this David Stewart Davies on the optional commentary?  What has he done to make him qualified to comment on this?  The booklet doesn’t say.

–    Bizarre fact: the *stars* of the film are credited 2nd & 4th.

–    I  ♥ Big Ben & foggy Baker Street.

–    Interesting how much these 1930’s movies expected their audience to read.  Not just “oh, look, something is written in the newspaper” but then leaving said paper up on the screen long enough for everyone to read the entire article.  A hold over from silent films, perhaps, or just indicative of their expectations of an intelligent, literate, participatory audience?

–    After hearing so many of the radio adventures, ‘tis strange to SEE the actors speaking with those familiar voices.

–    The bit with Watson’s deductions from the walking stick—I don’t know if I approve of his giving Watson a chance, or if I am annoyed that Holmes so gleefully knocks down his friend’s efforts.

teeth marks

–    Ah, now we know what Doctor Mortimer’s wife didn’t want him telling the coroner, but why was she so interested in keeping it a secret?

–    Ok—this just annoys me.  This “flashback/ reading the legend” scene is presented as the wacky hijinks of drunken frat-boys, complete with “sitcom-esque” music in the background.  Um…hello, Director:  this scene describes the kidnapping, rape, and murder of an under-aged girl by a sadistic aristocrat.  It lays the groundwork for why this sinister, supernatural Hound torments and murders the Baskerville family down the ages.  What WERE you thinking?

–    When compared to the previous sheaf of papers, Mortimer’s “few pages” seem to have expanded to a novella.

–    If I were Holmes, at this point, I would have yanked the pages from Mortimer by now and skimmed them myself.

–    I wonder if Rathbone was actually playing the violin here?  If so… yum!

   {wait for it.  song starts around 1:45}

–    Right off, we establish Sir Henry as handsome, generous, and polite to girls in glasses.  [see Dorothy Parker]

–    Point of order:  how will they know where to send Sir Henry’s luggage?

–    It can’t be easy to throw a stone through the side window of a moving vehicle.

–    More reading for the audience.  I’m going to stop mentioning it, and simply put a count total at the bottom of this post.  Let’s see if your count matches mine.

–    Here’s where I like Watson.  I was wondering that about the boots myself, and he asked it.

–    How much do I love male Victorian garb!  Gentlemen—you should really all wear more of this.

–    Nice bit of tension-building with the pistol, but it got me thinking {too much NCIS, clearly} how good is the sniper’s aim?  How far is the range of that dinky pistol?

–    Realism of the costumes extends to the chambermaid—no modern brassiere for her.  Couldn’t pull off that kind of accuracy nowadays.

–    What’s going on outside the window as Holmes interviews the cabbie?  A thunderstorm?

–    Sir Henry’s “Canadian” accent seems sketchy here.

–    Lovely atmospheric work on the matte paintings & studio-bound Stonehenge.

–    “If I believed all of the legends about this place, I wouldn’t live here.  I wouldn’t have the courage.”

–    Beautifully detailed paintings of Baskerville Hall.

–    I’m going to assume that the casting of Spartan-looking woman= servant who is up to no good.

–    Love Watson’s pen.  Want one.

–    Great moment with the door handle.

–    Watson and Sir Henry make a good, if bumbling, team.  Watson gets to do a bit of thinking for a change.

–    How far away WAS that light?

–    Gee, let’s hide in plain sight.  I’m sure the villain will return and ignore us completely.

–    Look out, Watson!

–    He’s right, you know.  Holmes would not want clodhopping policemen trouncing all over his investigation.

–    Sounds like a wolf to me.

–    Watson is a bit over-the-top here with Stapleton.  Why are they both so shocked to hear a woman’s voice?  Stapleton knows his sister was right behind him.

–    Was there any chance that Sir Henry WOULDN’T hear her calling him?  They were only about 4 feet apart, and she was shouting quite loudly.

–    No, no, you will not be a love interest at all.

–    Clearly, we are at the monthly dinner meeting of chops and ‘staches.

–    Poor wife looks really frightened of séance.  Why?

–    I like Franklin.  He’s spunky!

–    She does not look like the fisherman-type to me.

–    Nice how the conversation indicates that time has passed.

–    Aww.  Sweet—but awkward embrace there, and distinctly chaste.

–    Way to be prejudiced against the old peddler, everyone in this scene!  Bad!

being mean to beggar

–    Clever observation there, Watson; but you have not redeemed yourself.

–    Nice that his drawing room provides a convenient view of the exact place on all of the entire Moor where Sir Henry happens to be wandering.

–    That’s one long-burning match!

–    “What blasted impertinence!”

–    Ah—he gets you with that old chestnut every time, Watson, my lad.

–    Ok—why is Watson all shocked about “murder.”—isn’t that why ya’ll are out here on the Moor in the first place?  Have you not been paying attention?

 

So, as Watson & the newly-revealed Holmes head back to Baskerville Hall, we’ll call it a night.  More to come soon.

 

 

*** Starting from the beginning, I have so far counted 6 instances of the audience being expected to read from the screen.  Did I miss any?

Holmes ahoy!

