Sherlock Holmes: The Last Vampyre (1992)

June 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

In a small village, a sophisticated local man is either a vampire or an emotionally distant eccentric with ancestors accused of vampirism. Holmes is called in to investigate incidents that might be crimes and might only be local hysteria.

This is an intriguing Sherlock Holmes story, one with solid production values and acting, but it also isn’t a typical Holmes story and seems often misunderstood. One online review says Jeremy Brett (as Holmes) is “waxy, bloated and speaking in nasal murmur,” but this is simply untrue. Fans of Brett will recognize he isn’t perfectly well, but he’s still a magnificent actor and very much in control of the role. Someone else complains of “all the padding inserted” to make the Conan Doyle short story into a film, and while there are a few detours in the plot, they serve to keep the viewer guessing and illustrate that the frantic locals exacerbate the problem, if they don’t create it completely. Elsewhere, someone complains Holmes does very little investigating, and I agree this isnt a typical Holmes story, but by the end of it, Holmes is explaining how a paralyzed dog fits into the picture, along with other details. Finally, someone even complains the title “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” shouldn’t have been changed to “The Last Vampyre.”

Having read all this moaning, I braced myself for the worst of the five feature-length stories with Brett as Holmes, but was pleasantly surprised. Roy Marsden (as Stockton, accused of being a vampire) is great, walking the line perfectly and preserving the mystery, even as the story and characters discuss both science and superstition. The idea Stockton may or may not be a vampire is still nicely balanced when Holmes meets him, and watching these two characters chatting cautiously is a joy when they’re played by such marvelous, understated actors.

From there, of course the story goes on to reveal its secrets, but I’m not telling them here. Instead, I’m happy to say all five films with the excellent Jeremy Brett as Holmes are well worth seeing, even if they aren’t all necessarily completely faithful to the Conan Doyle stories.

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