By and large, the “Sherlock Holmes" movies are a more-or-less faithful adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sharp-eyed sleuth, albeit with some slo-mo bareknuckle boxing thrown in for good measure. There’s Holmes, cracking wise; there’s Watson, looking perturbed. What more do you need? As you can see in this newly released clip, not much.
But there’s more to take from Doyle’s original stories than a character sketch and a setting. Doyle’s tales were filled with twists, turns, and unique plots built up and concluded in a handful of pages. No one’s saying the movie studios need to adapt these stories exactly; they’re firmly rooted in the societal attitudes of the time, and would come off a little stilted. Still, there’s plenty of concepts and wrinkles to lift for any future “Sherlock Holmes" movies. Below, here’s five stories we think would do the trick.
1. The Adventure of Red-Headed League: Big movies need minor villains, and there’s none quirkier than the self-appointed Red-Headed League. The villains were a pair of thieves who contrived to invent a special organization for red-headed men, under the guise of defrauding the men who showed up to apply. With a few changes, they could be an actual organization of evil gingers, though that might not play so well in the United Kingdom. It would be just bizarre enough to work, and just inconsequential to allow Holmes to brush them off with relative ease. Jackie Earle Haley could star as the most nefarious red-head!
2. The Five Orange Pips: Similarly speaking, “The Five Orange Pips" finds the Ku Klux Klan terrorizing a local Englishman. In Doyle’s story, the Klan are treated more like a mysterious cult than the historical artifact they’re taught as today. Introducing them as a minor presence would be appropriate for the time period; they’d also automatically register as a villain on account of, y’know, the racism.
3. The Hound of the Baskervilles: This is the granddaddy of all Holmes stories, a full-length novel with the detective’s greatest mystery. It’s a murder story posing as a ghost tale, as Holmes and Watson are called to a small town to investigate some mysterious deaths at the foot of the so-called Hound. With Holmes and Watson weaving their way through tangled family trees and double-talking villagers, they’ve got to deduce whether the Hound is real, which isn’t solved until the story’s climax. It would be a fearsome image on screen, and an excellent source of tension. What’s scarier than a giant ghost dog who eats people?
4. The Adventure of the Speckled Band: This is a fairly conventional mystery -- a death attributed to “the speckled band," which turns out to be a snake after some clever sleuthing. But that revelation only comes after a solid chunk of misdirection and more deaths, and the delivery system -- the snake crawls through a ventilator after being activated by a whistle -- is ingenious enough to work. If you want to visualize a death on screen, they don’t get more jarring than an adder leaping out of a vent onto someone’s throat.
5. The Sign of the Four: Robert Downey Jr.’s had his fair share of trouble with substance abuse, which is why some eagle-eyed pundits pointed to Tony Stark’s alcoholism as a bit of meta-casting on Marvel’s part. That issue might rear its head in “Iron Man 3," or it might not. But Sherlock Holmes is also an addict -- in the original stories, he’s quite verbal about his love of cocaine, which wasn’t quite a universally maligned drug in the 19th century. In “The Sign of the Four," Doyle addresses Holmes’ drug problem quite explicitly as he tries to foil a nefarious plot involving the Indian Rebellion of 1857, stolen treasure, and secret agreements up the wazoo. The movies have completely abandoned Holmes’ addiction, but a third movie might hint at his increasing mania in slightly darker terms than just, “Oh, that Holmes, he so wacky." Of course, that might be a step too serious for these generally light-hearted adaptations. The basic plot of “Four" would serve just as well as the backbone for a third movie, without getting into heady territory.
Which "Sherlock Holmes" stories do you want to see adapted next? Tell us in the comments section and on Twitter!