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Right, back on track after my little deviation into fashion

I have a deep and abiding love for Sherlock Holmes, but I have recently noticed that there is a truely lamentable lack of Sherlock on my blog.  Not to worry, though.  I intend to remedy this post haste.  I’ll be watching Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” this evening and tell you all about it tomorrow.

Then you can tell me all of your favorite bits of Holmesiana.  How about that?

It looked like the footprints of an enormous hound.

"It looked like the footprints of an enormous hound."

star trek– 3 points

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shes a lovely ship

  she’s a lovely ship

 

I know I’m a bit late to this party, as far as reviewing goes, but as I’ve just come back from seeing the new Star Trek movie for the third time, I wanted to share a few of my comments .  I will warn you right now that I’m not going to sound my usually intellectual self in these remarks…

Firstly– All of the hubbub and worry from the old-time fans before the movie came out was for naught.  It’s a lovely, beautiful movie (granted, with more lens flash and camera shake than I care for, but those are ignorable).  The characters we all know and love are updated a bit and the back stories are tweaked to make them more interesting, but as it’s set in an alternate universe, die-hard original series fans needn’t worry too much.

I came into Star Trek during the Next Generation run and stayed with the shows religiously through Voyager, until I entered college and simply got too busy.  I haven’t seen much of Enterprise, though I wanted to, but I know Next Gen like the back of my hand.

Because other people have already written solid reviews of this movie, I’m just going to jot down some of my questions/ theories about the plot and characters.  (Keep in mind, I’ve already admitted to being a sad fan, ok.)

Point 1– Since when are Romulans allowed to have cool ships?  I know that they are from 150 years in the future, but really??   They used to literally have a bird painted on the bottom of their ships.  They improved a bit after that, but still.  Here’s a war ship from the Next Gen era:

ok-- remember this is a WARSHIP

ok– remember this is a WARSHIP

Now, here’s a MINING SHIP from the new movie– you tell me why the miners get the cool ships.

a mining ship? 

 a mining ship?

Which brings me to point 2, which my brother and I have already discussed, but no one else seems to have noticed:  The Narada (Nero’s ship– see above) is supposedly a mining ship, or so he claims.  However, it is awfully heavily armed and built for action– remember, the ship was sucked into the storm-thing right after Romulus was destroyed.  The Narada and her crew then arrived in Kirk, Sr’s time almost immediately.  They had no time to do ship upgrades at that point.  Then, Kirk, Sr. drives his starship on a collusion course with the Narada– and the Narada survives, with most of her crew!  Quite the tough little mining ship you’ve got there, Nero.
So, my conclusion–  either the dear boys were mining something they weren’t supposed to be, OR (and this is more likely, given the Romulans) they were up to nefarious purposes and only masquerading as miners. 
 
Point 3– Poor Kirk!  (if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.)
 
Ok, foolishness finished– for now at least!  🙂
 
 
 

piper in the shadows

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title: The Shadow in the North

from: PBS Masterpiece Mystery / BBC

based on: “The Sally Lockhart Mysteries”

by Philip Pullman

length: 86 minutes

I was predisposed to enjoy this because I liked Billie Piper as Rose in “Doctor Who” and one of the supporting actors (playing Jim) is Matt Smith, who is to be Doctor # 11. This is a nice opportunity to have them both in the same production. They do, indeed, do nice enough work, though the script is quite weak for Smith’s character. I have also already seen the first film in this series: “The Ruby in the Smoke” That one was ok—reminded me rather of Dickens’s “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” having an strong set-up and a weak finish (yes, I am aware that Dickens never finished the manuscript, but other authors have), along with a very obvious villain. However, I liked Sally, Jim, and Fredrick enough to keep watching and to look forward to the next one. I actually looked up the novels, but my library didn’t have them.

As for “The Shadow in the North,” it gains points for having a less obvious plot and a more complex group of supporting characters (Alistair MacKinnon & Axel Bellmann, particularly) than its predecessor. Unfortunately, Sally and the other main characters suffer for it—they don’t, frankly, get much to do. Poor Fredrick is reduced to appearing in a variety of unconvincing disguises and then (spoiler music, la la la la la) being killed just as he was getting interesting. The plot moves from clear realism through to the super-natural, though I would have liked to have the final “ghost” scenes better supported. They seem to appear out of nowhere.

(ok, personal rant here, nothing to do personally with Pullman’s work, but I HATE when authors kill off the romantic partners of their strong female characters just as they were about to be happy together. Why?? Why fall back on the idea that happily married/ affianced characters can’t be interesting? Why not let them be together & then work in the relationship’s ups and downs into the story. Diane Mott Davidson has done a lovely job of that. So, why make your main character broken and fragile, especially when the main thrust of the story is not her romantic entanglement, but actually the mysteries or adventures? Edna Buchanan, Patricia Cornwall, Philip Pullman… take note and stop it, already!)

Right, back on track (pun intended)—the idea of the deadly train engine was unusual and chilling, and the final set piece with Sally, when you don’t know what she is planning, is well done.

Overall: worth the watch, but mostly for Piper’s and Smith’s fans. 

For more, see below:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/shadow/

by the way: the PBS website mentions that David Tennant will be the new host of Masterpiece Contemporary beginning in October.  Hooray!