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I'm just watching anything with Christopher Lee in it now. What can I say? He has a nice face - and by that I don't just mean that I think he's good-looking (which, of course, I do), but also that because I have been watching his films since childhood, he is also simply very comforting and reassuring to have around on the screen. This is exactly what I need right now to de-stress in between all the conference prep stuff, so I have alerts set up in DigiGuide to tell me when he is on TV and my Sky box primed to record it all. Then, whenever I need an evening on the sofa staring at something mildly diverting, there he is - just waiting for me.

This was shown about a week ago on a channel called 'True Movies 2' - surely a misnomer, because this story at least did not in any way purport to be 'true'. It belongs to a TV mini-series called Sherlock Holmes: the Golden Years, for which the crack is that Holmes and Watson are a little advanced in years, but also now so famous that they are constantly mingling with the celebrities and royalty of the Edwardian era. Hence Lee was able to play Sherlock opposite Patrick Macnee as Watson, both at the age of 69, and there are lots of cameo roles for figures such as Edward VI, Theodore Roosevelt and Lillie Langtry. The mini-series consists of two 200-minute instalments in total - this one, and a predecessor called Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady, which I saw some years ago. I wasn't in the habit of writing up all the films I saw on LJ at that point, so there is no past review to link to, but I do remember that I didn't think it was very good. Unsurprisingly, the same applies here.

Both were made by a Euro-pudding-style consortium of British, Belgian, Luxembourgeois and Italian production companies (including - and I am not making this up - Silvio Berlusconi Communications), and filmed on location - in this case, mainly in Zimbabwe. A lot of money has clearly been spent on extras, costumes and expensive vehicles like steam-trains and paddle-launches, but alas the dialogue is lacklustre to the point of banality, the characters are so under-developed that it's impossible to understand their motivations, and the plot is just not Holmesian. Oh, there is some convoluted business about a fake diamond, a real diamond, various murders and a treasure map, but it has none of the precision of a proper Sherlock Holmes story - above all because of the under-development of the characters. For all that we have learnt about them by the end of the movie, any one of them could have turned out to have done what they did or been who they were, so that the eventual 'solution' seems utterly arbitrary.

That said, it isn't a complete waste of time, partly because the location scenery is nice and quite well-photographed (though at a level of definition which makes it all look slightly blurry on a modern TV), but mainly, of course, because Christopher Lee is in it. Even as Holmes, he doesn't exactly get scintillating dialogue, but he plays what he has with a sort of gentle, slightly-put-upon charm that makes his scenes worth watching. And the script does manage to serve up a couple of quite fun moments for him, like when he sits on the nose of a steam locomotive chatting to Theodore Roosevelt while it rattles through the Zimbabwean landscape, or when he has to shoot a pouncing lion on safari at more-or-less point-blank range because another member of the party has deliberately manufactured the attack in an attempt to kill him. Plus he has a nice old-married-couple vibe going on with Patrick Macnee's Watson, who annoys him by snoring in their shared hotel suite and whom Lee's Holmes at one point complains is "worse than a wife". I wouldn't quite go so far as to call it slashy, but there is a touch of the domesticated old Queens about them.

Overall verdict - just about worth it for Lee completists, and possibly for Holmes completists I suppose, but otherwise don't bother.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2014 10:27 am (UTC)
It sounds like good escapism to me - hope it gave you some peace from stressy stuff and it's all falling into place the way you want it to.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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