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Old May 17 2012, 02:45 PM   #1
Kirkman1987
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Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

We've had a few Sherlock Holmes threads recently, so I thought I would start a thread about a lesser known adaptation that happens to be a favorite of mine (The Brett series edges it out, but not by a considerable margin.)



Anyone here seen this series? It aired from 1979-1986 and had 11 episodes based on the more popular stories in the canon. It tended to be mostly faithful to the stories, although there were interesting deviations. It's notable for featuring one of the few filmed adaptations of A Study in Scarlet. Vasily Livanov makes an excellent Sherlock Holmes (in spite of not really being a physical match), and I think the music overall is the best that's ever been done for any Sherlock Holmes project. The main theme will be stuck in your head for days after watching.

I think my favorite episode is the first one, which shows us the meeting of Holmes and Watson with some interesting twists. The scene where Watson challenges Holmes to a Boxing match (thinking that Holmes is some type of master criminal) is classic, and I love that pictures of the Lon Chaney Phantom and the Fredrich March Mr. Hyde find themselves among Holmes' make-up reference photographs.
Any other fans here?

If you want to check it out, try this link

http://video.kylekeeton.com/2007/03/...watson-on.html
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Old May 17 2012, 04:40 PM   #2
Holdfast
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

I assume these aren't available commercially? Otherwise this subforum's mods might end up having to remove the link to the uploads.

I just watched first one, and really enjoyed it. Things that stood out positively (SPOILERS obviously, if you haven't watched it yet!):

- The cold/paranoid atmosphere to the first half, where Watson doesn't know what Holmes does. I can't help thinking that the atmosphere of Soviet Russia must have been an influence here, especially the scene with Watson and his friend in the park, seeing spies everywhere they looked (even including that perennial spy movie cliche of someone watching from behind a newspaper with holes in it).
- The way the relationship between Holmes & Watson instantly becomes lighter and warmer once Holmes reveals his profession.
- The music. Very different choices to the kinds of music that normally accompanies period adaptations of Holmes, and yet very appropriate. Talking of music, Watson's impromptu rendition of the Queen of the Night's aria at the very end made me laugh. Amusing little touch.
- Generally, they managed to get around not filming in England OK.
- Costumes were generally excellent.
- It's pretty faithful to the original stories in many respects.

If I was going to quibble, I'd question Watson's talking of psychology in quite the way he does. I can't recall exactly when the episode is set, but even accepting that Watson keeps up to date with the latest literature as he's a doctor, he's still probably about 10-20 years ahead of the actual historical curve by referring to psychologists as a profession in quite the psychoanalytic way he does.

I also think Baker Street looks a bit too narrow, but that's understandable given that that may just have been the one street set available to them in a backlot somewhere. The dodgy subtitles referring to the Speckled Band as a Motley Ribbon made me wince slightly, but again, understandable I suppose.

More fundamentally, I like Holmes to have a bit more energy when on a case, but it was within an acceptable range.

I'll definitely watch another couple of episodes when I get a chance; thanks again!
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Old May 17 2012, 04:57 PM   #3
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

For a moment I thought you were talking about a re-setting of Holmes' novels in Soviet Russia. You know, that could work too!
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Old May 17 2012, 06:20 PM   #4
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

Holdfast wrote: View Post
I assume these aren't available commercially? Otherwise this subforum's mods might end up having to remove the link to the uploads.

I just watched first one, and really enjoyed it. Things that stood out positively (SPOILERS obviously, if you haven't watched it yet!):

- The cold/paranoid atmosphere to the first half, where Watson doesn't know what Holmes does. I can't help thinking that the atmosphere of Soviet Russia must have been an influence here, especially the scene with Watson and his friend in the park, seeing spies everywhere they looked (even including that perennial spy movie cliche of someone watching from behind a newspaper with holes in it).
- The way the relationship between Holmes & Watson instantly becomes lighter and warmer once Holmes reveals his profession.
- The music. Very different choices to the kinds of music that normally accompanies period adaptations of Holmes, and yet very appropriate. Talking of music, Watson's impromptu rendition of the Queen of the Night's aria at the very end made me laugh. Amusing little touch.
- Generally, they managed to get around not filming in England OK.
- Costumes were generally excellent.
- It's pretty faithful to the original stories in many respects.

If I was going to quibble, I'd question Watson's talking of psychology in quite the way he does. I can't recall exactly when the episode is set, but even accepting that Watson keeps up to date with the latest literature as he's a doctor, he's still probably about 10-20 years ahead of the actual historical curve by referring to psychologists as a profession in quite the psychoanalytic way he does.

I also think Baker Street looks a bit too narrow, but that's understandable given that that may just have been the one street set available to them in a backlot somewhere. The dodgy subtitles referring to the Speckled Band as a Motley Ribbon made me wince slightly, but again, understandable I suppose.

More fundamentally, I like Holmes to have a bit more energy when on a case, but it was within an acceptable range.

