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Screen + Sound + Stage
May 10, 2014

Brainy is the New Sexy

Text by Wyanet Vaz

There have been around 254 depictions of Baker Street’s high-functioning sociopath. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s figment of imagination comes to life, Verve picks 5 wicked incarnations.

  • Sherlock Holmes: Basil Rathbone
    Basil Rathbone
  • Sherlock Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch
    Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Sherlock Holmes: Jeremy Brett
    Jeremy Brett
  • Sherlock Holmes: Jonny Lee Miller
    Jonny Lee Miller
  • Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr.
    Robert Downey Jr.

Basil Rathbone
If you happen to visit Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub in south-west United States, you’ll see pictures of Rathbone everywhere. It’s another thing that the waitresses have no idea who he is. Considered the definitive screen Sherlock, Basil Rathbone created a classic profile of the sleuth with his oblong features, high forehead, and articulate scorn. He played the detective in 14 movies between 1939 and 1946, with Hound of the Baskervilles being his cinematic best. His lip-smacking rendition of: ‘Murder, my dear Watson. Refined, cold-blooded murder’, is what a Sherlock is made of.

Jeremy Brett
Dame Jean, Doyle’s daughter once sent Brett a note that read, ‘You are the Sherlock Holmes of my childhood.’ His role in the Granada TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes spanned across 42 productions from 1984 to 1994. The freezing demeanor, emotional remoteness and piercing diction make for an even crispier version of Cumberbatch. Adding humour to the cold fish, he crisply remarks, ‘And when did the first cloud cover the sun of this great happiness?’ Creepily enough, Jeremy Brett found it difficult to slip out of character, and was once quoted saying, ‘Holmes has become the dark side of the moon for me.’

Robert Downey Jr.
Perhaps not the most likely Sherlock! The 2009 Hollywood hit film, Sherlock Holmes, is not too conventional, but loaded with brawling action sequences. Downey Jr’s portrayal of the detective is part-ninja-part-James Bond, but surprisingly, it works. Brownie points to the blatant comedy, with his famous, ‘Madame, I need you to remain calm and trust me, I’m a professional. Beneath this pillow lies the key to my release.’ While the maid runs out in disgust, we certainly would’ve played that out differently.

Jonny Lee Miller
Sherlock’s a junkie and Watson’s a girl! Skeptical at first to watch such a modern re-invention of the iconic detective, we wondered how the NBC series would sustain itself in a BBC-dominated territory. Arrogant and condescending – but with the right amount of vulnerability – Jonny Lee Miller doesn’t disappoint. Lucy Liu as Holmes’ sidekick is no dampener, striking off Sherlock’s verbal blow with an, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Elementary is a good show, but if you’re a cut-throat Holmes fan you might find this Sherlock too emotional, too embittered, and too broken.

Benedict Cumberbatch
The big daddy of Sherlocks, Cumberbatch is so right for the part, it’s painful to watch someone else even try. With his startled meerkat-look in the on-going television series Sherlock, and cocky rendition of: ‘Don’t talk Anderson, you lower the IQ of the whole street’, he is cold and inhumanly calculating. Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson effortlessly brings out the best in our tech-friendly SH. We are assertive of a love affair here, albeit one that’s not expressible.

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