It’s a process with many names – most of which have ‘re-‘, in them.

Reboot. Re-imagining. Re-telling. Re-interpretation.

Many words; one process. And a simple one, at that.

1. Take a cherished old tale (legend, myth, comic strip, whatever).

2. Give it a “new” twist.

3. Re-package (Great. Another ‘re-‘) it, as a movie, or TV series.

4. Hype it, to the gills.

5. And…

Boom! Mega-bucks, at the box office. Multiple sequels follow. Millions, in spin-off merchandise. Hopefully.

Hollywood has been at it, for decades. It only feels as if “re-packaging” is all that the movie industry has been capable of, in recent years.

The latest thing is with fairy tales. So, in the months to come, we can look forward to gems such as:

“Snow White and The Huntsman”. Wherein the huntsman in question deviates from his orders to kill the little lady, becoming instead her martial arts mentor.

“The Seven”. Another take on the Snow White legend, with the dwarves “re-invented” as a Shaolin-style warrior sect.

“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.” Some 20-odd years on, the plucky kids have grown up to become leather clad, kick-ass psychic investigators, with mad witch-killing skills.

Hmm. Maybe not.

However, there is one legend who has consistently provided filmmakers with tales of great quality. And – in his many incarnations – produced some memorable performances, as well.

I refer to The Strange Case of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the character in the late 19th century. A series of tales in which John H. Watson – a solid medical doctor, invalided out of the British Army after serving in the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880) – described the activities of his friend, Sherlock Holmes.

Consulting detective to the London police, Holmes possessed the remarkable ability to deduce a sequence of events from what looked to be the scantest of physical evidence.

Portrayed as cold, calculating, but ultimately noble, the only woman for whom anything like emotion stirred in Holmes’ dispassionate heart was a criminal – the American born actress, adventurer, and con artist, Irene Adler.

Conan Doyle gave us mind-boggling mysteries. Explosive action. Plus a brilliant and sinister arch-villain.

Hollywood snapped it up. And gave us Basil Rathbone.

In a series of 14 films spanning the years 1939-1946, Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes re-created many of the classic Conan Doyle stories. He also found time to battle the vampire lord, Count Dracula. And take on the forces of Hitler’s Third Reich, during World War II.

Same character. Different settings. Different time-frames.

Fast forward, to 2010. And an offering not from Hollywood, but from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The TV series, “Sherlock”, to be precise.


Holmes and Watson. Sorry; Sherlock and John.

Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (both of whom have worked on the cult Sci-Fi series “Doctor Who”), “Sherlock” stars Benedict Cumberbatch, as Sherlock Holmes, and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson.

The show is a contemporary re-working (oh dear) of the Conan Doyle legend. Similar, but different. So…

Dr. Watson is retired on a disability pension from the British Army, after serving in Afghanistan. No changes there, then.

Holmes uses the Internet, GPS, cell phone, and other modern technology, to solve crimes. But his powers of deductive reasoning are as keen as ever. And he serves as the world’s only “consulting detective”. The professional investigator the police call upon when their own resources prove inadequate to the task. Even though Sherlock describes himself as “a high-functioning sociopath.”

So Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade of the London Metropolitan Police (played by Rupert Graves) calls on Sherlock’s services reluctantly – but more often than he’d care to admit.

As does Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, a tall, thin, quintessential Englishman (played by series co-creator Mark Gatiss) who bears a striking resemblance to the arch-villain, Prof. James Moriarty – as described in the Conan Doyle literature.

Which makes Andrew Scott’s “Call me Jim” Moriarty such a pleasant surprise. He looks like any average Joe on the street, but this Moriarty is quirky, amoral, dangerous, and totally psychotic. The world’s only “consulting criminal.” The evil mastermind other criminals hire, when the job they want done is too messy, complex, or nasty for them to handle, themselves.

Similar. Different. Incredibly good. This is how to “re-invent” a legend.

An accolade that may not apply to the upcoming US TV series pilot, “Elementary”, which will re-locate Holmes to modern-day America, re-gender Doctor Watson as a woman, and re-…

Well. A story for another time, perhaps.

Until I re-turn, then.