A Chat with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (“Sherlock”)

The characters of Sherlock Holmes and his trusty associate Dr. John Watson have been interpreted every which way but loose since their original inception in 1887, courtesy of Arthur Conan Doyle, and with Guy Ritchie’s take on the Holmes mythos having only just hit theaters last year, it would seem to be a bit premature to put Baker Street’s most famous detective onto the small screen as well…but, then, “Sherlock” – premiering here in the States as part of PBS’s “Masterpiece” on Sunday, Oct. 24, bears precious little resemblance to Robert Downey, Jr.’s big-screen adventure. This is a modern-day look at the characters and their mythology, and for those who might be skeptical that they can successfully survive such a transformation, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve only seen a portion of the first episode (“A Study in Pink”) thus far, but it was more than enough to sell me on tuning in on the 24th. Mind you, I also had the advantage of sitting down with the series’ executive producers, Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis, whose enthusiasm for the project proved decidedly contagious.

Bullz-Eye: Steven, you and I met in passing a few years ago at the “Jekyll” panel…a show which I loved, by the way…

Steven Moffat: Oh, thank you. Oh, good!

BE: …and, Mark, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now know that you made an appearance in that series.

Mark Gatiss: That’s right!

BE: So, Steven, what do you enjoy about the challenge of contemporizing British icons? I mean, you can argue that Dr. Jekyll is an icon of sorts, but then you’ve got Doctor Who, and now Sherlock Holmes.

SM: Well, being honest, for me, there isn’t really…it looks like there’s a narrative through that, that I’m trolling for things, but I’m really, really not. “Jekyll” was a totally different experience to this, the one big difference being that it was a sequel set in the modern day. And, really, it looks as if I’ve just been doing that, but, really, seriously, it wasn’t that. This is a completely different experience, and the challenge of this…well, they’re just joys, aren’t they?

MG: It’s true, yeah.

SM: There are so many things that…well, once having started talking about this, we realized it was going to work, because he can still be coming home from Afghanistan, a flat share is what we now call sharing rooms, we’ve gone back to sending telegrams by sending texts…it’s just perfect.

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Another TCM Film Fest movie/moment problem solution

More complaining — but it’s about the good kind of “embarrassment of riches” problem here at TCM Fest. You see, because it’s on opposite Donald Bogle’s Out of Circulation Cartoons presentation, I’m going to have to miss a true bit of cinema comfort food for yours truly, 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Of course, especially considering the much higher than usual $20 ticket price, I’m lucky to be able to go to these on a press pass.

Still, if time simply won’t allow me to see the film version tonight, at least I have this five second version of the classic, which really does underline what’s to love about the Warner Brothers’ Technicolor classic.

Okay, so it’s more than five seconds. And (spoiler arlert), here’s the Lego version of the climactic sword fight between the heroic Robin (Errol Flynn) and the villainous Sir Guy of Gisborne (Basil Rathbone). Even in Legos, it’s still apparent that Rathbone is actually the better swordsman.

  

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Traditional pirates

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Today is also the first full day of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). That can mean only thing — this weekend we’ll be pairing clips from classic pirate movies with scenes from 1971’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” Norman Jewison’s film version of the gigantically successful Broadway musical about ordinary Jews living in pre-revolutionary Czarist Russia. That makes sense, right?

So, we begin with with this clip from 1935’s “Captain Blood” starring Errol Flynn as a good guy doctor forced into the life of a buccaneer. In this scene, Flynn begins his habit of killing character acting great Basil Rathbone in swordfights. The irony was that Rathbone was actually an extraordinarily good fencer, far better than Flynn. Still, can’t let the hawk-nosed baddie kill the handsome hero, right?

This longish sequence features some really great pirate (over) acting from Rathbone, some nice moments between Flynn and gorgeous female lead Olivia de Haviland and stunning location photography (actually Laguna Beach in South Orange County). Still, if you want to cut straight to the sword fight — which is pretty cool — it starts at about 5:45.

And now, Tevye the Milkman (Israel’s Topol) explains it all for you.

  

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