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    Sherlock Holmes - And The Leading Lady/Incident At Victoria Falls

    2 / 10

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    On paper this sounded like a release to look forward to. In fact, if there was a target demographic for it then I would probably fit squarely within it. After all, I'm a huge Holmes fan having devoured the complete works several times over. I also have the Rathbone collection on DVD and the complete Jeremy Brett too. I even bought the BBC collection with the slightly less than perfect Peter Cushing outings. Add to that the pairing of two film and TV heroes of mine in the starring roles, Christopher Lee and Patrick MacNee, and I could hardly wait to get the cellophane off the packaging. So you can imagine the disappointment as this achingly dull drama, missed by me on its original airing in 1992, played out across no less than six tedious hours.

    Neither title in the collection rang any bells for me and now I know why. Despite a considerable collection of Conan Doyle possibilities the producers of this particular series thought it might be better to pen their own. They were sadly mistaken.

    But I am ahead of myself. Let me talk a little of the casting first.

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    Christopher Lee should never have played Holmes. He's an actor with great presence in the right role but he his wooden and unconvincing in this role which demands more than his standard cold delivery which, after all, made him ideal for roles like Dracula and Sauron. It's a shame really as Lee had skirted the edges of Holmes in some notable movies playing Sir Henry Baskerville on a Hammer outing and playing Mycroft, Sherlock's older brother, in a much lauded Billy Wilder movie, 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes'.

    Patrick MacNee fairs a little better as Watson, playing it in true Steed fashion and doing a reasonable job of the part despite the wooden performance from Lee. In fact, there was a third in this series of lengthy outings apparently (not included here) which had MacNee promoted to Holmes with Lee not taking the option to play the great man for a third time. I'd be interested in seeing that.

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    Confusingly, this was released in 1992 when the Jeremy Brett series was in full swing. Despite Brett's failing health, neither of these TV films could hold a candle to even the worst of his performances. What were the Producers thinking?

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    Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady

    A night at the opera leads to a brutal murder. Set in 1910 Vienna, it turns out that a clever explosive device has been stolen which is a pre-cursor to the remote control, allowing the user to set off a bomb from a safe distance. Put into the wrong hands, such a diabolical invention would surely signal international disaster. So Mycroft, Holmes older brother, drops in on Holmes to encourage him to go to Vienna for Queen and Country. When Holmes obliges, he is surprised to bump into 'that lady', Irene Adler, the love of his life, who imagined was happily married somewhere. However, we learn that her husband was ill and that he has passed away leaving her to pick up her life as a formidable opera singer. She is as keen on Holmes as she ever was, offering to give it all up for him but Holmes refuses despite his obvious feelings for her. Oh - and he solves the bomb mystery too though not without several interminable hours of slim plot and dull dialogue.

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    The scene is set pretty early on with some very cheesy eighties looking titles, a million miles from the Victoriana they were hoping to portray, and low standards are revealed from the outset with the very first scene of 'Leading Lady' revealing a visible boom mike in the mirror, bobbing around for all to see.  This is not costume drama as we have become used to.

    There are sloppy instances of bad continuity throughout and, whilst I am often able to forgive the worst of these, the narrative is horribly slow, desperate to eke itself out for the full three hour slot it has been sold into.

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    The story is turgid and dull and we are even introduced to some real characters from history in an attempt to breathe some interest into them. (Freud for example who Steed decrees to be 'Poppycock').

    Morgan Fairchild does a good job given bad circumstances playing the only lady that Holmes ever had any feelings for and I can't help feeling was harshly let down by her co-cast. Some of the Vienna accents, for example, would not have been out of place in 'Allo Allo' or 'Mind your Language'.
    There are even moments of misplaced carry on humour like when we leave Holmes and 'that lady' in a romantic encounter, and then cut to the inspector who says: "I think Holmes knows more than he is saying. He is even now pumping her for information". We then cut to two figures having sex in a darkened room. What would Conan Doyle have made of it all? What level of school-children would find this amusing? Elementary, my dear Watson.

     I should have had my wits about me when I saw that Englebert Humperdink was cast as an opera singer.  Oh dear.

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    Sherlock Holmes and the Incident at Victoria Falls

    The second TV film of the set doesn't improve matters but rather confirms them. By half way through this you'll have lost the will to live and be wondering about Amazon's DVD returns policy.
    There may be some connection between this film and Rathbone's 'Terror by Night'. The plot involves the transportation of rare diamond ('The Star of Rhodesia') with Holmes overseeing its security. This film sees a similar diamond at the centre of its plot, 'The Star of Africa', which is due to be presented to Edward VIII.

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    There are some moderately convincing performances, like Joss Ackland as King Edward and Jenny Seagrove playing Lillie Langtree, and the exterior filming lifts things occasionally, but on the whole this is another slow moving affair with very poor dialogue and a horribly predictable narrative.

    The picture quality looks like mid-eighties television; a little washed out and lacking in contrast. It probably looked acceptable in its day (18 years ago after all) but looks less than impressive now.
    All in all, I can't help feeling that these will be something of a disappointment to any Holmes completists who haven't already seen them. (They have been issued previously on VHS).

    Not recommended.

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    Your Opinions and Comments

    I love these films that Christopher lee appeared in a marvellous Sherlock the Incident at Victoria falls reminded me of my late mother when she went there, media etc hated Christopher because he was a marvellous international celebrity well i dont he was a excellent hard working film star and he gets my thumbs up for his wonderful films and talents.
    posted by Mrs Gail J Gray on 5/1/2020 10:16