X-Files History & Piltdown-Man Fraud

DATELINE:  German View of England’s Finest!

dupes & dopes

Dupes & Dopes with Piltdown Man

You know this miniseries will be confused with the old crypto-investigators series with David Duchovny, but this German import felt no compunction about using the title and adding the word “X-Files History”. This is a German documentary that has only four episodes, and the one we sampled was juicy enough to stand alone.

One of the longest frauds perpetrated was by a gang of British scientists from 1912. Back then, methods were loose and discipline was nearly negligible. You could salt a dig site and no one would be the wiser.

A decade before Howard Carter in Egypt, there was Charles Dawson in England. He was no academic, no researcher, not a scholar, and only made his money through dubious means. He was born middle-class in Hastings.

Like many Brits of the era, he was offended that everyone rival to England was finding archaeolological gold. The United Kingdom was offended by being left in the dust of antiquity.

A couple of patriotic Englishmen may have started a cottage industry to find relics of the past. They, in fact, faked them brilliantly. The most brilliant and dubious was the Missing Link, corroborating Darwin’s theory of Ape Man descendants.

Dawson was a reprobate who lived in a fake castle, artificially aged and with a fantasy dungeon. He climbed the social ladder and married well, but his real hobby was aging bones to look like they were thousands of years old.

His greatest hoax was the find the Missing Link in England, not Africa, or China. As improbable as it seems, he had allies like Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the Lost World the same year Dawson found the Missing Link.

The Dyle fans went bonkers when it was suggested that Sherlock’s creator might have a part in the fraud.

Even if he didn’t conspire with John Bull and the bull crap, Doyle was a prime dupe. He was into everything, including the paranormal. So, it was not a far jump for him to buy into the Piltdown Man and give him credibility.

The ultimate payment for the fraud (which took 40 years to expose) was the chemicals Dawson used to provide an old patina to the bones. The heavy metal fumes killed him and his wife in mid-experiment, like a grotesque Sherlock Holmes story.

Life After Death Project, Volume 2

 DATELINE: More Forry, 4-E from Beyond!

paul davidsFilm Auteur et Artiste Paul Jeffrey Davids

Paul Davids is an interesting associate of the film business—from his days as a whiz kid for the American Film Institute and writing a documentary titled, She Dances Alone, about Kyra Nijinsky. He has also written a book called An Atheist in Heaven.

Lately, a self-professed disbeliever, he has become overwhelmed with messages from a dead friend, film aficionado Forrest J. Ackerman. The man who coined sci-fi befriended Davids—and won’t let go since his death in 2008.

Indeed, many friends of Ackerman have experienced great beyond moments that Harry Houdini promised but never delivered.

So enchanted with life after death, Paul Davids has directed a second film on the topic, Life After Death Project 2. It features selective interviews, with highly credible witnesses, and few of those “evil” demonic ghost stories. These are benign spirits who often visit family or friends.

It is our own experience with the ghosts who continue to populate our home on the property of the former owners who died on Titanic.

Davids interviews doctors, nurses, and some Hollywood people whom he obviously trusts. It is also spiced with experts grounded in science, not your local ghost hunters with empirical info.

The film is compelling, if only because of its preponderance of evidence. And, the director goes before the camera in the final sequences to follow up on his after death experiences with old friend F-4 Ackerman, noted sci-fi figure.

Of course, vanity knows no expense. Calling up expensive scientific tests likely was held under budget when friends in academia were summoned.  Several tests required high tech and hours of lab time—to prove there is unknown out there.

The odd experiences are not frightening, but compelling and beyond coincidental, as we can testify in our own experience. If you are a disbeliever in contact from beyond, you may not be convinced. If you have an open mind that dimensions exist at the tip of your nose, you may find this film more than haunting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man Who Murdered Sherlock?

 DATELINE:  Well, Attempted Murder…

 Watson, We Have a Problem Watson, We Have a Problem!

 

Well, you have a trollish documentary here: The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes turns out to be a misnomer, if not a distortion of logic. It’s elementary to point out this is a headline grabber, not a fact.

Actually, the man attempted murder—and had regrets about it. That man is, as everyone knows, the author Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a doctor in the vein of Watson.

This presentation tries to make a mountain out of a molehill of money. If Doyle chose not to ultimately murder his creation, the fictional detective, the motive was cash. Doyle was offered more moolah than Moriarty had in his crime network.

The film tries to do a hatchet psychology profile on the author, suggesting he had deep-rooted emotional problems: and he took it out on his punching bag, Sherlock.

We all have heard that Dr. Joseph Bell was the model for Sherlock—that medical professor that Doyle studied with. However, this film hints there was a second model for Sherlock, far more nefarious.

It sounds like they film producers can’t tell Moriarty from Mycroft. Dr. Bryan Waller was the other role model: an arrogant and brilliant man who called himself a “Consulting Pathologist.”  Now you’re cooking.

 

Waller was not someone Doyle liked. It seems he was Doyle’s mother’s lover! Yikes. No wonder she loved Sherlock and was dismayed when Conan Doyle killed him off in 1891.

