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Garp's Franchise Film reviews

Garp

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After spending the last two years watching & reviewing all of Hitchcock's films, followed by a Godzilla/kaiju project, I've discovered that I'm already missing that self-imposed commitment. Therefore I've decided to dedicate my time to some smaller franchises this year. I'll still watch and review at least one film a week, though I may take a break between each series.

Combing through my blu-rays/DVDs/streaming options, I've come up with the following list of possibilities:
 
  • The Man with no name [3] 
  • Nemesis [4]
  • Species [4]
  • Airport [4] 
  • Universal Pictures' Invisible Man [5]
  • Tremors [6]
  • Trancer [6.5]
  • Police Story [8]
  • Rocky [8] 
  • Lake Placid/Anaconda [10]
  • Hammer Films' Dracula [10]
  • Alien/Predator [12] 
  • Resident Evil [12]
  • Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes [14] 
I haven't decided which of these I'll start with yet, though Dracula & Sherlock Holmes are high on the list. Most of these I haven't seen at all and some I've only seen the first few; the 'Alien/Predator' franchise is the one I'm most familiar with. I'm also not sure whether I'll get through all of these - it would take me the next two years - but I'll certainly continue for most or, preferably, all of this year.

As before, feel free to jump in to any franchise that takes your fancy and add your own reviews. I'll be re-posting the reviews on Letterboxd too. Also, if you have any suggestions for other franchises you think might be fun to cover, let me know.

Cheers.
 

Garp

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'The Hound of the Baskervilles' [1939]

In the first of the Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone with Nigel Bruce as his trusty assistant, the great detective must deduce whether Sir Henry, the heir to the Baskerville estate is doomed. Did his uncle die of heart failure, or was it murder? And if so, what connection is there to the legend of the hound on the moors..?

Despite being a fun period romp with a few flourishes, there's not much here to suggest this would be the start of a 14 film franchise. Audiences no doubt nailed their colours to Rathbone's mast as Holmes, and who could blame them? His characterisation, even this early, is probably still how most people envisage Conan-Doyle's hero - especially those (like me) who have never picked up one of his novels. He is confident to the point of being arrogant, a wry smile seemingly constant on his face. He is quick in thought and movement, with clipped speech and a spring in his step. His camaraderie with Bruce's Watson is touching; here, Watson is not quite the bumbling dullard that he is (wrongly) remembered as. Watson matches wits - not altogether successfully - with his old chum, and takes the lead for the middle part of the film.

The sets are basic but do the job, reminiscent of many a Universal backdrop for their horror films - ironic, considering where this franchise ended up. Some of the supporting cast are a tad wooden, but Barlowe Borland as a suspicious Scottish neighbour is a hoot.

 The film does well throwing up red herrings, but is let down by a lack of seeing Holmes actually doing some sleuthing. He is sorely missed in the second act. You may be able to guess the culprit, but we're not given enough information to work out why (similar to the novels, I believe), and the 'hound' is underwhelming. Still, it's enough to watch Rathbone sink his teeth into his most iconic role for the first time, yet still only get second billing.
 

Jrzag42

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I'm looking forward to more of these reviews. After watching The Great Mouse Detective recently, I've been somewhat interested in checking out the Basil Sherlock Holmes films, but never got around to it, I wasn't sure where to start, or if they were worth my time. This'll help with that.
 

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jrWHAG42 said:
I'm looking forward to more of these reviews. After watching The Great Mouse Detective recently, I've been somewhat interested in checking out the Basil Sherlock Holmes films, but never got around to it, I wasn't sure where to start, or if they were worth my time. This'll help with that.

After the next film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, they take an interesting turn.  The first two FOX produced films are set in their appropriate Victorian setting, but the last 12 films are set during WW2 and often are used to sell war bonds and push propaganda (though not as much as many other films did).  I think the first two films are very good, and honestly, the change in period didn't really affect the films to a great degree.  Rathbone is superb as Holmes, particularly in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, a personal favorite of mine.
 

Jrzag42

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Hymie said:
jrWHAG42 said:
I'm looking forward to more of these reviews. After watching The Great Mouse Detective recently, I've been somewhat interested in checking out the Basil Sherlock Holmes films, but never got around to it, I wasn't sure where to start, or if they were worth my time. This'll help with that.

After the next film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, they take an interesting turn.  The first two FOX produced films are set in their appropriate Victorian setting, but the last 12 films are set during WW2 and often are used to sell war bonds and push propaganda (though not as much as many other films did).  I think the first two films are very good, and honestly, the change in period didn't really affect the films to a great degree.  Rathbone is superb as Holmes, particularly in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, a personal favorite of mine.

