Formula for early Sherlock Holmes movies

Christopher Lee as undercover Holmes, 1962I'm not a connoisseur of Holmes stories or movies, but I've seen a handful of these old ones lately. I can't help but notice a formula in most of them.

1. The criminal and/or victims are introduced.
2. Holmes spies some woman across the street from 221B and amazes Watson with deductions about her, including that she will come to them with a new case.
3. Depending which movie you're watching, boring stuff happens here.
4. We see a disorienting scene of some outlandishly large-nosed, boisterous working class character interacting with the villain and/or victims.
5. The large-nosed, boisterous character interacts with Watson, sometimes entering 221B, eventually revealing that he's Holmes in disguise.
6. More stuff happens.
7. The end.

It's interesting that most of them don't open on Holmes right away but bring him in after a few scenes highlighting other characters. That can be an intentional narrative tool to alienate the audience from Sherlock somewhat, or keep him from being as sympathetic as a character who was introduced and followed by viewers from start to finish. Think of Psycho where we begin following Janet Leigh's character as if she's the protagonist, then we don't know who to follow or think of as the protagonist when she gets killed halfway through. (Oh, spoiler there, sorry.)

It might be intentional with these Holmes stories, or else one of the earlier films might have begun the trend and others continued it without thinking or realizing the narrative effect. It keeps Holmes aloof and also makes some of his deductions seem more amazing. Viewers have literally seen more of the story and mystery, and yet Holmes is able to deduce those details without having seen as much as we have.

Christopher Lee in an eye-patch is definitely listed in my notebook of scenes to use for mashups eventually.


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