Saturday, August 31, 2013
R.I.P. Peril on the Screen
Last year when I signed up for the R.I.P. "Challenge," I decided to add to my usual commitment by doing a Vincent Price film view-a-thon--and quite fun it was, too. But I had no intention to watch any films this year, I'm just not much for watching scary movies (I'm a big scaredy-cat, truth be told). However, my online wanderings led me to a Sherlock Holmes movie that I hadn't seen before: The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, a TV movie from 2002 starring Matt Frewer as Holmes and Kenneth Welsh as Dr. Watson.
In The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, Holmes is called in to investigate a series of deaths connected with the abbey in Whitechapel. Members of the abbey had been on a mission trip to Guiana where they encountered the worship of a vampire-bat-like demon called Desmodo. There is an outbreak of deaths which are attributed to rabies and many bats are killed. When members of the abbey's order begin to die and are found with puncture marks on their necks, superstition says that Desmodo has appeared in bat form to exact revenge for the death of his "children." The mission trip is cancelled and Brother Marstoke thinks that he and the others will be safe once they return to England. But another death occurs and he consults with Holmes--just in case a human hand is involved, even though Marstoke does not rule out a diabolical source.
Holmes, of course, does not believe in the supernatural and begins to question the members of the abbey. He discovers conflict among the brothers and with a certain Dr. Chagas who considers himself the protector of bats. The residents of Whitechapel are certain that the doctor is a vampire (evidenced by the fact that he only goes out at night--and that he was out on the nights of further attacks). Holmes is just as certain that the doctor is innocent and works to prove him so.
An enjoyable evening--though Matt Fewer is no Jeremy Brett. The movie has a very theatrical quality about it. The scenes feel much more like a play production than a movie experience. There are moments where the characters pause--most noticeably--almost as if they are waiting for some sort of audience response. And there is a huge effort to give the film a spooky, other-worldly atmosphere. A decent movie and a decent story--worth the time if you're interested in a different version of Holmes, but not necessarily a must-see.
The film is billed as a "non-canonical movie based on an original story." No mention of what story--Wikipedia lists the author as director Rodney Gibbons. I would have to say, however, that The Whitechapel Vampire owes much to the Holmes film with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce: The Scarlet Claw. In both films a supernatural creature--either a vampire or a clawed beast--is said to be the cause of the deaths, but Holmes knows better. The human beast is murderous enough. And the method of murder is very similar as well.