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.

Arthur & George, Another Sherlock Team

DATELINE:  Redoubtable Arthur!

Arthur Clunes as Doyle.

Julian Barnes, the noteworthy novelist, wrote his story about Arthur Conan Doyle and his real-life attempt to solve a crime about an Indian solicitor in England who was falsely convicted of animal mutilation, mainly because of racial hatred and class prejudice.

Arthur & George is a strange misleading title for a story in which Dr. Doyle showed his deductive reasoning to illustrate who really were the brains behind Sherlock. If you don’t know ahead of time, the title might lead to some bad book judging from the cover alone. Of course, that was Julian Barnes’ motive.

Julian Barnes in his original novel did not let on who the two men were until the story was well underway. That is completely lost in the movie version, which plays on the connection between Doyle and Holmes.

There has been in recent years a spate of this biographical tales dramatized about the author/spiritualist/doctor.

The BBC drama has all the top-notch production values and impressive acting you might expect of Masterpiece Theatre. The film is three parts of 45 minutes, probably could have been a one-shot film.

Martin Clunes is all you would ask for in a Conan Doyle figure, which contrasts greatly with the Watson figure of Charles Edwards—as Woody, Doyle’s servant.

Indeed, Edwards played Doyle a decade earlier and was miscast, especially against the grand Ian Richardson as Dr. Joseph Bell, his mentor and medical professor in the series Murder Rooms.

Also in this miniseries is Art Malik, the last of the stars of the granddaddy of epic series, the Jewel in the Crown. He plays a minister from India who is the object of prejudice and small-minded hate in a rural English shire. His victim son is George (Arsher Ali), a myopic limping solicitor.

These semi-true stories fit perfectly into the Holmes canon. And, Clunes as Doyle/Holmes features all the brilliant logic and bombast of his literary figure. This Doyle is more active and physical than Holmes, but he fits the tale perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

Decree, Ripper, & Sherlock Holmes

DATELINE: Solid Sherlock Entry!

Mason & Plummer

Back in 1979, another tandem of Sherlock and Dr. Watson came in the form of Christopher Plummer and James Mason. You certainly could not find a better pedigree. The film is Murder by Decree, one of the lesser entries in the Holmes movies.

The film deserves a better fate than to be forgotten.

Director Bob Clark (of Porky’s and Christmas Story) surrounded them with a stellar cast of actors (Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Susan Clark, David Hemmings) and some bad set-up minatures of London.

You can expect superior performances—and the Holmes/Watson team is highly watchable, though we took umbrage with Holmes wearing his deerstalker hat in London and showing tears after interviewing a woman in a mad house.

The idea of Holmes chasing after Jack the Ripper is always a staple notion of Victorian crime, though it is not part of the original Conan Doyle canon. Indeed, it seems as if someone decided to plunk down Holmes in the middle of a serious murder conspiracy theory of 1979.

The idea that the Ripper was a member of the royal family has been floated in various situations, but never played for a fictional interpretation with these results.

Blame seems aimed at the usual suspects of conspiracy theory. The culprits here are, once again, freemasons of the 33rd degree who now seem to be covering up the Ripper (other tales make them complicit in UFOs and the Kennedy assassination). With all the top government officials involved, we wondered where Mycroft might be.

In this incarnation, the Ripper plot goes right to Queen Victoria and her Prime Minister. This story seems to support the notion that the monarchy of England deserves to be dismissed. Of course, it is too radical even for Americans.

The politics of religion dominates the story as Catholics and Jews are also made part of the investigation, albeit as victims of prejudice and hate.

 

Holmesian Logic Applied to the Las Vegas Shooter

DATELINE: The Third Man or Stephen Paddock?

Welles as Third Man Welles as Harry Lime

A few friends have asked us to apply Sherlockian logic to the Las Vegas shooter case that has baffled so many people—and confounded police.

Authorities find Stephen Paddock a conundrum that defies profiles created by criminologists.

We deduce, first of all, that investigators have been probing deeply beyond obvious facts. The obvious often is deceptive and will mislead investigators.

After all, it was Sherlock Holmes who famously said that you need to eliminate all the impossible factors—and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

We must ask ourselves, what is served by misery, violence, and fear?

Paddock’s actions justify a private revenge, making his secrets all the more imponderable.

So, what can we deduce about the man who had millions of dollars from life as a high roller? He was confident in the risks and his odds of beating them.

Paddock was a fugitive from the law of averages.

This was an angry man who felt disrespected by society, despite his success as a gambler. He felt his status as an older, white male gave him no advantage in terms of respectability. As the sands of life passed by, he was dissatisfied with his lot. He hated time. It was cheating him.

Over the years, he found the ease of beating the system put him above law and society. He won millions of dollars by playing games against those he felt were dolts of society.

Paddock mistrusted other people—and had no need for their assistance. He worked alone in his problem-solving. People were manipulated to serve his own goals.

Paddock was a coward. He could not face the people he loathed—those who found happiness in simple living. He preferred the edginess of risk-taking. Thus, like infamous fictional killer Harry Lime, he took up a high position to commit his crime.

