Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tim Sullivan's "The Last Vampyre"



Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) and Dr. Watson (Edward Hardwicke) come to the aid of a small village that may or may not collectively commit a crime.

The elderly Reverend Merridew (Maurice Denham) visits the detective on Baker Street with a strange request. One hundred years earlier, the village of Lambley burned down a house and its inhabitants on suspicion of vampirism. A descendant of the family, Stockton (Roy Marsden), has returned to the village. He is already blamed for the sudden death of the blacksmith, who he was arguing with earlier, and another family has just lost an infant son. The townspeople suspect Stockton, could Holmes and Watson come investigate the man before the village burns out its second suspected vampire?

The dead infant belonged to Ferguson (Keith Barron) and his new Peruvian wife Carlotta (Yolanda Vasquez). Carlotta and her maid, Dolores (Juliet Aubrey) do not get along with Ferguson's crippled first son, Jack (Richard Dempsey). Michael (Jason Hetherington), the stablekeeper, has a fling with Dolores, and everyone in the family with the exception of Ferguson is acting strangely after the baby's funeral. Carlotta blames Ferguson for the baby's death, and suddenly befriends Stockton, a man she first found repulsive.

Stockton stays up all night, does not ever enter the church, and roams graveyards at night. The vampire rumors spread quickly, thanks to small town gossip. Holmes and Watson arrive to investigate a crime before it is committed, and after many suspicious events and murders, they discover the truth.

Many are right, Jeremy Brett was the quintessential Sherlock Holmes. While other actors played Holmes as an eccentric, Brett gives him a flamboyant self-confidence that endears the audience, not annoy them. This Holmes is very likable. Hardwicke's Watson is also a smart man, not the fuddy duddy he is normally played as by other actors. The rest of the cast of the film, actually a two part episode of PBS' "Mystery!," all shine. The case is a hard one to crack, and I did not figure it out at the end. There are no Agatha Christie-like gathering of suspects in the parlor, but the story gives us the clues as Holmes and Watson discover them.

I did find the direction lacking a bit, and the script does slow down in a number of spots. I knew right away this was not a horror film, but the mystery is interesting and the film does contain some supernatural elements (all thoroughly explained).

"The Last Vampyre" was based on Doyle's story "The Sussex Vampire." While not excellent, it is rewarding to see Brett play the world's most famous detective. (* * * *) out of five stars.