There’s something to be said for just staying indoors on a deathly cold weekend. I wish I’d done it.
But it wasn’t too bad, going out; not fatal, which is always a plus. On Saturday I went to Menard’s with the Giant Swede, because he needed some water filters for his fridge, and a fella can’t pass up pulse-pounding action like that. At the top of the long motorized ramp up to the second floor, I heard the piano player banging away at Broadway standards - and yes, the big hardware store has a guy playing a piano on the second floor to entertain the shoppers. By the time I got to the top he had begun “I’m Getting Married in the Morning,” so of course I had to sing along with as much gusto as is apt for a big-box hardware store.
KICK UP A RUMPUS BUT DON’T LOSE THE COMPASS AND GET ME TO THE CHURCH ON TAIME
I never know if the pianists like it when you sing along or hum or whistle, and yes I know I may have crossed a line with the “whistle” part, but I’m pretty good at whistling. It’s too bad no one ever wants to hear anyone else whistling. The other day while making dinner I was whistling along with the Hary Janos Suite, and my wife was simultaneously impressed that I knew the piece that just popped up on the radio, and dismayed that I had to demonstrate it in this fashion.
Hary Janos is one of those things everyone who knows classical music just knows. I knew it for decades before I knew what it was about, and once I learned the particulars it changed everything. Turns out the music is playing along with the titular character, who’s a big liar. So the music isn’t telling the truth about what it describes. Nifty trick.
Every culture has a Hary Janos. In Hungary, for example, they call him Hary Janos. (Sorry.) He’s a tale-spinner, an exaggerator, a liar.
The story is of a veteran hussar in the Austrian army in the first half of the 19th century who sits in the village inn regaling his listeners with fantastic tales of heroism (in the tradition of Miles Gloriosus). His supposed exploits include winning the heart of the Empress Marie Louise, the wife of Napoleon, and then single-handedly defeating Napoleon and his armies. Nevertheless, he finally renounces all riches in order to go back to his village with his sweetheart.
Miles who? This I never knew:
Miles Gloriosus (literally, "braggart-soldier", in Latin) is a stock character of a boastful soldier from the comic theatre of ancient Rome, and variations on this character have appeared in drama and fiction ever since.
Anyway, we found the water filters, then went to McDonald’s there was a sign that said
REFILLS LIMITED TO THIS VISIT
NO OUTSIDE CONTAINERS
Or words to that effect; the second line I can’t quite recall. In other words, you can’t bring your McDonald’s cup from last week and help yourself to a Coke. You can’t bring your own cup and fill it up. Seems reasonable. What amuses me: they have to preface it with SORRY. We apologize for clamping down and putting a buzzkill on your day, but sorry! We have to insist that you not wander in a fortnight after you bought a small fries and fill up your Big Gulp.
Back out into the cold; the Swede had to pick up his other car from the dealership, so I drove his home. Always fun to pull up alongside a guy at the stoplight in his own car, drop it in neutral and rev the engine like you want to race. Hey, it’s fun driving a car that’s not mine!
Then back to bed. Got up early because Wife was having a Hen Party over for breakfast, and I wanted to get A) coffee and B) out of the way. One of the attendees brought a box of Hipster Donuts, a dozen assorted from one of those artisanal places that makes astonishingly inedible donuts. Oh, they’re entirely edible, but after two bites, no. After two bites you feel so full the rest of the thing looks like a chocolate-infused neutron star. One of them had a thick topping of maple cream, and the chef had said “no decadent enough,” and put a piece of thick bacon on top of it. I would be ashamed of myself if I’d eaten an entire donut.
So I just had little slices of 12.
Well, why not?
Sherlock always has a place in the imagination, in every era. This feature will run all year, once a month - and most of it will concern the classics. The Rathbone-Bruce installments. No, they won't be reviews; we'll look for cliches, nice shots, noble speeches, the sad treatment of Watson, and the strange iterations of Sherlock you might not have seen.
Like this one. Unfortunately, the print seems to have been duplicated by projecting the worst copy they could find on a bed sheet, and having someone sketch it with pencils.
This is particularly unhelpful when you’re putting yourself in Sherlock’s slippers, attempting to match handwriting samples.
