Director: Rodney Gibbons
Starring: Matt Frewer, Kenneth Welsh, Shawn Lawrence, Neville Edwards, Michel Perron, Tom Rack, Cary Lawrence, Isabel Dos Santos
Music: Marc Ouellette
Based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle
This 2001 production is a part of the four tele-movie Hallmark series featuring Matt Frewer as Sherlock Holmes and Kenneth Welsh as Dr. Watson. Appreciation for the series and this movie falls squarely on how you accept Matt Frewer as Holmes and his rather broad interpretation of the character. Myself, I have come to enjoy it – sure it’s a little smug and pompous, but it is a great deal of fun, and just when it appears that it is going to spiral out of control, Kenneth Welsh is there presenting one of the better portrayals of Watson, as an intelligent and able partner – rather than a buffoon.
However, if you happen to be around the same age as me, there is one other factor that may colour your perception of this film – and in particular Matt Frewer as Holmes. Frewer played Max Headroom – the digital music presenter in the cult show of the same name in the late 1980s. If you watched that show, then accepting Frewer in any other role is quite difficult to do.
The film opens in the dead of night in an abbey in the East End of London. Brother Sinclair is in the chapel praying when a man in dark robes sneaks up behind him. He says:
“Brother, you have sinned!”
The man in the dark robes then rushes at the monk, and the screen fades to black.
When we first meet Holmes and Watson at their lodgings in 221B Baker Street, Holmes is expressing his contempt for those who believe in God and the afterlife – all things ‘supernatural’. He believes only in logic. At that moment, Mrs. Hudson enters the room with a telegram for Holmes. It is from the abbey in the East End, where a monk was murdered one week prior. Rumours have been circulating that the murder was the work of a vampire, because Brother Sinclair was found with two puncture wounds to his neck. The police have explained this away by suggesting that the monk, as he collapsed from natural causes, fell onto his crucifix, with two edges puncturing the neck. But public, and the monks at the abbey are sure that supernatural forces are at work. Naturally Holmes refutes such nonsense. Brother Marstoke, in his letter begs for Holmes’ help in solving the dark and mysterious affair.
Holmes and Watson arrive at the abbey and begin questioning Marstoke who explains that many of the monks, himself included, have just returned from Guyana where they ran a mission. Among there souvenirs is a carving of a demon god named Desmodo. The demon has the appearance of a vampire bat. The monks decided to close the mission and return to England after two disturbing incidents. The first was when Brother Lee had been found beside the altar with a large bat drinking from 2 puncture wounds in his neck. Scrawled on the wall was the message:
‘From Hell as you have sinned against me
so shall I exact my revenge.
The blood of yours, for the blood of mine.’
The second was when a servant discovered Brother Thomas with a man in dark robes crouched above him. As the servant approached, the man in black turned, revealing the face of Desmodo.
Back in England, Marstoke had believed that the nightmare was over, but then he awoke one morning to find a large bat hanging from his chamber mirror. And a new message in blood which read:
‘The wanderer returns – My time has come.’
After their meeting with Marstoke, Holmes and Watson search the abbey for clues and immediately they find a clue in the abbey that the police have missed (and so has everybody else – and it has been there for over a week). Written on the wall, scrawled in blood, next to a nativity scene, there is a third message from the vampire killer. This reads:
‘From Hell…I am he. Not the Good Shepherd.
Not the redeemer. He who comes for the blood
Of those who have sinned against him.’
From then the ‘games’s afoot’ and Holmes investigates everybody involved with the case, from each of the monks, and the mysterious Dr. Chagas who is a naturalist who has made a study of vampire bats…and co-incidentally, he too, has just returned from Guyana. And what is a Holmes story without a bit of conflict from the authorities, and this instance it comes from Inspector Jones (Michel Perron) who buts heads with Holmes on numerous occasions throughout the story.
The story also drops a little bit of popular culture into the mix, albeit derived from the period that the story is set. Dr. Chagas happens to live in Renfield Place, ‘Renfield’ being one of the characters from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The messages from the ‘vampire’ with their ‘From Hell’ introductions conjure up the letters of torment to the police from Jack the Ripper.
Ultimately, The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire is fun to watch, but then afterward upon thinking about the events as told throughout the story and the resolution, the gaping plot holes in the story come to the fore. However, it is slickly made – well photographed, with a good score.