on August 20, 2003
"The Last Vampyre" is one of the more misunderstood entries in the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes collection.
Often villified by fans of the Granada series, I think that such complete criticism is a bit unfair. Looking over the installment, one cannot help but admire the production values throughout, which are excellent. The supporting cast is well chosen and delivers, as do Brett and Hardwicke. The location settings are perfect for the tale, and the cinematography is absolutely first-class.
So, why does this episode fail to please the audience? Perhaps it is all of the padding inserted into the original story, which takes us far afield from Doyle. Pointless sexual antics, vampirism, local politics, etc., intrude upon what could have been a top-notch entry, in an attempt to extend the episode to movie-length. The real pity is that all of the padding has relegated this installment to the dustbin for most fans.
However, if one could excise about twenty minutes from the production, it would play much better. I think such judicious re-editing would raise the episode to at least acceptable standards on a par with other, at least average, episodes in the Granada series. The unfortunate thing is that the padding does serve to set the mood for the mystery, and would therefore be all but impossible to remove completely while at the same time leaving intact any semblence of a cohesive story.
Perhaps it is all a matter of taste. I liked enough of the episode to enjoy it despite its problems, and in many ways it was probably as good as (or no worse than), "The Master Blackmailer". That installment has severe weak points as well, including the lack of any true Holmsian deductions. It leaves the viewer wanting in places, too, just as "The Last Vampyre" does.
I would submit that the production values alone make the installment worth a screening, but we have Brett and Hardwicke on top of that. Take these factors, combined with the interesting and creepy character of Stockton (as played by Roy Marsden), and I don't see how the episode can be written off so casually.
While "The Last Vampyre" can be disappointing when compared to the glory days of the Granada series, it is also not the abject failure that some viewers have claimed.
on April 18, 2006
I adore Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes and cannot help but admire how beautiful and authentic these adaptations were filmed. Authentic detail and great casts made this a do-not-miss series. However, this episode (The Last Vampyre) is a travesty of the original story. Instead of a moving story about a woman who is protecting her child and trying to keep peace within her home, we have this horrible (as in "horror") and mindless tale. No doubt about it. Conan Doyle was a fabulous story teller. Why present this mediocre, at best, plot instead of the real thing??? And the Eligible Bachelor (based on The Noble Bachelor) is nearly as bad. A shame, too. Both original stories were strong and impressive on their own.
on February 10, 2003
Based on the short story, "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire," SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE LAST VAMPYRE, proves to a lesser entry in the now classic Jeremy Brett series. Set in a small English country village, Holmes and Dr. Watson must investigate the mysterious deaths surrounding a rather dour man named Stockton, while dealing with the paranoia engendered by the deaths. As usual, Brett is solid as Holmes, but he lacks his usual dynamic energy due to the fact that he was ailing during the filming of this episode. Edward Hardwicke is on the top of his game as the trusty Watson. Unfortunately, despite the top-notch production values, much of the episode seems overlong as the short story is padded out to feature length with motivations that are never completely explained. While the Granada TV series still entertains, THE LAST VAMPYRE has to be regarded as a less-than-satisfactory entry. Recommended for Holmes fans only.
on June 13, 2009
I love the Jeremy Brett/Granada TV version of Sherlock Holmes. Jeremy Brett is unsurpassed in his pitch-perfect rendition of the master sleuth. My mother and I were all set for a cozy mystery this evening, only to feel disappointed by this feature film's deviation from the usual whodunit formula.
Sherlock Holmes repeats the common-sense, anti-Cullen mantra, "There are no vampires," several times throughout "The Last Vampyre." Yet even he is at a loss to explain away all of the strange coincidences that dog the village of Lamberley. John Stockton, an eccentric man steeped in the occult, is a direct descendant of the Sinclair family, once the ruling family of Lamberley. The head of the Sinclair family was an unusually cruel man who was reputed to be a vampire. The angry villagers torched the manor house, so only the basic frame of the once-great house remains. After several villagers curse and blame him for unexpected deaths and illnesses, John Stockton considers restoring and relocating to his ancestor's manor. His cottage is too close for comfort to the superstitious and mob-mentality villagers.
A well-to-do family invites Stockton for dinner, ignoring the rumors that have preceded him. Yet Stockton seems to have mesmerized the entire family in one way or another after only a brief acquaintance. A seemingly healthy baby contracts pneumonia overnight, the family dog is paralyzed, the elder son Jack shares a musical interest, the maid is inexplicably attacked, and the grieving mother is comforted that Mr. Stockton understands the otherworldly.
Sherlock Holmes, that master of deductive reasoning and logical reconstructions, has heretofore disavowed us of superstitious thinking and the supernatural in general. In this film, he disappoints. He can no more explain these strange events than the next person. There seems to be a logical, rational antidote for each individual incident, yet Holmes and Watson seem at a loss when they consider the whole picture.
My mom and I were expecting the classic, "oh this was how it was done," and "pay attention to the man behind the curtains" explanation. Instead, this film seems to suggest that many things are inexplicable and that even Holmes's piercing logic cannot penetrate the great unknown, so as to render it safe and rational. The up-in-the-air conclusion could also suggest that maybe coincidences and circumstantial situations can explain what presently make up the bulk of superstitious thinking.
