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Parenthetical Holmesian miscellany
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As a follow-up to the Sherlock Holmes movie discussion entry, I feel like I should clarify that I don't actually think Holmes and Watson were doing it although I can absolutely see why you might. (And the movie might agree with you. Commenters pointed out that there were lines from Irene in the trailer ("They've been flirting for hours" and "Will you two just kiss and make up?") that got cut from the movie, as well as a line in the original script where Mary tells Holmes that Watson's "heart is generous. He has room for both of us." Also, Robert Downey Jr. apparently pissed off Doyle's estate by suggesting that Holmes might be "a very butch homosexual.") I am simply saying that they are in love, love, looooooove. It is not for me to specify the nature of that love; I can only point to the GIGANTIC BLATANT IMMENSITY of it.

(I should also note that the words "Satan," "Satanic," and "devil" are never mentioned in the movie, as far as I remember. [Spoilers?] The secret society in the movie seems to resemble the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn a lot, and there's some arcane (and historically inspired) ooga-booga to it, but the implication is that it's not evil per se; it's Lord Blackwood who wants to pervert its purpose. I wasn't terribly clear about that, and after I thought about it, I realized that I might not have even described Blackwood's activities accurately, either--but the movie opening with an attempted human sacrifice made me go, "Oh, Hollywood Satanism, sure." So that's where that came from.)

I also spent a good bit of yesterday afternoon rereading the first two Holmes novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four. The former is interesting because it shows you how Holmes and Watson meet, but while the character of Sherlock Holmes is pretty fully realized from the first page, he's initially written as being a bit naive about anything not helpful to detecting, such as, you know, the fact that the sun is the center of the solar system (I am not making this up). I think Doyle eventually realized that this didn't make sense, because everything is potentially helpful to detecting, and so by the second novel (the stories didn't appear until afterward), Holmes is far better read and knowledgeable about life in general. If you really want a classic, full-blown Holmes adventure, I would recommend that second novel. It doesn't stop dead in the middle for a huge third-person account of someone else's lovelorn Mormon revenge drama, of all things (special guest appearance by Evil Brigham Young!); you see a lot of classic Holmesian elements (the disguise, the hapless police inspectors, the Baker Street Irregulars, the cocaine); and it shows you how Watson actually met Mary Morstan. There are, however... well, there are some facepalm-inducing racial issues with one of the villains (and that's not even getting into the treatment of the aforementioned Mormons), which is why I suggest reading an annotated version (I have the Klinger, haven't read the Baring-Gould) to offset the Wow, Victorians Were Offensive! And How! aspect of it.

Of course, The Hound of the Baskervilles is also a classic, but Holmes is offscreen (offpage?) for a bit of it. The Sign of the Four is more of an adventure (also, the movie seems to have borrowed a number of little things from this one), whereas The Hound is more of a slow-burning atmospheric suspense kind of thing. Also: less racist. Yay!

I feel the question coming on, so: if you just want some short stories to read, I would definitely recommend "A Scandal in Bohemia" (the Irene Adler story), "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" ("Terror! SHEER TERROR!"), "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" (the Granada episode starred a young Natasha Richardson, IIRC), "The Naval Treaty," and "The Adventure of the Second Stain," although the more I look through the list of stories, the more I want to recommend, so I'll stop there. (Really, pretty much anything in that first collection is good.) I would highly avoid the last collection of stories, for reasons explained here ("JELLYFISH!!!"). Although, that is the entry I pulled the Epic Love excerpt from, so maybe you will want to read "The Three Garridebs," I don't know.

