Alexander Sedov (alek_morse) wrote,
Alexander Sedov

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English writer & Russian film director / Arthur Conan Doyle and Igor Maslennikov

Arthur Conan Doyle and Igor Maslennikov… 

Their relations with Sherlock Holmes turned out similar in spite of different the times and countries in which they created own Holmes. Both were taken prisoner by fame of this fictional character. The people demanded sequels regularly… 

Ironically, but both Doyle and Maslennikov are resemble one to another. In November of gone away 2006, Igor Maslennikov, film director of Russian Sherlock Holmes, have celebrated own 75. I decided to take the opportunity in order to post the article by Maslennikov, which is like an sacred text (almost) for Sherlockians from Russia. Maslennikov write about history of the creation of the Livanov TV series…The article was written by him in 1985 and published in magazine The Aurora. PLUS: I found on the YouTube 19 (!!!) video fragments from Livanov series. I highly recommend… specially for those who almost haven’t seen Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Doctor Watson. 

Some of their:


/from: The Aurora Magazine, July, 1985, USSR/ Igor Maslennikov, film director 

“…A viewer will devote as soon as some quantity of the attention to your work. Teach to make good use of it…” – wrote Stendhal in own The History Of Italian Art. It was written regarding to one artist’s work long ago, but I recognize it as advice wise, which is important for us doing films.

I don’t take to be deceitful, I don’t begin to speak (as some film directors in interviews) that all work was thought up before, was substantiated in theory and was thought out in detail, that it was achieved through much suffering during many years and that it is perfect result of the creator’s credo.

It was a chance. Yuli Dunskoy and Valery Frid both had written excellent and witty script/screenplay. In LenFilm studio, this script/screenplay was offered to me. I’m not admirer of detective stories. Today Arthur Conan Doyle’s plots seems naive, but this circumstance permitted to busy of another aspect – the quest of human sense to be contained in Sherlock Holmes’s and Watson’s friendship, and also to experiment on “English Style” (I always enjoyed etchings by William Hogarth and W. Ward, and films by J. Lowsey.).

It was a stroke of luck. We gathered the good crew, with which we found a common language. I emphasize specially it as I’m belong to those cinematographers, who suppose that cinema is collective art, that cinema is making together and the film is dependent on many outer reasons – a weather, health, transport, season etc. We must were to derive the greatest benefit from those circumstances and to try to live it easy during months of shooting.

And, of course, actors!

Vasily Livanov, who was famous to me as a romantic, a poseur, as man respecting a code of honour, as an idealist, having dolichokephal (elongated) skull and unique voice, successfully supplemented to the mechanical image of Sherlock Holmes. At once after Vitaly Solomin has got himself auburn moustache, he has changed into just like snub-nosed Edinburgh Briton having freckled neck and hands. He exactly felt own main task – “to accompany to king”. We cast Rina Zelenaya as Mrs. Hudson. “I like the role, - said she. – Before, I didn’t play a furniture”. Borislav Brondukov gladly responded to our offer to play inspector Lestrade. He also didn’t imagine that he manage to play officer of the Scotland Yard. Vladimir Dashkevich, my faithful fellow and composer, took the opportunity to compose the soundtrack to Sherlock Holmes film.

During four and half years, we filmed nine episodes, but in reality it is not TV series format. It four separate films, which were written, planed and filmed consecutively with the increase viewer’s interest in these.

To make good use of viewer’s attention...

To meet of viewer’s request…

…Or blindly follow in viewer’s caprices! Someone may to understand it in this way of the sense of the situation our “Holmes”.

The emergence of TV series as a genre gave rise to a slackening of plot structure, to a rarefaction of action, to a stretch of TV series duration without any comprehensible reason.

We were deprived of this possibility in consequence of that we filmed every film as final one. In every next stage, it seemed to us that we closed sense possibilities of Conan Doyle stories. Not plot, but sense. We could screen Holmes plots endlessly: three volumes permit to do it. But only found the sense of next film, limited, outlined the theme of the film, we came forward.

The 1st film (two episodes) was called “Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson”. It was the film-acquaintance, the acquaintance of characters, the acquaintance with characters. We proposed certain style of the narrative to viewers: some “the Britishness/Englishness” was cultivated in flask of our imagination and our literary representations. The literary base of the script is two most famous, classic stories by Conan Doyle: “A Study in Scarlet” (writer opened up the Holmes series of this story) and “The Speckled Band” (Conan Doyle acclaimed it is as the most favorite story, which was adapted by author for theater and Doyle participated himself in the stage adaptation). The film is devoted to the acquaintance and friendship of two gentlemen, Holmes and Watson both test a stability of own chemistry in plot turning-points. The film was completing by the sitting near fire-place, the chat/conversation in the spirit of final chords, which are used by Conan Doyle in finish of every story.

