DATELINE: Unusual Paranormal Movie
In 1997 two films appeared about the same topic: Dr. Doyle’s belief in fairies through the medium of photography.
Two notable actors took on the role of Conan Doyle. In a small, but pivotal role in the first of the films came Edward Hardwicke, the ersatz latest Dr. Watson of the popular TV series with Jeremy Brett, and this time he played the same way as he did in his role as Watson.
The second film was on the tail end of one of the biggest movie stars, Peter O’Toole, a man who had played some greats in history (Henry II (in 2 movies Becket and Lion in Winter), as well as Lawrence of Arabia.
The era in which Photographing Fairies and Fairyland: A True Story is a world in which Houdini, Peter Pan, and Sherlock Holmes all exist simultaneously as the Zeitgeists of their age.
O’Toole met a match in performance when Harvey Keitel took on the role of Doyle’s friendly nemesis, Houdini. One of the interesting ironies is that this version of Conan Doyle looks more like Sherlock Holmes.
The producers of the film dropped the golden chance to play Arthur and Harry against each other with top-drawer actors.
To see O’Toole do this movie, it makes us wonder what kind of Holmes he could have given us were that role offered to him earlier in his career.
Both films actively produce fairies in flight about the countryside without any fear that they are mythic or exist only in the minds of children. A theory emerges from this film that creative people, like Conan Doyle, are receptive to the spirit and paranormal world unlike most pragmatic people.
Both films use Dr. Doyle in a small role as a believer in fairies and the occult, putting much focus on the children or younger character demographics aimed at the audience. According to the Doyle Encyclopedia,O’Toole lost out on two chances to star as Holmes (one in Billy Wilder’s comic version, the other playing off Laurence Olivier as Watson). O’Toole’s prickly personality may have done in these chances.
As for the plot of the movie at hand set in 1917, Fairyland: A True Story concerns two little girls who take pictures of fairies out in their wooded backyard. The photos may look fake to us, but there are believers—even among the rich, powerful, and famous.
Our personal concern was for the girls treated by early 20thcentury men—and by late 20thcentury filmmakers. Charles Sturridge directs, and he has deft ability that is most known to audiences who favor PBS and Masterpiece Theatre.
Already in contact with his dead son through a medium, and having a madman father who saw fairies, Conan Doyle is on the bandwagon when the pictures come to his attention.
Fairytale is an intriguing, fascinating fantasy movie that gives Peter O’Toole a chance to provide us with one last grand late career performance.