That's all super fascinating, I had no idea. I will make an effort to track some of these down.
 

Hymie

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jrWHAG42 said:
Hymie said:
jrWHAG42 said:
I'm looking forward to more of these reviews. After watching The Great Mouse Detective recently, I've been somewhat interested in checking out the Basil Sherlock Holmes films, but never got around to it, I wasn't sure where to start, or if they were worth my time. This'll help with that.

After the next film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, they take an interesting turn.  The first two FOX produced films are set in their appropriate Victorian setting, but the last 12 films are set during WW2 and often are used to sell war bonds and push propaganda (though not as much as many other films did).  I think the first two films are very good, and honestly, the change in period didn't really affect the films to a great degree.  Rathbone is superb as Holmes, particularly in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, a personal favorite of mine.

That's all super fascinating, I had no idea. I will make an effort to track some of these down.

A number of the later ones have fallen into public domain, and are readily available on most streaming services.  These are far from the best the series has to offer, but they are still worthwhile, and at usually only around 75 minutes, are hardly a big commitment to make timewise.

Glad I can help, my father raised me on these movies, and even though they are far from my favorite films, they hold a special place in my heart.
 

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BONUS: 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' [1959]

Hammer Films try their hand at the classic Conan-Doyle tale, with Peter Cushing as Holmes and Christopher Lee as the ill-fated heir. Apparently plenty of liberties are taken with the original text, resulting in a curate's egg of a film.

Cushing makes for an adequate Holmes - quick-witted if not socially aloof - but lacks the twinkle in the eye that Rathbone employs. Lee looks every inch the Lord of the Manor, while poor Andre Morell as Watson gets rather overshadowed. The film suffers from the same malady inflicting the 1939 version - the game is afoot but Holmes is not, instead sleuthing off-screen for much of the second act.

Hammer tackle the supernatural element of the plot better than seen in 1939 - not unexpectedly - reveling in the Gothic nature, with good use of locations (apparently Chobham Common, my old backyard) and fog-enshrouded sets. There is fun to be had with the additions, such as the deadly tarantula, familial mutations, an abandoned mine and a Spanish peasant girl, but the film feels too long or poorly paced, or both. Some well-known UK character actors round out much of the supporting cast - John Le Mesurier, Sam Kydd and Miles Malleson in the Frankland role, here as a sherry-loving Bishop, stealing every scene he's in.

There are red herrings aplenty here but little obvious deduction, and the 'hound' is given less screen time too. Overall, I enjoyed it and would consider it worth viewing - for acting and mood - but it doesn't quite hit the mark.
 

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BONUS: 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' [1968] [TV]

Peter Cushing reprises his role as England's greatest detective in this BBC TV presentation, with Nigel Stock taking the reins as Watson. The story progresses as expected with only a few diversions from the norm. Cushing looks comfortable as Holmes, as well he might, though seems more tired somehow. The adaptation is let down by the limitations of the BBC drama department at the time, however. Nothing looks particularly authentic, camerawork is dodgy and unfortunately it looked and felt like one long, humourless Monty Python sketch.

The story is told over two episodes, with Watson being stalked by the hound as a cliffhanger to part one. The culprit is unmasked about half-way through part two, which deflates the mystery but gives Holmes more time to explain his deduction and to set his trap. There's an odd sub-plot not seen in other versions so far featuring a letter written by a Laura Lyons - part of the original story, apparently - but it doesn't really add anything and it's easy to see why it gets cut elsewhere. But for those who liked the lost walking stick scene in the 1939, it returns here.

No great supporting characters, unfortunately (the actor playing the Baskerville heir has a distractingly wavering American accent) though Ballard Berkeley - the Major from 'Fawlty Towers' gets to play Baskerville Sr. For completists only, I'm afraid.
 

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Garp said:
reveling in the Gothic nature

That is what makes it my favourite version of that story. The success of that adventure's premise is making the reader/viewer believe there really is a hound from hell, something the logical mind of Holmes doesn't countenance for a second. Hammer Horror really magnifies that aspect. Plus, as you say despite it being Holmes' most famous adventure, it's far from the best because he's not actually in it much, so having Christopher Lee to enjoy makes it not seem so bad.
 

