Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 4: They Might Be Giants (1971)

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This is a film that really moves me like no other. In this, the lonely find companionship, the unloved find soulmates, the damaged find healing and individuality is allowed a chance to shine.

This is a film about what it means to be different. The characters individual natures and quirky behaviour set them apart from the so called norm, and in some cases this leads to the rest of society classing them as mad or dangerous.

Who is worse though? A man believing himself to be Holmes, or Rudolph Valentino? Or  someone who seems to take great pleasure in locking up people and threatening anyone who doesn’t do as they are told? As long as nobody is hurting anyone else, why do we all have to conform? Be yourself and just try and cope with the uncontrollable force that is life.

Plus, as the funny, but deeply frustrating telephone exchange scene demonstrates, there is plenty of madness affecting the so called normal members of society.

Justin Playfair(George C. Scott)is a judge who retreats into the persona of Sherlock Holmes, after his beloved wife dies. Playfair believes he is Holmes, he has the detectives coldness and famed deduction and observation skills; yet retains Playfair’s obsession with stopping and punishing the evil people of the world.

Psychiatrist Mildred Watson(Joanne Woodward) is hired by Playfair’s brother to assess Justin, and if she deems it necessary insist he is committed to a mental hospital. At first Mildred sees him only as a sick man, but soon she gets caught up in his delusions. Holmes/Playfair believes that Moriarty is behind all the evil things happening in New York, from murder to injustice. The detective and the doctor set out to try and locate Moriarty(if indeed he even exists.)

Watson becomes as much of a friend to Holmes/Playfair, as John Watson was to the Holmes in Doyle’s stories. Both Holmes/Playfair and Watson are lonely and damaged in some way, yet each helps the other and finds salvation in their growing bond. Their growing romance is sweet to watch and the date night at Watson’s apartment is  touching, awkward, funny and sweet.

John Barry’s accompanying score is one of his very best. The music really touches your soul and fits the story perfectly.

George C. Scott is at his very best in the duel role of damaged patient and analytical detective. There are moments where he lets us catch a glimpse of Justin, and then the mask of Holmes descends once again as protection from the world.

Joanne Woodward is both funny and moving as the woman of reason drawn into a delusion, and possibly experiencing a break with reality herself.

My favourite scenes are the following. Holmes/Playfair correctly deducing about Watson’s life, the Rudolph Valentino scene, Holmes/Playfair teaching Watson how to walk like a detective, the elusive pimpernel scene between Holmes/Playfair and Peabody(Jack Gilford), Watson leaving and Holmes/Playfair mentioning that she went away in stockened feet, the “Mr. Rathbone” scene, and the hysterical cinema outing (especially when Watson says “good grief, I think they’re growing mushrooms!”)  🙂

Part human tragedy, and part comic look at the craziness that is life and humanity; They Might Be Giants is a very different kind of film than most.

Featuring memorable performances, and an ending that can be seen in two ways and should lead to much discussion(just what is that light? Train lights? Moriarty actually appearing? Police torches?)

This is one that has long had a place in my heart. If you like Sherlock Holmes then do check this out. If you believe in individuality, then this is a film for you too.

I’ve always thought this plot would make a good series set in the modern day. Each week have Watson trying to help Playfair, and the pair also getting caught up in the real cases brought to Holmes/Playfair’s door through people hearing of his incredible deductive/detective skills. The bond between Watson and Holmes grows, but maybe Watson comes to realise that it would be more harmful to actually make Playfair return to himself.

As ever, please share your thoughts below.

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Book Chat, Page To Screen

Make This A Miniseries: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Novels by Laurie R. King

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I love these books so much. If you have never read them before here is a brief description of what they’re all about.

Mary Russell, is a teenage orphan who meets the retired Sherlock Holmes in Sussex,  during the First World War. Holmes makes her his apprentice and they investigate and solve cases. As the years pass and Mary grows up, the pair realise they are falling in love and eventually marry.

As a massive Sherlock Holmes fan, I was initially sceptical when I read that Holmes marries in these stories. Holmes had no time for romance and I was left wondering how on earth this would be made believable.  I needn’t have worried though,  for believable it is.

The books are very detailed and have interesting plots; as much as I enjoy the stories I confess to mainly reading for the scenes between Holmes and Mary, I love their slow build relationship and how due to his feelings for her, we (occasionally)get a glimpse of the emotional and vulnerable side of the great detective.

This series and the relationship between Mary and Holmes serves as the ultimate fan fiction for those of us who would have loved to have been a friend to Holmes, share his adventures, and have our lives be that bit more interesting due to his presence in it.

I have long thought this would make a perfect miniseries. I would cast Patrick Malahide as Holmes. I always picture Carey Mulligan as Mary when I read the books, but I think she is a bit too old now for the role.

I have always wanted Malahide to play Holmes, he has the look and I think he would be fantastic in the role. I was first struck by his Holmes similarity in his series The Alleyn Mysteries (1990-1994)and I have been hoping ever since that he would don that famous deerstalker. Please, someone out there make this happen!

Any other fans of these novels here? Do you want it to receive the miniseries treatment? If so, who would you cast as Holmes and Russell? What are your favourite novels from this series?

I love A Monstrous Regiment Of Women, The Beekeepers Apprentice and Locked Rooms the most.

I’m pretty chuffed that I have recently made a work friend a fan of these stories, she tells me she is now hooked.