I'll definitely watch another couple of episodes when I get a chance; thanks again!
I honestly have no idea what the legality of these films are, and am ok with the mods removing the link if they think that's for the best. I certainly don't want to cause trouble, and really hadn't considered it when posting. considering they were made under a state run production system, I have no idea if they fall under a Russian public domain of sorts or are actually now owned by someone. That said, there is a commercial release that I got through amazon, although they too don't illuminate much. it's a region 0 russian release. It says "From the collection of State Fund of TV and Radio, Russia". Really, I don't know the legal status.

That said, this is the DVD listing on Amazon.I hope this is not also a shady link I have the set and it appears very legit. It has some sort of holographic security sticker on the back of each case (similar to the protective measures on I.D. cards).

http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Sub...7272288&sr=8-1

Oh well, On to talking about the actual series, which is what this thread is supposed to be about. I agree with you that the political influence is clearly felt in the show. Note that Afghanistan is not clearly referenced, but refered to as "The East" (In 1979, Russia was fighting in Afghanistan). We also have Watson talking about how terrible it would be to live in a world where everyone only concerned himself with his job and didn't speak of poetry,art or politics. There might be a touch of criticism going on there. on the other hand, There is that line where Holmes claims that "We British are conservative, and any one not like us is easily taken for a rogue". If that's not fun enough, wait until you see their interpretation of American Henry Baskerville.

Last edited by Kirkman1987; May 17 2012 at 06:55 PM.
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Old May 17 2012, 06:38 PM   #5
Holdfast
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

^ I caught that Afghanistan wasn't mentioned, but didn't even think of the historial context! Of course, it makes sense.

OK, I'm officially hooked. I just watched their interpretation of A Study in Scarlet.

Thoughts (again, SPOILERS for those who haven't watched these yet):

- Loved that Mrs Hudson has picked up some deductive skills off Holmes and was able to explain to Watson how she knew the messenger was a former marines sergeant.
- The contrast in personality between off-case/on-case Holmes is much clearer in this episode and more to my liking.
- Study in Scarlet is a very difficult story to adapt given its original format, but I thought they did pretty well compressing Jefferson Hope's story and especially to avoid any flashbacks to Utah.
- I was fairly taken aback to see Lestrade's dog die, and the cold reactions of everyone thereafter. You just wouldn't see that in a Western production. It made sense (except for the lack of reaction from Lestrade who was clearly fond of the beast) and I'm not a massive animal lover anyway, but still!
- on a poltical note, I'm very surprised they got away with Holmes speech at the end about not taking some kinds of crime seriously and that prison makes many criminals worse. Not something you expect to hear from a rigorous police state!
- I'm growing to like the final scenes with Holmes & Watson in front of the fire; hope these continue in the rest of the episodes.
- Fun incidental music of the episode: Jefferson Hope's music theme when he's driving Drebber to the house.

Seriously, thanks for the heads-up on this series. Might try to catch another ep later this evening if I have time.
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Old May 17 2012, 06:55 PM   #6
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

Apparently there's another Russian Sherlock Holmes TV series coming out this year too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherloc...012_TV_Series)
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Old May 17 2012, 09:00 PM   #7
Kirkman1987
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

Here's a cool picture. This is a statue in Moscow dedicated to Holmes and specifically the series, built in 2007. Sitting there is Vasily Livanov wearing his OBE Medal (Order of The British Empire)


Last edited by Kirkman1987; May 17 2012 at 09:12 PM.
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Old May 18 2012, 01:46 AM   #8
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

^^ "Hey True Believers, wait until you see what Marvel has in store for you this summer! Excelsior!"
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Old May 18 2012, 01:54 AM   #9
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

I liked it. It's just too bad it's all in Russian.
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Old May 18 2012, 01:57 AM   #10
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

I have recently bought the Russian version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles". Excellent. Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin were very good as Holmes and Watson but I found the actor who played Henry Baskerville very annoying.

Russian London looked somewhat different though the inside of 221b Baker Street was very well done. When they got to the moors I don't think it looked that much like England but it didn't worry me.
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Old May 18 2012, 12:01 PM   #11
Kirkman1987
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

Miss Chicken wrote: View Post
I have recently bought the Russian version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles". Excellent. Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin were very good as Holmes and Watson but I found the actor who played Henry Baskerville very annoying.

Russian London looked somewhat different though the inside of 221b Baker Street was very well done. When they got to the moors I don't think it looked that much like England but it didn't worry me.
Henry Baskerville is pretty OTT in this series, I agree. It's overdone, although I admit I find the running gag about oatmeal pretty funny (I really hate oatmeal) I haven't rewatched that episode in a while, but didn't he wear a goofy cowboy hat or something at one point?

I'm a bit conflicted on The Russian Moriarty. He's a very menacing figure, but lacks the gentlemanly quality that he should have, at least on the surface. he's like a crazed universal horror character.