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'The Hound of the Baskervilles' [1972] [TV]

Another day, another 'Holmes vs the Hound' remake. Here, Stewart Granger takes the lead, with Bernard Fox channeling Nigel Bruce as Watson. This American-made Movie of the Week is Conan Doyle by way of Agatha Christie, ensuring that every character is given a motive to off the bland Baskerville heir.

This version throws a lot of plot at the screen, keeping Holmes at the Baskerville estate for most of the second act and including Laura Lyons (Sally Ann Howes, of 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang') as another red herring. The London sets are OK but 19th Century Devon looks suspiciously like the Wild West. Granger comes across as someone playing Sherlock Holmes rather than being Sherlock Holmes, but the stand-out is obviously William Shatner in a dual role, being so, well, Shatner.

The film zips along in a probably unintended campy fashion and I admit I was entertained, or perhaps mesmerized. I wouldn't call it good, but I found it difficult to look away. Free to watch on YouTube, if your interest is piqued.
 

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BONUS: 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' [1983] [TV]

They churn out this adaptations like link sausages, it seems. Here we have Ian Richardson trying on the famous deerstalker, and making a good job of it, too. His partner-in-crime-solving is played by Donald Churchill, who also takes the well-trodden Nigel Bruce path.

This is a star-studded production: Denholm Elliot is Dr. Mortimer, playing an early Brody (from '...the Last Crusade')-like character. He is sidelined fairly quickly in favour of a new character, Laura Lyon's previously unseen husband, played with gusto (naturally) by Brian Blessed, whose volume starts at 11. Eleanor Bron, Connie Booth and Ronald Lacey (another 'Indy' alum) round out a bevvy of well-known faces. Lacey appears as Inspector Lestrade, only the second time his character has been shown so far (the 1972 version also included him). Finally, we have Martin Shaw as Sir Henry with a voice so remarkably unlike his own that I kept wondered whether he had been dubbed. (In fact, he had. Poor Martin.) Laura Lyons is played by the gorgeous Glynis Barber, one of the few things that kept my interest as it dragged on.

All in all, this should work. The cast is excellent and the location work and sets are great (it was actually partly shot in Devon). Richardson plays Holmes with a Rathbonian (?) twinkle, and the supernatural element mixes well with the whodunnit aspect; this version even includes the glowing, phosphorus-daubed hound from the novel. It starts well enough, but, like a lot of versions, suffers when Holmes is off-screen. While others have managed to recover, this one fails to maintain interest for some reason - Shaw's 'what is that sound coming from his mouth?'  bemusement was partly to blame in my case. Overall, a curiosity. Thank god for Glynis.
 

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BONUS: 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' [1988] [TV]

When I picture Sherlock Holmes, two actors come to mind: Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. In this TV version of the tale, Brett is partnered with Edward Hardwicke, playing Watson with a gravitas not usually seen.

This adaptation follows a similar path as others I have watched with no significant changes. The production is top-notch, with a crowded Baker Street looking particularly good. As well as a more serious Watson, and therefore more likely companion, we have a tremendous Holmes in Brett. He is perhaps not the most likeable of characters here, seeming above us, aloof and arrogant. It is to Brett's skill that I still found myself rooting for him somehow. No supporting actors stood out except Ronald Pickup as the butler Barrymore, portraying him as both suspicious and sympathetic.

This is not the most exciting of versions, tending towards the slow in places, but is elevated by the settings and acting. Had I not already watched several of these back to back, I probably would have enjoyed this more.
 

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BONUS: 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' [2000]

The film begins with a disclaimer, stating that the novel is in the Public Domain and that the Conan Doyle estate had not endorsed this version, or something like that. 'What broad liberties have these filmmakers taken?' I wondered. Well, actually, not much except in the casting of Holmes himself.

Any review of this version must deal with the elephant in the room right off the bat. Matt Frewer (known mostly for his Max Headroom character) is not your quintessential Holmes. Imagine Jim Carrey at his most annoying, put him in a deerstalker and then subject him to frequent minor electric shocks. That somewhat amounts to Frewer's portrayal here. It is bizarre, yet strangely watchable. Fortunately, this version also adopts the Holmes-off-screen middle act, so much so that Holmes is little more than a cameo.

Taking the reins instead is Kenneth Welsh as a decidedly capable Watson. He is much better as a solo performer than as a double act, looking so much older than his detective friend; at times, he beams at Holmes much like a proud father. Jason London plays the Baskerville heir as a displaced cowboy, and Emma Campbell overacts as an overwrought Beryl Stapleton. Our Stapletons here are former school teachers on the run, in a quirky and unnecessary twist.