Waller and Mother Doyle were neighbors on his estate where he set her up in a cottage. Now this is the kind of sleazy detail we love to report. TMZ clearly fell down on the job of reporting this.

However, the false charges against the author seem trumped up at best. There never was murder, only mysterious death that was explained years later when Sherlock showed up to collect his royalties.

Of the spate of Holmes documentaries, this one still managed to bemuse us and hold us rapt, no matter what its shortcomings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherlock v. Conan Doyle: Battle Royale

DATELINE: Who Hates Sherlock Holmes? The Author

doyle

If ever there was a legendary love/hate relationship, it was between Sherlock Holmes and the man who was his spiritual father and creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.

In a French documentary called Sherlock Holmes Against Conan Doyle, we have a battle on the order of a duel with the Napoleon of Crime and the Actors Who Took Him On.

Meant to be a money-making enterprise and a throwaway for a couple of stories, Holmes turned into Doyle’s Frankenstein Monster.

A marvelous and entertaining documentary gives us a blow-by-blow description of Doyle’s losing war with his temperamental genius/consulting detective.

You know who will win this fight. Holmes has survived with hundreds of movies and TV shows, depicted by a variety of actors with waspy disdain—from Rathbone to Jeremy Brett, to the modern versions like Cumberbatch. Thankfully, we never see Robert Downey in the role.

The little hour is chock full of clips of these Sherlocks making annotations on Conan Doyle, a man of some adventure and style himself. Often thought as a Watson type, Doyle was actually more of a Professor Challenger sort.

Killing Holmes was frowned upon even by Doyle’s mother, and money is the great resurrection device. After ten years, Doyle was forced to bring him back from the dead.

Based on an old professor who used to wow the med students with his erudition, Holmes was a clever creation who was enhanced by his narrative fellow, long-suffering and frequent punching bag named Dr. John H. Watson.

If you want to see fleeting glimpses of many classic Holmes portrayals, and rare clips of Doyle, you may enjoy the time, though it covers familiar territory.

 

Shameless PBS “Documentary” on Sherlock

 DATELINE: TV MASHUP

sherlocks

Though we basically enjoyed watching the two “episode” commercial for the PBS series Sherlock, the documentary by PBS called How Sherlock Changed the World is nothing more or less than an advertisement for the PBS series with Benedict Cumberbatch.

The so-called documentary used the theme from the recent series to discuss the Conan Doyle stories. Instead of relying on another PBS favorite, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett that more accurately made the point that Holmes was the first CSI.

The current state of documentaries has deteriorated another level with this hackneyed attempt to sell a series by presenting a film that explores the impact of Doyle’s work over 100 years ago.

The repetition of the message over two episodes may be a kind of cognitive device to make sure dumb PBS audiences understand the key point. Talk about misjudging your audience.

To watch some of the most successful criminologists of our time compliment Doyle and Sherlock is indeed heady stuff as they use modern cases to prove how advanced the Doyle stories were. It’s true that Holmes may have looked like sci-fi in his day with blood trace issues and chemical tests of evidence.

The best part of the shows included scenes of Doyle being interviewed and explaining his inspiration of a former professor at medical school (Dr. Joseph Bell) who even posed once in a deerstalker cap for a laugh.

We love Sherlock, and we love documentaries that are genuine. We don’t love being manipulated shamelessly.

How Sherlock Changed the World is pleasant, but obviously it is a commercial effort to publicize the Cumberbatch series–and that grates.

Holmes Returns to Baker Street in the 21st Century

DATELINE: SHERLOCK RETURNS

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Best Tandem Since Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke?

Not since Alfred Hitchcock decided to make seven-minute long trailers for Psycho and The Birds has there been a teasing preview like the BBC gives us. Its release on Christmas Eve is a sign that a bright star or two is overhead.

The new Sherlock Holmes (the modern one from England, not the bastardized Americanized one with the female Chinese Watson) will return shortly.

To whet the appetite of the devoted and obsessed, the producers that have not scrimped on clever and brilliantly deduced cases now bring superstars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman back as Holmes and Watson. When they started playing the roles three years ago, they were unknowns. Now they have starred in the biggest movies of the year (Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hobbit).

When last we saw Holmes, he was dead in a massive fall off a tall building. Watson was bereft. Thank heavens they aren’t consenting adults or Watson would be using the needle out of grief.

Lestrade (Rupert Graves) refuses to hear the outlandish speculation that Holmes has survived death and been in the Orient solving crimes, over in Egypt helping the Cairo authorities, and in Brussels sprouting his line of crime solution.

Yet, he brings a few bric-a-brac to his imbibing doctor friend in his newly refurbished digs. Among the artifacts of Holmes that Lestrade has saved is a DVD addressed to Watson. It cleverly teases the good doctor—and the audience.

We know from Arthur Conan Doyle that Holmes survived his mighty fall, but what magic trick he used this time is still an open question.

Many Happy Returns is a short film that will bring joy to the devotees and leave lesser lights in the dark.

 

 If you enjoy Ossurworld’s comments, you can read his full book of movie critiques in MOVIE MASHUP or in ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED. Both are available at Amazon.com.