Holdfast, I know the Jefferson Hope music you are talking about. It's interesting isn't it? It sounds almost like a piece from a Leone western.
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Old May 19 2012, 02:14 AM   #12
Miss Chicken
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

I can't quite remember the hat, I have lent the movie to a friend so I can't check at the moment.

I do remember that he arrived at 221b Baker Street wearing a very, very thick fur coat (that made him look huge) and carrying his saddle.
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Old May 19 2012, 05:03 PM   #13
Holdfast
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

Kirkman1987 wrote: View Post
Here's a cool picture. This is a statue in Moscow dedicated to Holmes and specifically the series, built in 2007. Sitting there is Vasily Livanov wearing his OBE Medal (Order of The British Empire)
That's a really great pic & what a lovely idea for a statue as google tells me it was made to stand outside the British Embassy in Moscow!

I just watched the next 3 in the series. Not as good as the first couple of episodes, but engaging enough.

The start of the Milverton episode was good; the Diogenes Club and Mycroft were well done. But once things progressed onto the attempted burglary, the sheer number of mistakes Holmes & Watson made felt a let-down. However, I did like the way they tied Milverton to Moriarty at the end.

The Moriarty episode itself was fine, even if as you say, Moriarty felt too much like a poor man's Dracula. I would have like a bit more intellectual sparring between he and Holmes before the end.

The Moran episode was quite enjoyable and probably my favourite of the three. Watson's comic bumbling around in disguise in the first half was nicely counterpointed by the grief he and Mrs Hudson quietly show regarding Holmes' apparent demise. And the Adair storyline was neatly set up in the previous episode, so didn't need lengthy explanation. The taking of Moran in the empty house was well done. The Russian Holmes is more obviously emotionally demonstrative in this episode than I like my Holmes to be, but I suppose even the great detective can be permitted a little display of emotion at the affection of his friends occasionally!

Kirkman1987 wrote: View Post
Holdfast, I know the Jefferson Hope music you are talking about. It's interesting isn't it? It sounds almost like a piece from a Leone western.
Yes, exactly so, that's what I thought was deliciously right about it, considering the revenge theme of the story.
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Old May 19 2012, 05:37 PM   #14
Kirkman1987
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Re: Soviet Sherlock Holmes TV Series

Holdfast wrote: View Post
Kirkman1987 wrote: View Post
Here's a cool picture. This is a statue in Moscow dedicated to Holmes and specifically the series, built in 2007. Sitting there is Vasily Livanov wearing his OBE Medal (Order of The British Empire)
That's a really great pic & what a lovely idea for a statue as google tells me it was made to stand outside the British Embassy in Moscow!

I just watched the next 3 in the series. Not as good as the first couple of episodes, but engaging enough.

The start of the Milverton episode was good; the Diogenes Club and Mycroft were well done. But once things progressed onto the attempted burglary, the sheer number of mistakes Holmes & Watson made felt a let-down. However, I did like the way they tied Milverton to Moriarty at the end.

The Moriarty episode itself was fine, even if as you say, Moriarty felt too much like a poor man's Dracula. I would have like a bit more intellectual sparring between he and Holmes before the end.

The Moran episode was quite enjoyable and probably my favourite of the three. Watson's comic bumbling around in disguise in the first half was nicely counterpointed by the grief he and Mrs Hudson quietly show regarding Holmes' apparent demise. And the Adair storyline was neatly set up in the previous episode, so didn't need lengthy explanation. The taking of Moran in the empty house was well done. The Russian Holmes is more obviously emotionally demonstrative in this episode than I like my Holmes to be, but I suppose even the great detective can be permitted a little display of emotion at the affection of his friends occasionally!

Kirkman1987 wrote: View Post
Holdfast, I know the Jefferson Hope music you are talking about. It's interesting isn't it? It sounds almost like a piece from a Leone western.
Yes, exactly so, that's what I thought was deliciously right about it, considering the revenge theme of the story.
I agree that the Moran episode is the best of this bunch. I don't think any episodes are quite as good as the first two. The quality of these three you watched is about par for the series from here out.

I'm generally ok with Livanov's more emotional Holmes, although I can certainly understand the other side of the coin. It's a touching moment, if not exactly out of Doyle. Livanov also wears glasses in a few scenes for some reason.

What did you think of that scene where Holmes Karate Chopped Moriarty out of nowhere in the gaming hall? As you say, I would have preferred a little more intellectual sparring, although I like the idea of a Holmes able to strike with precision like that when the opportunity presents itself. I was pretty taken aback the first time I saw that.

Speaking of Dracula, I always thought that it would have been awesome if back in the 30's Universal had kept the Victorian setting for the Rathbone films and used Bela Lugosi as Moriarty. Sure he had that Hungarian accent, but he would have perfectly displayed that sinister intelligence of the character. Lugosi would have been a great rival to Rathbone's Holmes.
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