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Fascination with Sherlock Holmes is pure 'elementary'
by Carol Humphreys
Jun 24, 2014 | 209 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I realize Sherlock Holmes’ aficionados may be offended, but I thoroughly enjoyed Hollywood’s adaptation of the famous 19th century detective as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. His sidekick, Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law, is not hard to look at either. I find Downey’s characterization of Holmes, charming and clever and look forward to more of his swashbuckling adventures with Dr. Watson.

Having said that, Benedict Cumberbach’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is my favorite. I have been completely drawn into the world of BBC’s “Sherlock,” which also stars Martin Freeman. Both excellent actors, Cumberbach and Freeman have become hugely popular in recent years. Cumberbach plays “Kahn” in the most recent “Star Trek” production. He is also the voice of the dragon in “The Hobbit, Desolation of Smaug.” Freeman is the lead character, Bilbo Baggins, in “The Hobbit” movies and co-stars along with Billy Bob Thornton in the dark but well-done television show “Fargo.”

From the moment I set eyes on Benedict Cumberbach -- what a name! -- as Sherlock Holmes, I was mesmerized. I’ve always pictured the British sleuth as a middle-aged man wearing a tweed cap with a pipe hanging out of his mouth. Cumberbach’s Sherlock is a tall, lanky young man who hates wearing the tweed cap, wears nicotine patches and has piercing gray eyes. He wears a long black trench coat and is suitably Gothic in appearance. Though BBC’s adaptation is set in modern times, the show’s dark setting reminds me of Charles Dickens’ Victorian London.

As a teenager, I read about Holmes in “The Hounds of the Baskerville,” written in the early 20th century, either, because I was bored and found it in my mother’s extensive library; or because it was required reading in high school. All I remembered about the story was the huge ghostly and vicious black dogs (hounds) and that there was a lot of running around on the English moors.

My other concept of Sherlock Holmes was from black and white movies made in the 1930s. I knew when Scotland Yard had a seemingly impossible crime to solve, they turned to Holmes. The consulting detective was known to be clever and extraordinary skilled at solving criminal cases. I also knew he was assisted by Dr. Watson (“Elementary, my dear Watson”) and for some reason that he was a cocaine addict.

I didn’t know he was known as a psychopath. Or as Cumberbach’s Sherlock would say in response to being called a psychopath, “I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.”

Dr. Watson discovers Holmes is indeed a brilliant, eccentric man. The detective leaps with joy and anticipation when a seemingly impossible criminal case is brought to him. He grins with delight as he tells Watson, “The game is on!”

Sherlock will do anything, including taking it “to the edge” or risk being killed to stop from being bored. He has amazing deductive skills by employing his “mind palace.” This enviable skill is his ability to store facts in his long-term memory and then be able to call upon them as needed. In the show, you visually travel into Holmes’ mind palace as he puts all his facts in sequence to help solve cases.

Freeman’s characterization of John Watson is as fascinating to watch as Cumberbach’s Holmes. His facial expressions and body language in reaction to Sherlock’s lightning-fast mind and astounding behavior are priceless. There is obvious chemistry between the two actors. However, though Watson is obviously the saner, more reasonable of the two, it turns out he needs the danger and excitement almost as much as Sherlock.

An army doctor during Britain’s part in the current war in Afghanistan, Watson returns home with post traumatic syndrome. He feels empty and alone. Trying to “find himself” the doctor ends up as a roommate to the weirdly brilliant Holmes. He is immediately caught up in life and death situations as he becomes the detectives unlikely partner.

In one episode, Sherlock’s brother Mycroft tells Watson, “When you walk with Sherlock, you see the battleground. You are not haunted by war but (rather) miss it.”

“Welcome, back,” He adds.

Once hooked, I couldn’t get enough of BBC’s witty, intriguing “Sherlock.” Unfortunately, only three episodes are produced every two years. I had to wait six months for the 2014 season to come out on Netflix. There are also three seasons available on DVD.

It was my daughter Anna who suggested I watch “Sherlock” as a counter option to Hollywood’s version of “Sherlock Holmes.” I liked Hollywood’s version, but I can hardly wait for more of the British version.

My fascination with it is pure “elementary.” Plus I love saying, “Benedict Cumberbach,” almost as much as watching him.

(Carol Humphreys was news clerk and columnist for the Daily Corinthian for 15 years. The Corinth resident is currently a freelance writer for the Daily Corinthian, Pickwick Profiles and Crossroads Magazine.)

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