It could be the final.

But the crew was opposed to it. All members deem that the start is successful, were filled with energy and ideas. Actors also showed own enthusiasm. We decided to film yet three episodes and to complete our work in this way. We took Conan Doyle’s stories from opposite brim of desk: about the death and miraculous resurrection of Sherlock Holmes. The detective’s struggle with professor Moriarty, King of Crime, was mark as basis outline. The theme is indissolubility of bonds of two gentlemen’s friendship, the loyalty to sacred struggle against the Evil. The film was named as “The Adventures Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson” (stories: Charles August Milverton, The Final Problem, and The Empty House). In the conclusion, there is fire-place, cigars, conversation, parting…

But now, the viewers claimed themselves rights at the top of voice. In own letters, they as one ask the only question: “If you got down to Sherlock Holmes, will you really come by The Hound of the Baskervilles, the Conan Doyle’s masterpiece?”

Though The Hound of the Baskervilles is about ten version of the over two hundred Sherlock Holmes films, the public persuaded us to do not long ago. We were charmed by the arithmetic, the “magic” numbers. We made the decision: it is good to finish our series with the two-episode The Hound; it is flawless formula… three films, seven episodes.

The Baker-street rooms set were restored again. And again the field-work. On this occasion we set off in Estonia. The time began for Tallin after Riga and Leningrad to recreate London. We had new actor’s group, on this occasion they were very famous, all were stars. They were included in our crew without long persuasions: Alla Demidova, Irina Kupchenko, Eugeny Steblov, Oleg Yankovsky, Nikita Mihalkov, Sergey Martinson…

The year was passed. The Hound of the Baskervilles was showed on TV. Now the viewers remembered The Sing of Four as if they had conspired. We sank deep into thought. We were not frightened of difficulties of the shooting of the steam launch chase. We were frightened the absence of key idea. The yet one year flied by, we had been carrying to contemplate. During this time my crew and I filmed for TV Pushkin’s “The Queen of Spades” (the famous mystical story from Russian classic literary). The idea for new Holmes film was put forward by one lady of audience: “Did Sherlock Holmes really was womanhater?” At this moment, we had remembered The Scandal in Bohemia and Holmes’s unhappy love to opera singer Irene Adler. The Sing of Four found necessary sense because in this story Watson marries off, but mainly… he moves out the Baker-street and abandons of Holmes.

It is the beautiful completion of TV series!

In the studio, the hammers began knocking for the Holmes’s apartment set to be assembled: now we prudently keep all fragments of the set in the store. Missed on own make-up, Actors came back: Livanov, Solomin, Zelenaya, Brondukov… In the prepared set, all actors have gone as if in native home after round-the world voyage. All took seat in arm-chairs and sighed with relief. I like to say without false modestly that the final scene where Watson abandons Baker-street rooms was really successfully done by us. The TV-series completion turned out solemn and sad.

The audience responded immediately:

“You broke the style of own work. Don’t allow finishing the series of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (I emphasize: his friend Doctor Watson) on hopeless note. It defies to the sake by Conan Doyle.

E. N. Kalinina, teacher”.

“…I am sorry for Holmes in the final scene because Doctor married, but Holmes didn’t one and is alone without friend. The most bad to be without friend… Don’t leave off Holmes in loneliness (I even cried during the final scene). There are so many interesting stories, instance, “The Dancing” men or “The Red Circle”.
Nelly Roveladze, Tashkent sity”.

These letters took at random from recent mail. Truth, there are bulky divergences in the recommendations what to adapt. I even found the strange inexplicable tendency: there is recommendation to film “Sherlock Holmes in Odessa”. What’s more, I got screenplays about it. I have read two scripts and one play.

The letters are written by peremptory tone…

What is the matter? The all like the situation what happened to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Queen Victoria personally expressed dissatisfaction him for that he threw down his character in deep of Reichenbach waterfall in Switzerland.

…Sherlock Holmes. Who is he in essence? In what do his attractive vigour of this fiction literary person who seems as real for many people? There are museums with the Holmes’s “authentic things” in England and Switzerland. By what did this hero charm? – There is character of short stories and, I say, of the middle literary standard, he is so far from us thanks to the times and the geographic. What do I may say about Holmes’s investigations? In modern view, they are naive. His exploits? On the whole he is seated in arm-chair, smoked and does deductions. Easily may count those cases how much once Holmes takes the revolver to go on business. All the more so how much once he uses revolver.

