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The View from the East End (71)

By Inspector Hopkins

August 12 , 2007

The Granada Film Series    (part 2)

by Inspector Hopkins

As I mentioned last time, the Granada Film series offers some very definite improvements in the way that Watson records the adventures of our heroes. But unfortunately, there are also some representations which do not do this . . .

The Bad

First of all, the Films for the most part are not in line with the conventional order of the books within the Canon. Although MPI Home Video offers them in the “Adventures”, “Return”, “Casebook”, and “Memoirs”, along with their “Feature Film Collection”, the newer Sherlockian needs to be aware that this is an arbitrary order of presentation, and basically follows the order of production over the seven seasons that the series was aired on television. The Film series also does not have a “His Last Bow” set of CD’s.  In addition, three of the stories (NOBL,  CHAS and SUSS) were made into two-hour movies and placed in the “Feature Film Collection” set, which contains two of the four novels from the Canon (HOUN and SIGN). Although this ordering may cause some confusion, and is a very minor point, it does not detract from the overall excellent quality of the Film series as a whole.

Next, the Granada series allows Dr. Watson to share many of the lines that were spoken by Holmes himself in the Canon. This was most likely done in an attempt to rectify the absolutely, shudderingly atrocious representation of Dr. Watson in the earlier Rathbone-Bruce set of films.  Nigel Bruce’s “bumbling” representation of Watson was intended to accentuate Basil Rathbone’s astuteness.  It seems that the Granada representation tried to tone down Sherlock Holmes’s brilliance just a little bit so that he would not appear to be as “perfect” as Rathbone. Newer Sherlockians will quickly realize that although he may not have been completely blessed with Holmes’s gifts of deduction, the Canonical Watson was certainly a very intelligent observer and chronicler. Once they gain a little more experience as they become better versed in the Canon, however, they will realize that Watson’s lines in the Granada Film series really do stick out and really are quite non-Canonical. If I had been involved with the production of the Granada Films, I would have relied heavily on the use of frequent “background narration” by Dr. Watson rather than having him use Holmes’s lines in the action. 

And finally, although they did not blatantly contradict the Canon, many of the Films have not followed it as well as they could have. Assuming that fidelity to the original Canonical stories was the goal of the Granada Film series then, consider some of the ways that this goal was missed:

Lestrade (admirably portrayed by Colin Jeavons) appeared in six of the Films. But in BOSC, Inspector “Summerby” was the police official. Why not Lestrade as per the Canon?  Further, the Granada film put Lestrade in CREE, but the Canon has no police Inspector in that story. There was no police Inspector in the Film version of HOUN when Lestrade should have been in it.  My namesake was played by two different actors in ABBE and GOLD. Although Hopkins was the correct Inspector in each case, the actors used were much older than the Canonical representation. Why didn’t Granada use a (same) younger actor in these cases?  The same sorts of questions apply to REDC and CARD where an Inspector “Hawkins” appeared instead of Gregson and Lestrade respectively. It would have been so easy, and so much more faithful to the Canon to keep the correct Inspector where he belonged.

Mrs. Hudson appeared in many more of the Film portrayals than in the Canon (26 vs. 14) and Dr. Watson was never portrayed as married throughout the series. Although seriously non-Canonical, these two “misses” were meant to simplify the storylines and to help provide continuity. Fortunately, they do not have a negative impact on the series.

In general, the producers and writers of the Grenada Film series did an excellent job, and any serious lack of fidelity to the Canon lies in the assignment of additional characters and embellishing the stories somewhat too much.

However, although they were entertaining, some of the Films such as GREE, PRIO, and SUSS (“The Last Vampyre”) had radically different endings as compared to their Canonical counterparts. I would seriously question why this was done. But compared to these observations, indeed there are some Films which were complete disasters.

Until next time, when we will take a brief look at some of those, I remain indeed,

Yours Faithfully,