Back to the movie, I think I have figured out what the Significant Crow was about. See, that was the part that upset me, because the Significant Crow that followed Blackwood and his misdeeds around seemed to indicate that all the supernatural stuff was for real; that's why I was all like NOOOOOO THIS IS NOT HOW YOU DO IT WHYYYYYYY. But then, at the end [MASSIVE SPOILER], Blackwood gets ironically, "accidentally" hanged, Significant Crow is significant, etc. So what I think was actually going on was that Blackwood really was messing with things he either didn't understand or couldn't handle--if only by taking them in vain, as it were, and pretending to use them; maybe it was related to the "actual" secret society and its arcane powers--and the Significant Crow was following him around observing all this, as an emissary of Things He Should Not Have Messed With, and thus, at the end, was present for his judgment, and might have actually caused it. I mean, not that the crow literally messed with bridgey-whatever stuff, but that it was the embodiment of the powers that had been biding their time and were finally like, "Yeah, you're done now."


Heh, true, there was a bit of an implication there. By the way, I think the bird was a raven (which are close relatives of crows), because it was Tower Bridge, which is famous for its ravens.

The earliest known reference to a tower raven is a picture in the newspaper The Pictorial World in 1885. This and scattered subsequent references to the tower ravens, both literary and visual, which appear in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century place them near the monument commemorating those beheaded at the tower, popularly known as the “scaffold.” This strongly suggests that the ravens, which are notorious for gathering at gallows, were originally used to dramatize tales of imprisonment and execution at the tower told by the Yeomen Warders to tourists.



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I just came back from seeing it again, and took my mother this time. We're in the car afterward, and she says--in the most positive way possible, let me assure you--"Were they supposed to be gay?"

Last time I was in England (this summer - wedding on Husband's side) I finally went to the tower of london. Just to say I've been to the tower of London. (same reason I went to stonehenge. that is a hell of a lot of $ to pay to walk around some rocks you're not even allowed near, let me tell you)

The ravens there are probably some of the best kept and spoiled birds in the world. And rather cocky about it too ;) Which is why the raven appearing to me probably just went 'ha! tower bridge ravens legend!' vs 'ooh satanic evil crow'. Hadn't even thought about that.

I also am having to reread my giant compendium of Holmes stories. Which really, I think, shows how good the movie is - good enough that it drives me to reading. Not that much is needed to drive me to reading :)

Got to say, Stonehenge is very much a 'Is that it'. Avebury is a far better place to go ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avebury ) as (a) you can go up to the stones and (b) a Stone Circle complex so big you can build a village _inside_ it? What's not to like?.

In regard to the Holmes novels, iirc, those first 2 novels were when Watson's wound migrated!

I had pretty much the same interpretation of the crow - I think it makes for a juicier story if you look at it in that light. But then I am one of those YAY MORE SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS PLEASE people, so.

Ravens do represent death (bad omens in general) so I'm sure the raven/crow/whatever-black-bird-they-were-going-for was used as a symbol that someone was going to die. That's what I took from it, at least.

I've never read Sherlock Holmes before (hangs head in shame) but after checking out the annotated versions you linked to, they have gone on my wish list.

That's how I took it as well; not necessarily more significant than something the filmmakers put in as an omen that Someone Is Going To Die In The Next Scene (and it happened to work in well with the Tower bit, too).

the character of Sherlock Holmes is pretty fully realized from the first page, he's initially written as being a bit naive about anything not helpful to detecting, such as, you know, the fact that the sun is the center of the solar system (I am not making this up).

This is my very favorite Holmes quote. IIRC he says he deliberately forgets any info not of use to his purpose so as not to take up extra room in his brain. Watson makes it clear that he (and by extension all normal, rational scientific people) think this is just plain frelling bonkers. Holmes is a scientist, but a very crazy one; a monomaniac. Which is why he is so obsessed with Irene Adler and Moriarty--the only two people as smart as him (excepting the mysterious and even more insane Mycroft).

Holmes's monomania is both what makes him able to solve the crimes and completely incapable of carrying out a successful emotional relationship: He doesn't have room for one in his ... um, brain. However much he and Watson may feel for each other, it's a doomed, unbalanced friendship.

I've never read any of the Holmes novels/stories. After I saw the movie, I decided I'd give them a shot and I found this on Amazon:


I thought it was brand spankin' new but the Amazon page says 1986 *shrug* But you can't beat $10 :) I can't wait til it comes in. I want to read it before I see the movie again.