The print’s quality is lamentable, since it’s pretty good. Holmes (Arthur Wontner) is fussy, vain, and smart. He's shown here serenading his chemistry set:
Watson (Ian Hunter) is bluff and capable, but he needs better glue for his moustache:
The best part of the movie concerns to the two crooks what aims t’ get revenge fer the swindlin’ they received. One of them is a tattooed man; the other is a tattooed man tattooist. They quarrel a lot, and one of them seems to think it’s best to make your point by speaking directly to people’s crotches. Well, this will learn him:
Wooden leg! Right in the kisser! I love that shot.
Final check: Does Holmes say “elementary, my dear Watson”? Yes. And Watson says “elementary, my dear Holmes, elementary". The girl is saved, the villains defeated, and it’s over in 75 long minutes. Interesting end credits:
Let’s try another:
First I’ve ever seen a credit call someone “Late.” Doyle died five years before this was made, so it’s not as if he’d kicked during production.
“Visatone” was an early sound system, also known as “Marconi-Visatone.” I doubt Marconi was involved, since this was rather late in the game for him, and he was off in Italy working with the Fascists. (Fun fact: Marconi’s mother was the granddaughter of the founder of the Jameson Whiskey company, which really ought to make that beverage the official whiskey of radio.) Marconi’s name probably had a residual gee-whiz technological resonance, but it’s like Pixar introducing 3D holographic movies as the “Jobs-RealView System” in 2031 - time erodes the reputation of the techno-wizard if he hasn't doing anything lately, and Marconi hadn’t spent the 20s inventing new and exciting radio applications. We shall shine your shoes from the other side of the Atlantic, with radio! On the contrary.
As the movie begins, Holmes is retiring. Hanging up the deerstalker cap, putting away his fiddle, capping his hypo. His only regret is not catching Moriarty, but, ah well – say, there’s a knock at the door. Who could it be?
Moriarty! He’s dropped by to tell Sherlock that he’d better be serious about retiring, which promptly makes Sherlock reconsider his retirement. It’s like calling Marty McFly chicken.
Moriarty! He’s putting together a new criminal syndicate made up of those fearsome foreign agents, American coal miners. He’s in league with an American crime boss, but the Yank is terrified by Moriarty’s ability to enter and leave rooms without detection. Naturally, this makes Holmes suspicious. Don’t pull that old door-related criminal mastermind dodge on him.
Watching the movie is like chewing Arizona drywall. With a sawdust chaser. For the first half Holmes just walks around deducing.
While I was busy, the movie apparently went to America to show the origins of the American secret criminal society, which is known as “The Scowlers.” Very American. There’s a lengthy bar scene in which everyone has barely suppressed English accents, there aren’t any liquor bottles, and everyone drinks from pint glasses. A cop comes by, and introduces himself as “Mullman of Chicago Central, “ which is just how American police talk, of course. The flashback occupies 25 minutes of 75 minute film, completely derailing the story. Eventually Holmes returns and solves the crime - although he’d actually solved it to his own satisfaction 17 minutes into the movie.
# of “Dear Watson” s- 17
# of “Elementary, my Dear Watson” - at least one; soundtrack sounded like it was piped from a speaker buried under six feet of lard, so it was difficult to tell.
Here's some crackerjack Holmes-style deducing:
Let’s try another one.
The game is afoot, elementary, and so on. Brought to you by the reknowned and esteemed film company of - say, who?
C This film is frequently hampered by the fact that it’s horrible. Also, the soundtrack has decayed to the point where it sounds as if 600 bats are overhead fluttering their wings. I’d review the music, but there isn’t any.
Here’s part of the problem: the Watson.
Doesn’t look quite right, does he? No.
To make matters worse, this isn’t Watson. That’s Holmes.
You have a problem when you’re making a Sherlock Holmes movie and Holmes doesn’t look like Holmes. It’s like casting Sidney Greenstreet as James Bond and having him solve a drawing-room murder mystery.
It’s also not a good idea to have your Holmes reduced to taking out classified ads:
On the other hand, Holmes does stumble upon a devious plot: diseased pork cigars!
Obligatory moment of great acting:
Consider your buttons dashed, then.
NEXT TIME: the Sherlock we all know and love.