The filmmakers spent a lot on elaborate sets and make sure that we see them - Holmes and Watson's first encounter with Dr. Mortimer is enacted mostly in the bustling streets of London (Watson is adverse to tobacco smoke in this version) and it looks good, albeit reminiscent of the 'Every Sperm is Sacred' scene from 'The Meaning of Life'.

Despite its peculiarities, the film failed to hold my interest throughout though I perked up a bit when Holmes returned. Somehow, this film led to three more Conan Doyle adaptations starring Frewer, his unusual take being someone's cup to tea. You know what, sometime in the future I might miss his spastic contortions and seek them out.
 

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BONUS: 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' [2012] [TV]

Somehow the TV series 'Sherlock', featuring a contemporary Holmes played by the deliciously named Benedict Cumberbatch, has passed me by. I knew of it and knew that it was critically received but it was never something I sought out. Until now.

No doubt there is a generation of viewers for whom Cumberbatch is their Holmes. His portrayal, at least as seen in this episode very loosely based on the famous tale, is intense. His Holmes is undoubtedly a genius, but one plagued by mental illness - possibly Bi-polar Disorder with Asperger's. It is very effective, even if this detective is frankly unlikeable. (The scene in which he confesses to Watson that he only has one friend is particularly poignant.) His relationship with Martin Freeman's Watson, therefore, is much more front and center, with Freeman being as much a carer as a colleague. Freeman is the perfect straight man here as he displays such great dead-pan humour. It is to see more of their interactions that I might tune in again.

The story has little in common with Conan Doyle, but does retain a lot of the characters' names. It features genetic mutations and elements of chemical warfare in a plot that is engrossing but doesn't hold water if you think about it too long. No matter, because we get to see Holmes deducing in several scenes (cleverly done with close-ups of clues the viewer would have missed) which other iterations tend to gloss over.

At 88 minutes long, it's more of a TV movie but not really a' Baskerville' adaptation. Nevertheless, it's an episode worth checking out - as well might be the whole show, for all I know.
 

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If I might, even though it’s a short franchise—two movies (maaaybe three of you’re reaching)—could I suggest Cannonball Run. A friend of mine when I was in high school (a loooong time ago) watched the two movies back-to-back while home sick and said there are tons of in-jokes between the two movies. Though I’ve never been able to bring myself to verify.
 

Garp

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I'll look into that. I don't own any of them at the moment, though I seem to remember watching the first one a long time ago. Thanks.
 

Moe_Syzlak

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Garp said:
I'll look into that. I don't own any of them at the moment, though I seem to remember watching the first one a long time ago. Thanks.

Don’t go out of your way. It was a sort of tongue in cheek suggestion. But I really do have a friend that watched them back to back. And I do find that an interesting thing to have subtle in-jokes carried from one movie to the next in that era, before even home video was common.
 

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BONUS: 'Hounded' [2016] [Elementary, TV]

Another Sherlock Holmes TV show that has previously passed me by, although this time I'm not so sad about that. Johnny Lee Miller plays Sherlock with Lucy Liu being the first female Watson I've encountered. Never having seen the show before, I'm not certain of their relationship but there's nothing in their acting that makes me want to watch more to find out. Perhaps it is part of her character, but Lui seems bored throughout, which in turn is very boring to watch. Miller is only marginally better. I couldn't tell what his take on Holmes was supposed to be - socially-awkward, which is always a given, but that was about it. 

The story veers closer to the BBC TV show version than the novel, again going down the GMO path (the hound is also spliced with jellyfish DNA to make it glow) with nefarious military involvement. Again, characters' names are maintained. There's a sub-plot about a medical examiner with PTSD which obviously meant more to regular viewers than it did to me. Overall, I found this dull. Perhaps it's unfair to judge the whole show on one episode but I was surprised that this was from Season 4 (with another 3 seasons after this). I thought they would have been in their stride by then, especially tackling such an iconic Holmes storyline.
 

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The 2002 BBC TV-movie of Baskerville is well worth a watch (and the follow up original adventure). Ian Hart is perfect casting as Watson IMO.

8938900_orig.jpg


https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0322622/

Oddly no clips of it appear to exist online.
 

Garp

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Dammit, I thought I was done with Grimpen Mire. My library has it; I should get to it next week.

Edit: Researching this, I discovered a Tom Baker version from 1982 on YouTube. Here we go again...
 
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