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OldSchoolSherlockThe third round of Reel to Reel’s Icons project is rapidly approaching, and this time around I’m turning my attention to the original world’s greatest detective, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary creation Sherlock Holmes. Between the recent movies and sudden influx of television shows (to say nothing of appearances in comic books, novels, video games… I could go on and on…) it’s seems like Sherlock Holmes is experiencing a new renaissance. I think it’s possible that Holmes has been played on-screen by more actors than any other character in the whole Icons project, so picking just five interpretations was actually kind of difficult. But I narrowed it down to the following…

  • Basil Rathbone: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
  • Christopher Lee: Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962)
  • Robert Stephens: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
  • Matt Frewer: The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002)
  • Robert Downey Jr.: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

And for those of you upset that I haven’t included a certain recent British TV production… well, this is technically a movie site, you know. On the other hand, I did include a bonus for Dorothy Gale week…

Let’s talk about just who this sleuth is we’re gonna get down with next week.

The Character:

Sherlock Holmes is a consulting detective, a man of amazing deductive and intuitive gifts. Holmes uses his dizzying intellect to solve the strangest crimes that come to his doorstep, but his genius often serves to set him apart from the rest of humanity. Operating on a level most people cannot conceive, Holmes’s tales are most often related to us by his companion, Dr. John Watson, a war veteran whose skills and talents often prove useful to Holmes as he carries out his tasks, and gives the rest of us a hope of grasping the mind of the legendary sleuth.

I think that’s enough to start with, don’t you? Come by on Monday when we look at a man who did not originate the role of Holmes on screen, but has become so inexorably linked with the character it can be easy to think that he did: Basil Rathbone in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Reel to Reel: Icons

People who follow me on Twitter or Facebook have probably already noticed I’ve started watching more horror/comedies in order to beef up Lunatics and Laughter for the eBook edition of that project, which I hope to make available by Halloween. However, I’ve also started casting an eye towards what the next Reel to Reel project should be… and in so doing, I ran into a sort of wall. You see, the first two projects were both horror-based, which made it pretty easy to compile a list. Christmas specials was even easier. But when I turn to other genres, I quickly found a problem figuring out exactly how to arrange my selections. If I did science fiction next, for example, it’s much more difficult to draw a line between the great films of that genre than horror. Star Trek, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future and Plan 9 From Outer Space are all science fiction, after all, but they all deal with wildly different ideas, themes, and tropes. How could I lump them together? When I tired to subdivide — time travel movies, for example — I had a hard time finding enough influential films to last the entire length of a Reel to Reel project.

Then, about a week ago, I realized something you clever people probably figured out some time ago… there’s no rule that says every Reel to Reel has to account for 30 or so movies at once. If a topic works better in smaller groups, why not make smaller groups?

So for the next Reel to Reel, I’m going to mix it up a little. Although I don’t have an exact “start” date yet, sometime soon (probably in March) you’re going to be greeted by the first week of Reel to Reel: Icons. In this project, I’m choosing iconic characters that have been played by five or more different performers and giving them each a week of their own. I’m also going to stretch this out, probably for the rest of the year, giving one week each month (with the exception of December, where I’m going to try to squeeze in two). Doing five movies in a month is a lot easier on me than doing 30, after all, especially when I’m working on a dozen other projects. I’m going to take the five different portrayals of each character and compare them to each other… how does Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood compare to Kevin Costner? How heavily did Brandon Routh draw on Christopher Reeve as Superman? And who’s really the best King Arthur — Sean Connery or Graham Chapman?

I’m also going to accept suggestions from you guys, because I haven’t quite decided all of the characters that will make up the project yet. I will most certainly consider animated versions, different interpretations (that’s kind of the point), and even characters from old movie serials if I can find them on DVD. But I’m going to stay away from characters like Jason Voorhees, who may have been played by multiple actors, but who all wore the same mask and gave essentially the same portrayal. (I know I just pissed off a bunch of Kane Hodder fans, but I stand by that.)

Oh, and one last thing: no James Bond for this project. I know, it’s the most obvious choice, but I think he deserves an entire R2R all to himself someday.

At the moment, these are the weeks I’m planning out:

Superman Week:

  1. George Reeves: Superman and the Mole-Men (1951 Movie Serial)
  2. Christopher Reeve: Superman (1978)
  3. Brandon Routh: Superman Returns (2006)
  4. James Denton: All-Star Superman (2011)
  5. Henry Cavill: Man of Steel (2013)

Batman Week:

  1. Lewis Wilson: Batman (1943 Movie Serial)
  2. Adam West: Batman: The Movie (1966)
  3. Michael Keaton: Batman (1989)
  4. Kevin Conroy: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1992)
  5. Christian Bale: The Dark Knight (2008)

Robin Hood Week:

  1. Errol Flynn: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  2. Brian Bedford: (Disney’s) Robin Hood (1973)
  3. Kevin Costner: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
  4. Cary Elwes: Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
  5. Russell Crowe: Robin Hood (2010)

King Arthur Week:

  1. Rickie Sorensen: The Sword in the Stone (1963)
  2. Richard Harris: Camelot (1967)
  3. Graham Chapman: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  4. Sean Connery: First Knight (1995)
  5. Clive Owen: King Arthur (2004)

Hercules Week:

  1. Steve Reeves: Hercules Unchained (1959)
  2. Nigel Green: Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hercules in New York (1969)
  4. Kevin Sorbo: Hercules and the Amazon Women (1994)
  5. Tate Donovan: (Disney’s) Hercules (1997)

Sherlock Holmes Week:

  1. Basil Rathbone: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
  2. Christopher Lee: Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962)
  3. Robert Stephens: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
  4. Matt Frewer: The Sign of Four (2001)
  5. Robert Downey Jr.: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Dracula Week:
(Note: I am by no means ignoring Bela Lugosi’s classic 1931 turn as Dracula, but as I already wrote about him in the first Reel to Reel project, this week I would rather link to the original article and look at five other performances.)

  1. John Carradine: House of Dracula (1945)
  2. Christopher Lee: Horror of Dracula (1958)
  3. Charles Macaulay: Blacula (1971)
  4. Gary Oldman: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
  5. Gerard Butler: Dracula 2000 (2000)

And two weeks in December…

Ebenezer Scrooge Week:

  1. Reginald Owen: A Christmas Carol (1938)
  2. Albert Finney: Scrooge (1970)
  3. Alastair Sim: A Christmas Carol (1971)
  4. Michael Caine: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1994)
  5. Jim Carrey: Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

Santa Claus Week:

  1. Edmund Gwynn: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  2. John Call: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
  3. David Huddleston: Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
  4. Tim Allen: The Santa Clause (1994)
  5. Jim Broadbent: Arthur Christmas (2011)

There’s still a little room in here to add a few more characters, so I’m open to suggestions… especially if you can think of any women that belong on this list. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, I’m struggling to come up with any truly iconic characters that have been played by more than five women in the movies. If you can help me out, please do so.