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Sherlock, stock and two smoking barrels.


GUY Ritchie's new movie, Sherlock Holmes, which is released across the Midlands on Boxing Day, isn't your traditional version of Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian sleuth.

For one thing, Sherlock, played by Robert Downey Jnr, insists on whipping his top off at every opportunity, then flexing his pecs, before battering some dashed bounder into shape with a stiff uppercut.

I don't recall Basil Rathbone doing that sort of thing. Basil seldom got his deerstalker grubby, and the closest he came to a stiff upper cut was flailing wildly on his trusty Stradivarius.

Guy must have spotted a side to Moriarty's nemesis few others have noticed. But isn't that what Guy's about? He also spotted a side to Madonna nobody else glimpsed - that she was marriage material.

On further consideration, I accept that Madonna's former slice of arm candy isn't the first fella to tinker with the Sherlock Holmes mythos.

Each generation has a Holmes to re-flect their times.

Hollywood dragged Rathbone's Sherlock away from the cobbled streets of Victorian London, then plonked him in the mid-twentieth century, where he was conscripted into the battle against the Nazis.

The permissive 1960s also had an ef-f fect on England's finest crime quasher.

At the end of that decade, Billy Wilder directed The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes, which made heavy hints about the relationship between the great detective and his trusty Watson.

Nope, it's clear that Guy Richie isn't the only film director to tinker with the terrific 'tec of Baker Street.

Even so, the idea of turning Sherlock into an action hero is a smart one.

Wouldn't it be great if more top directors and writers were willing to revisit musty old classics, and add bullets and bad-ass attitude? For instance...


"LORD, I'm frightfully tight," I sighed. "Really shouldn't quaff champagne for luncheon.

"Gives one the devil of a headache."

"Poppycock, Charles!" scolded Sebastian.

"I happen to live off nothing else.

Tried tap water once. Vile liquor.

"Tasted like the stale phlegm of a labouring man. So drink up, do.

"Then we can proceed to the next course: smoking our cigarettes in an insouciant manner."

My favourite university chum lay back in the grass, his charming head easing itself against our picnic hamper, which was filled with nothing but magnums of champers.

The Oxford meadow was exquisite in high summer. Spoiled only by the sight, in the middle-distance, of a workingclass family, wolfing down greasy sandwiches.

Why weren't they toiling down a darkened mine in the North, or playing fisticuffs in some backstreet hostelry? "You're perfectly right, old chap," I drawled to Sebastian. "It's just that father warned me he won't be replenishing my allowance until next term. And I'm already halfway to queer street."

"Are you really?" he replied, throwing me a keen look, as he eagerly pulled himself forward.

"Didn't realise you were that way inclined.

Isn't it getting frightfully hot, by the way? Fancy a bit of skinny dipping in that stream, yonder?" I glanced towards the luminous water - and noticed that something wasn't quite ship-shape.

"Good Lord, Sebastian!" I yelped. "Ninjas!" "Not at all," he replied. "Bollinger. Though I heartily concur that it could do with being a tad better chilled..."

"No, look! Over there! Crawling through the reeds towards us," I gasped. "Long, curved blades glinting in the sun."

"Long, curved blades, eh"? grinned Sebastian. "Perhaps we should make ourselves better acquainted..."

Those were the last words he ever uttered.

One of the ninjas - gracefully leaping through the air - lopped off Sebastian's magnificently aristocratic and classically proportioned head.

Blood spurted from the gaping neck wound. Blue blood, of course. There was nothing amiss in Sebastian Flyte's family tree.

A CHRISTMAS CARNAGE SCROOGE was armed: to begin with.

His memory was not weak in any way, manner or form.

Scrooge's memory, to be precise, was like his strong box, that lump of lead, kept behind lock and key in the counting house of Scrooge & Marley.

An impregnable lump of lead it was, held in the rusty embrace of winding chains, then peppered with padlocks of every make and variety.

Nothing escaped Scrooge's strong box. Not a penny farthing. Likewise his memory.

So it was that Scrooge remembered, full well, that one year past, three spirits - along with the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley - had visited his base abode.

Their intention? To make of him a better man.

That they had. The spirits persuaded Ebenezer Scrooge to give away much of his hard-earned fortune; to aid the weak and warped (by name, Bob Cratchet and Tiny Tim).

But no more - enough of such stuff and nonsense! Once more Scrooge had come to realise that charity was humbug.

It was very likely that the ghosts would return on this Christmas eve, to remind him of the error of his ways.

No matter. Scrooge was ready for them. From under his bed he snatched his Proton Pack gun, purchased from those clever Ghostbusters, then waved it round the room.

"Show yourselves, I dare ya!" he cackled. "Bring it on! Do ya feel lucky, ghosts, well do ya?!" Not a spirit did Scrooge spot. Clearly the ghosts had learned their lesson.


HOLMES SWEET HOLMES : Robert Downey Jnr flexes his abs and pecs as the detective.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2009
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