Without a clue

I’ve always suspected Sherlock Holmes to be a bit of a fluke. His remark “You see but you do not observe” always rang a bit hollow with me. Sherlock hardly seemed to be a type of person who would have the patience to observe things.

He was a sort of fellow who at one instant was quietly playing a mournful tune on his violin and at another jumping on to his chemistry set trying to decipher the composition of tobacco ash. It all seemed a bit fantastic. Which is why I was very excited at the idea of watching without a clue, a documentary of sorts, exposing the truth behind Sherlock Holmes. Many layers of Holmes’ personality were revealed to me that helped me understand the great “detective” better.

  1. About his violin playing skills it was revealed that he did not know how to play violin at all. All he knew was how to move the bow in tune with the recording in the background.
  2. About his mastery of chemistry it was revealed that he had no mastery of chemistry at all. He only liked to mix colourful chemicals which sometimes caused an explosion.
  3. About his observational skills it was revealed that he didn’t like to observe anything except pretty ladies changing their stockings.

On the last point I would like to point out that Sherlock Holmes should not be seen as an old pervert. He was true a gentleman. Sure he had some flaws of character but no one is perfect. There were some pluses and some minuses but on the whole he came out to be a very sober sort of a fellow.

Most of the times that is. He liked to drink. Make no mistake about it. He used to enjoy his time at the bar where, after indulging in a few drinks at the expense of his friend Dr Watson, he went about dancing and pinching women on their bums. He wouldn’t normally behave in this way. But what was the poor man to do? Mrs Hudson, his landlady, had prohibited alcohol in her premises.

To his credit most of the time Mr Holmes was a very composed man and also a good story teller. Sometimes he got his facts mixed up but he never let minor inconsistencies get in the way of a gripping narrative. For example consider the “Adventure of the dancing Mamba” (or was it mambo? I’m not too sure about it) that he relates to his friends at the bar:-

“It was a night like any other, when suddenly a knock came at the door. I opened it, and there were these Manchurians, doing a rather festive Caribbean dance… “

Thinking was not really his speciality. He was however good actor and he usually let Watson “fill in the details” while he applied an artistic finishing touch to the explanation by ending it with “indeed”, “precisely” and “exactly”. It was quite absorbing to see Holmes perform these feats.

On an occasion entire village gathered around him when he began questioning an eye witness. Every inquiry was met with an enthusiastic applause from the crowd and a nervous wide eyed gulp by the witness. After he managed to elicit an appropriate response there was a even a procession to celebrate his victory.

That is not to say that Holmes was bad at deduction. He often performed quite admirably. For example when Ms. Leslie wonders who abducted her father Holmes promptly replies “Abductors”. One has to admit that the man was good thinking on his feet. Even though nature of his work demanded him to be on his knees, he never shrank from his duty which, I feel, is a mark of a true gentleman. Overall it could be said that Holmes had the makings of a good detective.

Holmes and Watson, they had their little tiffs from time to time. Once Watson even threw him out of his apartment. But the two were made for each other. Watson discovered that he can not really make a living as a “Crime Doctor” even though he was quite sharp. Similarly Holmes discovers that he was pretty much useless without his friend. They both needed each other.

While Sherlock and Watson from the main attraction in Without a clue there are many many things to like about in the movie. The charming villages of England and the old fashioned streets of 18th century London, bustling with activity, are beautifully depicted. I could almost smell the cake in the corner shop! Even though the film is mainly comical no effort was spared in making it as true to the original books as possible. The only place where it differs from the books is in the interpretation of Sherlock’s genius. While the original stories were happy to make him look like an incredibly clever detective, somehow I got the impression that the movie makers best understood Holmes as a bumbling buffoon. That is the effect of great literature I suppose. It attracts very contradictory but equally plausible explanations from people who care to read.

The supporting cast is hilarious. Inspector Lestrade, as expected, is portrayed as a very uptight police officer of the Scotland yard. Holmes never misses a chance to insult him. In one instance he makes him hold his overcoat and hat while he investigates the crime scene. Then there are the baker street irregulars, the miscreants of baker street who are employed by Holmes to spy for him. My favourite among the supporting cast was the, previously mentioned, poor villager who was absolutely terrified at the prospect of being interrogated by Holmes. For a bit of moral support he asks his wife to be present during the questioning to which she gladly agrees. She gives him a few suggestions like to “take off his hat” while Mr Holmes was questioning him and overall making sure that her husband was on his best behaviour. I must say she succeeded in her endeavour.

Michael Caine and Ben Kingsly play the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, respectively, to perfection. I however liked the portrayal of Mrs Hudson as a strict but caring landlady the best. All in all without a clue is, without a doubt, my favorite Sherlock Holmes movie.

The game is a foot?

clue review



  • On June 29, 2015