Reality Films

Title: Elementary My Dear Watson: The Man Behind Sherlock Holmes
Genre: Documentary, Mystery, Biography
Production Company: Reality Films

I came to this video knowing precious little about Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, except that Holmes is an antiquated super-sleuth with a trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson. So Philip Gardiner and Brian Allen’s Elementary My Dear Watson: The Man Behind Sherlock Holmes was a learning experience, for sure.

The film includes a good deal of b&w clips from the early days of cinema. It even shows Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, himself, talking about his craft and personal convictions.

It seems that Doyle turned to spiritualism in 1906 after the death of his wife, a personal tragedy followed by several others around the time of  World War I. Doyle became so engrossed in parapsychology that he went public with his views, this sometimes bringing him into conflict with his peers, including his personal friend, the skeptical magician and notorious escape artist Harry Houdini.

But Elementary My Dear Watson digs even deeper than this. The film outlines the entire inner/outer world that played on Doyle’s creative imagination, from his early days as a hesitant Catholic right up to his fascination with gnosticism and alchemy. And instead of painting a Doyle as an infallible hero, the documentary tells of his rank humiliation for endorsing Victorian-era fairy photos that proved to be hoaxes.

Such is the plight of pioneers willing to think different and take risks. Their flashy successes are just as visible as their, perhaps, unavoidable stumbles.

The DVD includes the bonus feature, The Madness of Sherlock Holmes, which presents another side to the central story. Serious fans will definitely want to watch both segments to get the whole picture on Doyle.

And what a fascinating picture it is. Travelers of the spirit will gain insight from this film’s journey into the past, as will laypersons, students and experts interested in the wily and whimsical world of Victorian history and culture.

Since first writing this review in 2009, Hollywood has given Holmes and his sidekick Watson a serious makeover… a testament to the lasting appeal of Doyle’s creative genius.