I just don't get the article about the threat to the future of the sequel (please no! need MORE!). Like, I get it, I just don't get it. RDJ never comes out and says that Holmes and Watson are getting down...It was a joke and the estate chick needs to lighten up. Holmes and Watson are like JD and Turk...or House and Wilson (ha!).

By the way, the reason I know about the Tower ravens is because dduane used them as characters in her second time-traveling wizard cat novel...and she used a young Conan Doyle in the same book.

My favorite story is "Silver Blaze," I think.

I like your Crow retcon, but I think you're giving the movie more credit than it deserves. I think Ritchie just didn't care--the Crow was cool, and that's all there was to it. Unless, of course, it was an elaborate hommage to Jason Lee.

I had kind of hoped that this here song would play over the closing credits:

I looove the Speckled Band! It was the first Holmes story I ever read, or saw on television. I was just a little kid, so I was freaked right out over the big reveal.

I like this interpretation of the Significant Crow. I'll confess to not giving it much thought during the movie other than, "unh, Lord Blackwood approacheth?" and then tied it to how crows are meant to be couriers of the dead, and since Blackwood was meant to be dead, it'd make sense that a crow followed him around everywhere and was biding its time until he was dead (for reals) and it could finish its task.

Um, me too. Speckled Band was randomly included in a non-Holmes collection of short stories for children I had, and it majorly freaked me out at the age of eight or nine. (Of all the Holmes stories to include...?) I thought I was going to die of sheer terror, myself.

Have you read Shadows Over Baker Street?

I love that collection. Holmes + Lovecraft = sheer brilliance.

It doesn't stop dead in the middle for a huge third-person account of someone else's lovelorn Mormon revenge drama, of all things (special guest appearance by Evil Brigham Young!)

This intrigues me, because just yesterday a friend told me she was reading Verne's Around the World in 80 Days and randomly in the middle of the book one of the characters listens to a spiel by a Mormon missionary and then gets up and walks out. Was there some Victorian meme about mocking Mormons that I'm not getting?

Hm, maybe the Significant Crow was just a bit of movie misdirection, to give the audience more reason to suspect supernatural doings, but in the end it's just a raven on a bridge?

This movie was pretty much my first exposure to Holmes (aside from Data in the holodeck from TNG) but I'm definitely going to read at least one story now, although I'll probably end up imagining RDJ as Holmes while I read... which... not a bad thing, I guess!

It was the whole theocracy thing. Utah wasn't a state: it was an alternative government. There were continual fears that they would amass an army and attack. Also, the polygamy thing freaked people out in a big way. Giving it up was a condition of Utah becoming a state.

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At one point in the movie Holmes mutters about Blackwood (I'm hugely paraphrasing here) "You'd better hope all this [magic stuff] is [bullshit], Blackwood, because if it's real you're in a world of hurt."

That's a terrible paraphrase, I know. But what I'm driving at is the movie (and Holmes) are completely agnostic about ooga booga; but there's the sense that there may be something out there (crow! karma!) that Blackwood kens not the power of -- he's agnostic, too, remember. And the Raven of Ending is there to maybe hint that Blackwood courted his own death by employing those particular methods in his quest for world domination.

My take, fwiw.

If anyone (including you) is looking for Holmes for commuting and other long journeys, the Sherlock Holmes society has radio plays to download, including the Speckled Band and the one where Holmes fights the Klu Klux Klan. Because British racism and American racism were totes different, honest.

(ETA - having said that, the Brits really did freak out at the fact the US still had slavery for so long. Dickens was very "land of the free and the brave and the huh?")

Edited at 2010-01-03 07:25 pm (UTC)

The Dancing Men.

And it's not precisely fighting the Klan, it's more someone being murdered because he _hadn't_ been involved with the Klan, and therefore didn't know the significance.

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Not that it should affect the discussion, but the dark bird in the movie was a Crow, not a Raven. I amused myself by thinking that if a bunch of such birds showed up, it'd be a full murder of crows. Appropriate.



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