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Sherlockian Holmesian

Author: SherlockExtra - Translator: Revati

The Soviet series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant jewels in the crown commemorating the art of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the greatest detective of the world. It’s immensely tragic that this miracle slowly sinks into oblivion, and that when it was created it had to battle many prejudice. We love the series very much, and we’d like to think that it had been given a warm welcome, but that was not so. Once many people doubted that Russians will be able to make a series about the British detective – to treat him with respect, to be faithful to the Canon, to have the perfect actors, music and sets. Yet they did it. And what is more, they created such a work of art that became a fantastic part of the world of Sherlock Holmes, and also an outstanding piece of Soviet television making. Finally British critics went into rapture over it.

The faithfulness to Doyle can be noticed in the fact that the episodes follow the short stories. It is also proved by that the popular detective never judged people by their origins, and that Doyle wrote with appreciation about several nations. Sherlock Holmes is an international character, so no wonder that the Soviet series perfectly depicting him had been appreciated all over the world. Vasily Livanov became a Honorary Member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2006 for his portrayal of Holmes. His wax sculpture is exhibited in the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London. In 2007, the sculptures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, modelled after Livanov and his costar Vitaly Solomin were set in Moscow, in the neighbourhood of the Embassy of the United Kingdom.

Vasily Livanov Sherlock Holmes

Livanov’s sleuth implodes to the screen in the first episode (thanks to an explosion in which an experiment ends on). The creators later also aimed at making his turning up exciting (for example, he shoots at the wall of his room). But his gorgeous acting ability fascinates the viewers as well. He portrays a calm, responsible detective with brilliant logic, who likes laughing and jokes too. When dr. Watson moves in, he wants to get acquainted with the sleuth more, but because of some morbid things he thinks his flatmate is eccentric and odd – yet, Holmes finds him likeable right from the start. He tries to resolve the good doctor’s doubts. They find common interests: fencing, playing chess, contemplating on thinking. And when Watson becomes sad thinking about the death of his brother, Holmes keeps talking till the gloomy mood dissolves. The Russian detective matches to Doyle’s hero right from the start – he has insight into human nature and he’s a sympathetic gentleman. He is ready to dedicate his time, his humor and his understanding to his distrustful new acquaintance. He is fully aware of the fact that his world is still unfamiliar for Watson. So he even explains his deductions to him, just to gain the doctor’s trust, then to make friends with him. He builds up their acquaintance patiently and moderately. It’s impossible for true fans of the detective not to become attached to this Holmes. Both him and the good John Watson are wonderfully depicted.

Their cases are well-known from the Canon, and the series was shot in colour. Its further virtue is that the main characters are very handsome. We know that Doyle did not wanted his hero to be charming, but Sidney Paget’s illustrations also showed a good-looking man, and for his fans the sleuth is very attractive. Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin are two lovely gentlemen who are just brilliant in their roles. The other actors were also carefully chosen for their parts, and this adaptation introduces the most frightening Professor Moriarty. The title song is magnificent, and after a time it changes into a fast, terrifying part. This latter part works as background music when something scary happens, and it also indicates when the detective’s brain starts to work. The sets and costumes are perfect as well. Sherlock’s black pipe, the magnifying glass, his deerstalker, his black coat and the dark backgrounds all emphasize the serious profession of the sleuth, and they also show the gloomy mood of the Victorian era.

Unfortunately the series has a handicap: it is slow, compared to the brutal, fast thrillers and mystery stories of present-day television. We live in a cruel world, and some modern adaptations portray the detective as lacking almost all empathy. So it’s not sure that the Soviet series can be interesting for young people. In Hungary, for example, its broadcasting rights expired long ago and it has not been showed for decades, although a fantastic dubbed version was made with excellent Hungarian actors. That’s why young people in Hungary aren’t familiar with this adaptation. It is to be feared that the situation is similar in many other countries as well. Here at we show The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and dr. Watson via a YouTube video.

If you haven’t seen it yet, we highly recommend to dedicate your time and watch it, because you may find new favourites in Vasily Livanov’s Holmes and Vitaly Solomin’s Watson. The series will surely be a pleasure to anybody who likes cozy period films, relaxing family entertainment and the world famous literary character. Those who enjoyed the portrayals of Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing or Richard Roxburgh, will surely love this adaptation.

We could write many more praising words, but it would turn out to be little. As Russian director and screenwriter Andrei Tarkovsky said: ’Art symbolizes the meaning of our existence.’ So let this masterpiece speak for itself. We do hope it will be an outstanding experiment in many people’s lives.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson - THE FULL SERIES, ONLINE

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (russian)

We recommend a Youtube video.
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Interesting facts: Livanov was 44 years old when he played the detective, while, according to the Canon, Holmes was 27 when he first met dr. Watson.

Vasily Livanov - Honors and awards:

— People's Artist of the RSFSR (1988)
— 4th Class Order "For Merit to the Fatherland" (1 December 2005)
— "For substantial contribution to the development of national cinema".
Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (20 February 2006)
— "For service to the theatre and performing arts".
— Order of Honour (27 October 2016)
— "For great services in the development of national culture and arts, many years of fruitful activity".
Special Golden Eagle Award (27 January 2017)
— "For outstanding contribution to the history of Russian cinema".
[Source: Wikipedia]

Livanov became lifelong friends with his Watson and Rina Zelyonaya, who played Mrs. Hudson. The same thing happened with Jeremy Brett and both of his Watsons, David Burke and Edward Hardwicke. Jeremy was also fond of his Mrs. Hudson, Rosalie Williams, and he was really upset that she appeared only in a few times in the later episodes.

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