Sherlock Holmes on Sheerlack Qualms

January 11, 2010

“Really, my dear Watson, that was quite a—what do you call it, a ‘movie’? But, as you say, we are hardly recognizable in it. And that is not the least of its faults.

“As you know, I have more than once remonstrated with you over your own accounts of my cases—romanticizing when you ought to be analyzing. But your deviations are as nothing, my good fellow, when compared to the liberties this ‘movie’ Sherlock Holmes has taken. Why, they might just have renamed it Sheerlack Qualms .

“Of course it was admirably free of those infernal clichés others have resorted to: the deerstalker, for instance. Really, Watson, some portrayals have me wearing that outdoorsman’s cap to the opera! Why, you’d think I even slept in it. And I’ve wanted to punch the next fellow who had me perpetually declaring, ‘It’s elementary my dear Watson’—when I have never even uttered that precise combination of words.

“On the other hand, speaking of punching someone, the movie did correctly acknowledge my pugilistic skills. You’ll recall your account, “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist,” in which I took on that bully, ‘Roaring Jack’ Woodley, in a country pub and sent him home, sprawled in a cart. But I say, there was enough action in this movie for one of those ‘James Bond’ features that are all the rage.

“And that business of me engaging in indoor pistol-practice was also right on target—eh, what? It did so mortify our long-suffering landlady, Mrs. Hudson. But this movie makes me a truly funky, Bohemian character—hence, the choice of the unlikely Robert Downey, Jr., to play me. And then it’s treated as a sub-genre of fantasy fiction called steampunk , wherein technological developments are cast back in time—in this case a Victorian setting.

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll survive it all. The movie did manage to touch on my powers of deduction—albeit as a sort of afterthought to the story. For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of the whole affair was its portrayal of the paranormal —to use another modern word, Watson. As you’ve been kind enough to chronicle, in several of my cases—involving that hell-hound of the Baskervilles, for example, and ‘The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot’—I have had the persona not only of consulting detective but of paranormal investigator as well. But I have always been an advocate of naturalism, and so I announced (in that tale you titled, ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’), ‘This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.’ I continue to hold that view.

“Now, it seemed there were supernatural powers exhibited in the movie at hand, but in the end they were all revealed—just as I might have done—as so many ‘conjuring tricks.’ It was all entertaining enough, but now, I fear, again comes the stagnation at which my mind rebels. If I am not to reach for the cocaine bottle, for a seven-per-cent solution, then I must know that, once again Watson, the game is afoot, and that I can put to use those powers that have allowed me to create my own unique profession.”