Tag Archives: Arthur Conan Doyle

Without a Clue (1988, Thom E. Eberhardt)

Without a Clue has an amusing premise–what if Sherlock Holmes is a buffoon and Dr. Watson is the genius–and generally succeeds in executing it. Director Eberhardt brings very little to the film (one wonders if his single goal was keeping Michael Caine in the center of each frame), but the production is handsomely enough mounted, even if there is a lack of scope. Most of the film’s action takes place indoors, where Eberhardt goes for cheap laughs. Outdoors, at least, Alan Hume’s cinematography gets to breath.

Caine is hilarious as Holmes, but he’s nothing compared to Ben Kingsley as Watson. Kingsley brings intelligence, suffering and sympathy to the role, while still maintaining a commanding lead presence. Unfortunately–except for Peter Cook in a bit part and Nigel Davenport in a slightly bigger one–the rest of the cast has little to offer.

That problem is two fold. The script gives the supporting players, except Pat Keen, almost nothing to do. Watching third-billed Jeffrey Jones run about is painful, especially since his comic scenes are so poorly written and Jones loses his forced accent explicitly during his comic scenes. Lysette Anthony is mostly useless as the damsel in distress, though she does some quality; it seems Clue failed her.

Henry Mancini’s score is a lot of fun for the period; Mancini excels at the comedy scenes. He doesn’t do so well for the action-packed finale, but neither does Eberhardt so no foul.

Clue‘s a lot of fun.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Thom E. Eberhardt; written by Gary Murphy and Larry Strawther, based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle; director of photography, Alan Hume; edited by Peter Tanner; music by Henry Mancini; production designer, Brian Ackland-Snow; produced by Marc Stirdivant; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Michael Caine (Sherlock Holmes), Ben Kingsley (Dr. John Watson), Jeffrey Jones (Inspector Lestrade), Lysette Anthony (Leslie Giles), Paul Freeman (Professor James Moriarty), Nigel Davenport (Lord Smithwick), Pat Keen (Mrs. Hudson), Peter Cook (Norman Greenhough), Tim Killick (Sebastian Moran) and Matthew Savage (Wiggins).


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The Man with the Twisted Lip (1921, Maurice Elvey)

The Man with the Twisted Lip is not a particularly exciting narrative to begin with, but director Elvey does keep the story moving at a decent pace. He paces most of Lip like a play, albeit one with flashbacks. Elvey cannot, however, make it interesting.

Some of the problem is the adherence to the source material. Most of the short is told in flashback, which cuts down on the narrative’s urgency–especially since Ellie Norwood’s Sherlock Holmes keeps important details from Hubert Willis’s Watson and Watson is the viewer’s entry into the short.

Norwood mostly stands around doing little. Willis sits around doing less. As the main characters in the case, both Robert Vallis and Paulette del Baze are good.

Elvey inexplicably gives away the mystery’s solution with a showcase of movie special effects magic in the first few minutes.

It’s not much good, but Lip does move. A little.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Maurice Elvey; screenplay by William J. Elliot, based on the story by Arthur Conan Doyle; director of photography, Germain Burger; released by Stoll Picture Productions.

Starring Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), Hubert Willis (Dr. John Watson), Robert Vallis (Neville St. Clair), Paulette del Baze (Mrs. Nellie St. Clair) and Mme. d’Esterre (Mrs. Hudson).


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The Dying Detective (1921, Maurice Elvey)

Given the terrible attempts at humor and Eille Norwood’s histrionic performance as Sherlock Holmes, one might think The Dying Detective is a farcical adaptation.

Unfortunately, I doubt director Elvey gets farce as he doesn’t get pacing or filmic storytelling. Almost every shot in Detective goes on too long. He’s not just holding the shot until interest wanes, he’s holding it five or ten seconds are interest has completely vanished. He does it with establishing shots too; Elvey’s composition is so confusing, one can easily forget what he or she is waiting to see.

Screenwriter William J. Elliot feels the need to include a painfully long sequence of red herrings at the end, with Holmes and the villain trying to upstage each other. It probably drags Detective out another five minutes, like there was a length requirement.

Cecil Humphreys gives the only good performance as the villain. Otherwise, Detective‘s the pits.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Maurice Elvey; screenplay by William J. Elliot, based on a story by Arthur Conan Doyle; director of photography, Germain Burger; released by Stoll Picture Productions.

Starring Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), Hubert Willis (Dr. John Watson), Cecil Humphreys (Culverton Smith), Joseph R. Tozer (His Servant) and Mme. d’Esterre (Mrs. Hudson).


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The Devil’s Foot (1921, Maurice Elvey)

To call The Devil’s Foot inept is too complementary. Some of the stupider story elements come from the Conan Doyle story, so one cannot really fault screenwriter William J. Elliott. Instead, the fault lies entirely with director Maurice Elvey.

The short does show how important sound is to a procedural investigation narrative, but Elvey’s incompetence comes to the close-ups. Sherlock Holmes, reasonably well-played by Eille Norwood here, walks around the sets and looks at various objects around the rooms. But Elvey includes to close-ups of the items, so the clues are entirely hidden from the viewer. It sort of kills the interest level.

Also interesting is the lack of British flavor. Foot often looks like it was shot in Los Angeles, on very boring locations.

It does start reasonably well, until the actual investigation starts. Then it’s a continuous stream of disappointments.

Better source material might’ve helped.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Maurice Elvey; screenplay by William J. Elliott, based on a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle; director of photography, Germain Burger; released by Stoll Picture Productions.

Starring Eille Norwood (Sherlock Holmes), Hubert Willis (Dr. John Watson), Harvey Braban (Mortimer Tregennis) and Hugh Buckler (Dr. Sterndale).


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