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2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Last Vampyre, The
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by Jay Seaver

"So much for Holmes keeping his feet firmly in the real world."
2 stars

Creating a long series of well-regarded, faithful adaptations must be a very mixed blessing. All artists enjoy good reviews, but writers, directors, and actors are all creative people, and it must be a somewhat strange thing to be praised on the basis of apparently not bringing anything new to a work, but merely transcribing it. That certainly seems to have been the case for the producers of Granada's series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations, as by the end they were experimenting with more freely adapting the stories - not always to good effect.

A country vicar (Maurice Denham) is referred to Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) by his solicitors, who are not sure how to handle his inquiries about vampirism in his parish. The parish is up in arms about one John St. Claire Stockton (Roy Marsden), believed to be a relation of noblemen burned out of their house under suspicion of being a vampire, and now that same suspicion has fallen on him. After all, he seems never to sleep, and two people have died shortly after coming into contact with him: A blacksmith, and the infant son of trader Rob Ferguson (Keith Barron) and his Peruvian wife Carlotta (Yolanda Vazquez). There's more going on in the Ferguson house, though, and a general state of unease is spreading through the town.

Doyle's "Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" is a straightforward case where Holmes quickly confirms that there is nothing supernatural going on, but rather an unfortunate case of familial jealousy. That story is all but lost here, as screenwriter Jeremy Paul plucks a few characters and lines of dialogue from the source material and mixes them with situations of his own invention, including a character in Stockton that did not exist in the original but is central to the goings-on here. The strictly rational outlook of the original is diminished, as well, with Holmes at one point seeing ghosts and at another seemingly mesmerized by Stockton across half of England, before they ever meet.

Fidelity to the source is not the only measure of a story inspired by previous works, or even necessarily the best, but even for those without familiarity with "The Sussex Vampire", The Last Vampyre is something of a mess. Dr. Watson (Edward Hardwicke) establishes relatively early on that there is no actual murder to solve, leaving their investigations as directionless as the story itself. Paul creates a few interesting plot threads, and at times it seems like the story he wants to tell is about how the tight-knit village in the story is superstitiously using Stockton as a scapegoat when a minor epidemic of influenza and pneumonia lays them low, but there is too much pulling the story along other paths. So many subplots go nowhere. None of it is particularly well-resolved, either.

Some things do work; director Tim Sullivan, for instance, casts a fine feeling of free-roaming dread over the story. Something is terribly wrong, even if it cannot be immediately identified. The cast, given the story they have to work with, does a reasonably ood job. Roy Marsden walks a fine line between having Stockton be a somewhat odd man who is clearly misunderstood and something otherworldly; Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke do their usual excellent work as Holmes and Watson. A scene in the local inn where Holmes attempts to diffuse suspicions but only makes them worse because of his own strange air is a standout. And the well-buried story of how superstition can breed hysteria is certainly a good hook when the plot goes there.

It is, sadly, not enough. "The Last Vampyre" is likely the low point of Granada's well-regarded Sherlock Holmes series, and not just because it is the least faithful. It has very little idea what it wants to be and doesn't succeed particularly well at any of the things it tries.

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originally posted: 12/20/09 16:00:00
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User Comments

8/09/06 Attila Horvath Jeremy Brett was the "King os Sherlock Holmes' " 5 stars
1/14/04 tatum See it for Brett as Holmes 4 stars
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  27-Jan-1994 (NR)
  DVD: 28-Jan-2003



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