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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson (Приключения Шерлока Холмса и доктора Ватсона) was a series of television films made by the Soviet Union between 1979 and 1986 by Lenfilm studio. Commonly known as "Russian Sherlock Holmes" by Western fans,[citation needed] they were actually mostly filmed in the Latvian capital, Riga. They starred Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Dr. Watson. Vasily Livanov became an Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2006 for his portrayal of Holmes. The director was Igor Maslennikov.

Regular Cast[]

  • Vasiliy Livanov as Sherlock Holmes – 11 episodes
  • Vitaliy Solomin as Dr. John Watson – 11 episodes
  • Rina Zelonaya as Mrs. Hudson – 10 episodes
  • Borislav Brondukov as Inspector Lestrade (dubbed by Igor Efimov) – 9 episodes
  • Boris Kluev as Mycroft Holmes – 5 episodes
  • Ekaterina Zinchenko as Mary Morston/Watson (dubbed by Natalya Rychagova) – 4 episodes
  • Igor Dmitriev as Tobias Gregson – 2 episodes

Episodes[]

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (1979) - written by Yuliy Dunskoy and Valeriy Frid

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (1980) - written by Vladimir Valutskiy

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: The Hound of Baskerville (1981) - written by Igor Maslennikov with the participation of Yuriy Veksler

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: The Treasures of Agra (1983) - written by Igor Maslennikov

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: The Twentieth Century Approaches (1986) - written by Igor Maslennikov

The final story also was released at theatres, the cinematic title is "Sherlock Holmes in 20th Century".

Plot[]

The series is notable for, unlike some Western adaptations, staying relatively close to the literary source. Many departures (such as Holmes's lack of cocaine use and Watson's military service taking place in "the East") were done to satisfy the Soviet censors. Vasily Livanov's Holmes is also one of the nicer, more easy-going portrayals, and several characters are used for comic relief.

Production[]

The series' soundtrack was composed by Vladimir Dashkevich. The tune intentionally resembles an hourly musical logo played on the shortwave BBC World Service, and Maslennikov (the director) confirmed in a later interview that he wanted a very similar tune which could be identified with the spirit of Great Britain. It is perhaps one of the most recognisable soundtracks in the former Soviet Union.

Casting[]

Igor Maslennkiov says that it was very difficult to approve Livanov and Solomin because USSR Gosteleradio committee didn’t wanted to see them as main characters since they didn’t look like English people. At last the director got the approval of Livanov when committee members saw early illustrations for Holmes stories, Solomin was approved when Maslennikov advised to compare photos of Conan Doyle and photo of Solomin with mustaches (he did not wear a mustache in everyday life). State committee offered many actors instead of Livanov and Solomin, including some very eminent people but Maslennikov was sure about his choice.

Also the committee didn’t wanted to approve Borislav Brondukov in the role of Inspector Lestrade because he was famous for playing simpleton or drinking people, especially they thought that he would look even worse comparing to Igor Dmitriev who at that moment was already assigned to role of inspector Gregson because he had noble appearance. Nevertheless Brondukov was approved but due to his heavy Ukrainian accent, which didn’t match with expectations of Soviet citizens about English people, he was dubbed by very experienced voice actor Igor Efimov who also dubbed 4 other actors in the series and had a small role in the first episode of “The Twentieth Century Approaches”.

Viktor Evgrafov as Moriarty

Viktor Evgrafov as Moriarty

Maslennikov proposed the role of professor Moriarty to the cinema legend Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy who was offered by Gosteleradio committee as a replacement for Livanov earlier, still he rejected the offer to play Moriarty after taking some time to decide. The professor was played by stuntman Viktor Evgrafov who originally supposed to replace Smoktunovksiy in battle scene. Evgrafov said that confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty in this series partly was not played, he is still in bad relations with Vasiliy Livanov after his misbehavior which occurred few years before their joint work in the series. When Evgrafov performed Moriarty he was only 30 years old which makes him one of the youngest performer of this role ever. Nevertheless Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy got the role of prime minister of Great Britain lord Thomas Bellinger in the first episode of “The Twentieth Century Begins”.

Smoktunovskiy was not the only person who was invited to the series multiple times. Igor Maslennikov wanted to replace Vasiliy Livanov during filming the first story because of his misbehavior with colleagues. He purposed the role to Boris Kluev, but when Livanov found out about it he reconsidered his own behavior and Maslennikov decided to not fire him. In the second and final story Kluev appeared as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. Another actor who appeared in the series later than he could was Leonid Kuravlyov who was offered by USSR Gosteleradio committee as doctor Watson, after all he appeared in both episodes of the final story as a German spy Otto von Bork.

Igor Maslennikov was not only the creator, writer and director of the series, he also appeared in the very final scene as the projectionist who showed one of the earliest movies to Holmes and Watson.

Home Media[]

  • 8B35422F-51B3-412C-9ED2-220D3C13264A

    Hound of Baskerville Blu-Ray release cover

    Every story of the series is being released on DVD in Russia and outside since 2002 in single boxes or in box sets. Main distributor is “Close Up” («Крупный план», “Krupnyy Plan”) which released the series more than 10 times with various covers and with the same questionable picture restoration.
  • In 2018 “Close Up” released both episodes of “The Hound of Baskerville” on Blu-Ray with brand new restoration which is recognized as the best comparing to previous ones though picture was cropped from original 4:3 to widescreen 16:9.
  • Also every episode can be bought on iTunes, though they all are available on official Lenfilm YouTube channel for free with English subtitles.
  • The CD with 5 tracks of original soundtrack was released in 1997.
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