How often we return to detective books after their reading when the crux of the investigative plot is absolutely clear and we formed an understanding of puzzle’s combinations? We return random. However we reread the Holmes stories in spite of their naive… We reread to be different ages: to be child, young, mature. The merit by Conan Doyle is discovery of the character.

Yes, Sherlock Holmes is brave, unselfish, resourceful, clever, energetic, and persistent. He is true gentleman: he is noble, non-small-minded, and antibourgeois. But many his literary and cinema colleagues have all these qualities too.

His main uniqueness is his point of view on life, his attitude to people. Englishmen say: “My home is my fortress”. 221b, Baker-street is fortress too, an ideal of cosiness and stability, but not only for Holmes and his friend Doctor Watson. Anybody who is in difficulties will find the help here and will feel himself be safe. Holmes is reliable!

The triumph of justice is inevitable because Sherlock Holmes is defence of those who got into trouble. Many once he sided with those who were pursued by him before. It was suggested by him aggravated sense of justice. Holmes is contrasted with official police system because for him is more important to render a help but not only to commit a retribution.

It is the reason that’s why we sated to the work at these films. It is a motive power for people to take a quill upon themselves to write letters us.

So, the audience voted for “Holmes” and don’t appreciate that we waste own talents to go away from essential problems of the present day.

…Well, I’d like to respond to numerous Sherlock Holmes’s and Doctor Watson’s friends:

“Dear Sherlock Holmes’s and Doctor Watson’s friends!

Thank you for passionate, may be, even to much passionate words of admiration to our films. I suppose that these words belong totally to image of Sherlock Holmes done by Conan Doyle. As you, I like his very much. But it is impossible and it is not right to adapt all stories in succession. Better read their again. The cinema art including TV films are enjoyed you only if it be equal to the occasion of original art…

In order to film sequel of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, we must have new point of view on these persons, new idea which will permit to create feature film.


Igor Maslennikov”.

/a bit abridged text, translated by Alexander SEDOV/ P.S. sorry for mistakes :)

This article was written in 1985, but in next 1986 Maslennikov filmed yet two episodes on Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: XX century begins (or “Sherlock Holmes in XX century”, the abridged movie version). The basic theme is spy mania in London on the eve of the World War. The film based on stories: The Second Stain, The Engineer’s Thumb, The Bruce Partington’s Plans, His Last Bow.


Episode: The Acquaintance. Watson meets Holmes in Baker-street rooms.

Episode: The Acquaintance. Holmes and Watson both have sort things out between themselves with boxing. Baker-street rooms. 03:29

Episode: The Acquaintance. (The Speckled Band). Roylott visits Baker-street sitting. 02:24 

Episode: The Bloody Script. (A Study in Scarlet). Hope has catched. 2:11 

Episode: The King of Blackmail. (Charles August Milverton). Holmes visits Mycroft in The Diogenes Club. 1:10 

Episode: The King of Blackmail. Watson inspects the fence of Milverton’s palace. 01:14

Episode: The Mortal Fight. (The Final Problem). Holmes visits professor Moriarty.

Episode: The Mortal Fight. (The Final Problem). The Reichenbach scene. Holmes is against Moriarty. 3:33

Episode: The Tiger Hunt. (The Empty House). Holmes returns to Baker-street.

Episode: The Tiger Hunt. (The Empty House). Holmes and Watson are in the empty house. Watson sees on Baker-street. 01:47

Episode: The Tiger Hunt. (The Empty House). Colonel Moran came in the empty house. 06:01

Episode: The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sir Henry, Watson, Eliza and John Barrymore… In the tower. 05:29

Remix. The Hound of the Baskervilles

Episode: The Treasures of Agra (The Sign of Four). Holmes and Watson both are in garret of the major Sholto’s home. 00:35

Episode: The Treasures of Agra (A Scandal in Bohemia). Made-up Holmes has seen Ms Irene Adler. 01:14

Episode: The Treasures of Agra (A Scandal in Bohenia). Irene Adler drives up to own home. The fixed by Holmes fight at the porch Irene Adler’s home is.

Episode: The Treasures of Agra (The Sign of Four). The steam launch chase is on the Thames 02:12

Episode: XX century begins. Sherlock Holmes, Watson both are in the Mycroft’s office. Mycroft as the British government is. 04:13

Episode: XX century begins. (The Second Stain). The Inspector Lestrade’s colourful account is on the crime.

Tags: holmes, livanov, maslennikov

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