The View from Sherlock Peoria
Well, it's Christmas day here at Sherlock Peoria, and outside of that one unexpected Sherlockian gift, what does that mean?
The Unexpected Sherlockian Gift
Well, it means classic Christmas tales. Like the short story "The Blue Carbuncle" for one. And the movie "Die Hard" for another. But really, aren't they the same story, after all, in a mirror-image sort of fashion?
Take the opening of each, for example. John H. Watson has moved away from his former partner, Sherlock Holmes, and is coming to call on him for Christmas. John McClane's wife, Holly Gennaro, has moved away from her former partner and John is coming to call on her for Christmas.
John Watson finds Holmes looking like he's working and doesn't want to interrupt. John McClane finds his wife working and would be perfectly happy to interrupt.
Somewhere else in London, a gang of roughs had been messing with one Henry Baker, causing him to lose a Christmas goose. Somewhere in the Nakatomi Plaza building, a gang of roughs starts messing with the Nakatomi Corporation, causing them to to lose their Christmas party.
Sherlock Holmes's attention is gotten by a dead body being dropped in front of the uniformed Peterson. (Yes, it's a goose, but still . . .) The L.A. authorities have their attention roused by a dead body being dropped in front of the uniformed Sergeant Al Powell.
Both tales revolve around a major theft whose complexity involves some police participation, and this is where the mirror-image quality of the stories really shines. James Ryder imagines police involvement where there is none and loses his prize through his faulty plan. Hans Gruber imagines police involvement where there definitely will be some and gains his prize through his perfect plan.
A master's thesis could go into great detail about the parallels big and small between "The Blue Carbuncle" and "Die Hard." John McClane has his Watson in Al Powell. Holmes says "I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies," and neither is McClane. Both, however, set matters right, free prisoners and foil a theft even as the official police fail at every turn. With the exception of Sergeant Powell, the L.A. cops and F.B.I. in "Die Hard" are as mockable as any Scotland Yard detective Holmes ever met.
And the hits just keep on coming!
Hans Gruber tries to pretend to be "Bill Clay" and fails. James Ryder tries to pretend to be "John Robinson" and fails. John Horner takes the punishment for Catherine Cusack's work in "Blue"; Harry Ellis suffers the consequences for Holly Gennaro's role in "Die Hard." Peterson, who brought Holmes in on the case, celebrates Christmas away from the main action, so does Argyle, who brought McClane in.
"The Blue Carbuncle" compares with no other classic Christmas tale as well as "Die Hard." Not "A Christmas Carol," not "Rudolph," not "It's A Wonderful Life" . . . "Die Hard." And I know people who enjoy both, every single year.
So "Yippee ti yay, ye merry gentlemen," and "Compliments of the season, mudder-faxers!" (Oh, so tempting to go full-on McClane . . .) Hope you enjoyed some Christmas adventures of your own this year!
Your humble correspondent,
Past 2011 Columns