If you recall, Lime looked down on people from the perspective of a Ferris-wheel where his victims looked like “dots.” The film is The Third Man. It was easy to dehumanize those who would die if they are merely squirming dots in a dark night.

The armaments at his crime scene suggest he knew this could be a “glorious” Waterloo for him, but the use of cameras indicate he planned for the possibility to beat the law of averages to kill again.

Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes

DATELINE:  No Deerstalker Here

Everett Holmes 

with Ian Hart as Watson.

We wondered back in 2004 why Rupert Everett’s fascinating take on Sherlock Holmes did not lead to a series. It was around the time that Jeremy Brett had passed on—and a new Holmes was certainly ripe for the picking.

Granada TV and PBS passed on Everett’s interpretation, much to our regret.

Instead, we had the dreadful Robert Downey movie version—and the marvelous updated Cumberbatch TV Sherlock.

Yet, for our money, the classic look and demeanor of Everett was delicious enough. In the Case of the Silk Stocking, not part of the canon, we had a story that was part of the problem. It dealt with sexual problems in the multiple murderer—and Holmes was brought up to date by Watson’s fiancée who now is an American psychologist.

The other problems with the story-line featured cruel mistreatment of women, largely teenage girls brutally killed in a fetish demeanor. Holmes does not help much with his misogynist attitudes that may be accurate, however off-putting. Indeed, when he intrudes on the bedroom one a teenage girl, it seems almost creepy.

On Rupert Everett these foibles work to the flaws of Sherlock.

Ian Hart’s Watson is a tad too smug, and Helen McCrory as his American spouse-to-be is too much a concession to political correctness.

We were delighted to see Michael Fassbender in an early, important role. But, the film belongs to Everett who makes Sherlock’s tired, drug-addled character quite intriguing. There is a sharp undercurrent of sexual malaise in this Holmes, played by the openly gay Everett.

What a shame he played the role only here. It’s a worthy effort in the history of Sherlock performances.

Sherlock Returns in Cumberbatch Form

DATELINE: 3 New Adventures

 mycroft

Sherlock’s Smarter Brother: Mark Gatsiss

The new, fourth season of Sherlock has reached American television at last with two bona fide movie stars as the main characters.

Martin Freeman’s Watson seems to be growing into the part more than ever. Benedict Cumberbatch has put his own indelible style on Holmes, but kept him true to form.

“The Six Thatchers” is a marvelous take on “The Six Napoleons,” keeping the sharp wit and moving with alacrity in its modern style. From the opening fast-paced, throwaway brilliance of Holmes, the TV movie travels into human tragedy, caused by Sherlock’s arrogant disregard for people.

Turning a flippant Holmes into an emotional rollercoaster rider both enhances Conan Doyle’s mythic figure and transforms the icon into something not usually seen on the small screen: intelligent, high-functioning sociopathic hero.

All the usual supporting characters are here again—from Mrs. Hudson to brother Mycroft and Inspector Lestrade. They cannot save Holmes from himself.

The modern world intrudes upon us with its technology. Highest levels of government are manipulating the media—and the worst evil of Holmes’s world, Moriarty, seems to be pulling the strings beyond life.

This season is extremely short—only three movie-length programs. However, there is nothing old deer-stalker hat here. To wait a few years between dollops of adventures seems well worth the prolonged, pregnant pause.

For those looking for something eventful in the vast wasteland of cable television and Golden Globe self-importance, the series written by Mark Gatsiss (Mycroft as actor) is brilliant and entertaining.

This Sherlock puts all the others, big and small screen, to utter shame.

 

Belichick is Football’s Napoleon

DATELINE:  Dropping a Dime on Bill

Belichick

Bill Belichick has been compared to Napoleon, but his real diabolical nature when it comes to football scandals truly makes him the “Napoleon of Crime.”

His detractors would say he lives on the edge of honesty, likely to be seduced by the twisting of rules. Like the first Napoleon of Crime, he never sullies his own hands in accomplishing his goals.

Of course, the first Napoleon of Crime was Sherlock Holmes’s truly despicable opponent, Professor Moriarty. Any resemblance between Bill Belichick and an academic is more acutely like Professor Kingsfield, of Paper Chase lore. Kingsfield notably told off students. “Here is a dime. Call your mother and tell her you will never be a real sports journalist.”

There is not a strategy, tactic, or moral beyond Belichick Napoleon when it comes to manipulating his players. They are mere clay to be molded to his laser beam focus. And this week, the nemesis of the Napoleon of Crime will be the amateur sleuthing brothers of prepubescent lore—the Ryan Brothers, or as their match in literary terms—the Hardy Boys.

It hardly seems fair to pit the disingenuous Hardy Boys against the nefarious Napoleon of Crime, but it does seem apt. Rex and Rob Ryan have a refreshing innocence when it comes to facing up to intimidation from Swami Belichick.

Some astute observers might say those Ryan Brothers are little David going up against Goliath.

If Belichick used his talents to do crime, he probably would abscond with the Mona Lisa out of the Louvre museum unimpeded. As it is, he will likely score 30 points unimpeded against the Ryan Boys.

Even without a QB, Belichick’s team will be formidable. After all, he is showing the world that he does not need Tom Brady to flatten the landscape in the AFC East.

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.