Friday, January 1, 2010

Sherlock Holmes Movie

I just watched the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, with Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role and Jude Law as Dr. Watson. Rather well done I thought, though of course imperfect, and not liable to satisfy the true acolytes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Still it was fun, and without too many glaring historical inconsistencies.

There were of course minor details to attack, such as the extreme youth of the actors portraying the roles of Irene Adler and the Home Secretary, etc. but these are pretty easily overlooked. On the other hand, there were a lot of nifty details to enjoy, enough to make a Steampunk drool.


Proceed at your own discretion

Of the minor details that I loved were, to begin with, the ramming prow of the ship under construction which Holmes and his adversary manage to send down the ways prematurely. Not everyone is aware of just how big those rams were and how prevalent they were in the warships of the day. As a negative, however, the Thames is not 300 feet deep at London (or anywhere else), and unlikely to swallow a major warship whole. But it was a cool effect anyway.

Other nice effects were all of the gadgets and steam engines tossed helter-skelter about the sets. The various steam-boats, factories and general filth from the coal-smoke were wonderful to behold. The filth of the populace was certainly fairly accurate as well, though perhaps not as enjoyable to see. Still, it wouldn't have looked right without them.

A couple of nice carriages, Paddy Wagons and even one nice little Hansom, though sadly it wasn't seen much. Black Friesians of course, but the one coach taking Holmes from the jail showed off it's dapple-grey horses nicely.

The guns. They were great! Not many of them, sad to say, but those which were shown were wonderful. Holmes, Watson and the Police all carried Webley "Royal Irish Constabulary" (AKA "RIC") revolvers, as well they should. They were extremely popular in Britain and the Colonies during the period between 1868 and the turn of the century, as they are compact, powerful and reliable firearms. Shooting the .450 round, they carry a punch, though perhaps not sufficient to stop a charging Pathan or Zulu. Thus the Army moved away from that cartridge in 1878, but it remained quite popular in civilian circles for many, many years. Oddly though, they had the American Ambassador carrying one as well. I should think that any God-fearing American ambassador, be it to the Court of St. James or Timbuktu, would carry a Colt or Smith and Wesson though. Oh well, details, details. I can't have everything.

On the other hand, there WAS one nice little American firearm shown. One of the "Bad Guys" had a gorgeous little Sharps 4-barreled derringer, carried in a wrist rig, that was pretty cool. Such "put it in your hand" devices were in fact known in the Victorian era, and the little 4-barreled derringers were certainly popular, so it's entirely possible to imagine the bad guy in London having such a thing. On the other hand. .30 rimfire is a rather pipsqueak of a round, and unlikely to pierce the skull of anything bigger than a rabbit, if that. But still, a cute little gun that was indeed popular at the time.

The film isn't a classic by any means, but well acted, and as far as the goodies in the background to get the juices flowing, wonderful. I think I'll buy it when it comes out on DVD!



Update Jan 15, 2010: Here's an excellent article on "The Guns of Sherlock Holmes"