Cinema: The Adventure of the Misplaced Pastiche

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Extract from the posthumous papers of John H. Watson, M.D.:

Holmes put down his teacup, filled his pipe with shag and commenced:

"You have noted, Watson, in The Adventure of the Empty House, that after my disappearance, I wandered for two years throughout Tibet spending some time with the High Lama. Whilst in that country, I studied the space-time continuum and learned to forecast the future."


"Rudimentary, once you get the hang of it," he replied. Examining the dregs of his tea, he continued, "I see myself in the next century played by a number of actors on jiggling celluloid. Raymond Massey, Basil Rathbone—hello! what's this?—Here I am in 1970, in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes."

"I say, Holmes, am I . . .?"

"Yes, Watson, you are in it, portrayed at last as the oaken heart that you really are by Colin Blakely. I am impersonated by that busker of amiable distinction, Mr. Robert Stephens."

"Good show, Holmes," said I, reaching for the tantalus and the gasogene.

"Hardly, Watson. My Private Life is directed by one Billy Wilder, a Vi ennese. From such a man one has the right to expect either gothica, like Sun set Boulevard, or antic farce, such as Some Like It Hot. Instead, we are presented with what future critics will call "Some Like It Tepid," a listless ac count of ourselves v. the Kaiser's agents. Moreover, it portrays me as inept. A lady twists me 'round her finger." "Mmmmm."

"And my brother Mycroft catches me in an intellectual trap."

"Holmes, it is only a film."

"And you and I, as longtime room mates, are mistaken for — ah — consenting adults."

"Sacrilege! Infamy! Libel!" I slashed the teacup to the floor. "Good grief, Holmes! Even during those lonely days in Afghanistan, I never so much as glanced at a subaltern!"

"Quite,"said Holmes drily. "Personally, I admire parody — when it pinks the host, not the parasite. Wilder never understood his subjects well enough to satirize us. He is even off in his details — my brother, for instance, is played by the lean Christopher Lee. As you have noted in The Greek Interpreter, Mycroft is 'absolutely corpulent.' The entire effort may, I think, be ascribed to an insufficiency of imagination, not unlike Sir Henry Baskerville's."

"Too impudent," I said, staring at the scattered tea leaves.

"On the contrary, Watson. Not impudent enough. For me, the mystery contained in this opus has but one satisfactory solution. A 7% solution."

So saying, he reached for his sy ringe and his cocaine and was soon in a mist impenetrable even by pastiche. S.K.