I don't know. I can tolerate revisionism and creative adaptations of my favorite characters, yet this case of "The Last Vampyre" just left me feeling frustrated. It was like hearing a piece of music that refused to play the final tonic chord after sounding the dominant; I keep waiting to hear the resolution.
on July 22, 2005
Of the five feature films in this series, I would agree that The Last Vampyre is the weakest. It does drag in spots, and the story line is a bit lame by typical Sherlock Holmes standards. The fact that Jeremy Brett was in a state of declining health during the filming of this movie also detracts from its impact. However, if you are a big Sherlock Holmes fan and have most, if not all of the other DVDs in the Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes) collection, I wouldn't hesitate in picking this up. It does have something unique and interesting to offer. Despite its weaknesses, I still enjoyed it.
The Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett is probably the most faithful adaptation of the Great Detective's adventures... but it still has a rotten apple or two.
And the rottenest apple is the TV movie "Sherlock Holmes - The Last Vampyre," an incredibly and painfully loose adaptation that is more confusing than mysterious. Brett and Edward Hardwicke seem a bit baffled by the fact that they're even in this story, especially since their characters have little effect on ANYTHING.
Holmes (Brett) and Watson (Hardwicke) are approached with an odd problem: a small village is currently being plagued by mysterious deaths and hardships. The villagers believe that the newly-arrived John Stockton (Roy Marsden) is a vampire, descended from an evil family that their ancestors slaughtered long ago.
Holmes, of course, poohpoohs the idea of vampires because... well, he's Sherlock Holmes, and he doesn't buy the undead. But he's intrigued by the case, so he and Watson head out to the country.
There they find that Stockton is staying with the wealthy Fergusons, who are falling apart -- the baby died of sudden pneumonia, and the wife and son seem to have fallen under Stockton's spell. Now Holmes must unravel the TRUE cause of these deaths, before even more people die.
"The Last Vampyre" is sorta-kinda-maybe-based on a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle... and if you squint, you can see bits of it. Only bits. The actual plotline is drastically changed, unimportant characters are added (I do not care about the maid's love life!), and little seems to actually happen.
Instead, it's mostly just Holmes and Watson meandering around, asking questions and accomplishing little. It's like they wandered onto a strange Hammer Horror movie -- mysterious deaths, a crippled kid intrigued by a slutty maid, marital trouble between the Fergusons, and the superstitious commonfolk freaking out over a suspected vampire. NOTHING HAPPENS. Definitely not detective work.
Also, the vampire angle is... strange. It seems to be suggested that Stockton actually IS a vampire of some kind, and has some supernatural powers -- even though that is NEVER a part of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. When the movie ends abruptly, without Holmes explaining anything, we're left wondering what exactly just happened here.
It's a credit to Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke that they manage to make this part of the story watchable, because the characters almost feel like an afterthought in a bad gothic soap opera. They almost compensate for the mediocre acting from most of the actors, who are either over-the-top (Marsden) or sleepwalking (Richard Dempsey).
"Sherlock Holmes - The Last Vampyre" is probably the worst entry in Jeremy Brett's venerable run -- a confusing, bloated mess where Sherlock Holmes himself feels like an afterthought.
"The Last Vampyre" was one of five feature-length films made for Granada Television's decade-long Sherlock Holmes series (1984-1994) in which Jeremy Brett starred as the brilliant Victorian detective. The writing in the series' final years was not as good as in its prime, nor of exactly the same character. It tended to be more lurid and looser with Holmes' demeanor. "The Last Vampyre" exhibits many of the pitfalls of those last seasons, and is generally poorly-regarded by fans of the series. Taken within the context of the series, I can see why this would be the case. That was my reaction the first time I saw it -and to "The Master Blackmailer", the previous year's sub-par entry. But, when I see the film again, 17 years later, its strengths as a stand-alone film are equally evident to its poor fit within the Holmes cinematic canon.
Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) and Dr. Watson (Edward Hardwicke) are visited in Baker Street by the Reverend Merridew (Maurice Denham) of Lamberley. Merridew is alarmed by mysterious deaths in his village and the townspeople's tendency to cast blame on a newcomer, Mr. John Stockton (Roy Marden), whom the local peasants believe to be a vampire. Holmes visits the village, where he finds "a dangerous mood in the air". The Ferguson family, whose infant son died suddenly after a dinner with Mr. Stockton, is especially distraught. Mr. Ferguson (Keith Barron) is a cotton grower who brought his new Peruvian wife Carlotta (Yolanda Vasquey), his teenaged son Jack (Richard Dempsey), and the baby to live in England. That brought only tragedy, and now Mr. Ferguson fears he is losing his moody son and grieving wife to Stockton's sinister influence.
"The Last Vampyre" was expanded from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Sussex Vampire". A straight adaptation of the story might have fared better. Nevertheless, the addition of Stockton, a scholar of South American religious cults come to Lamberley seeking his family roots, keeps the audience guessing as to his motives and places an additional stress on the Ferguson family. Ultimately, this is the story of a troubled family, and Holmes' deductions are more psychological than detective work. He discovers what any perceptive outsider would see quickly but which the hysterical townspeople and beleaguered Mr. Ferguson are blind to. "The Last Vampyre" is more psychological thriller than detective story, and, as such, is an oddball in the Holmes series. But, considered as a psychological thriller with an injection of Victorian shilling-shocker, it makes sense.
on June 21, 2005
(This review is for "The Last Vampyre" released on DVD in Jan. 2003.)
This movie is based on the story "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" (1924) written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 to 1930).
The alternate spelling of the word vampire as "vampyre" in the movie's title is an older spelling of this word that was used during the 1700s and 1800s.
This movie is about John Stockton (Roy Marsden) arriving at a small village. When bad and strange things begin to happen, the locals seem to hold the newcomer responsible. When it's discovered that Stockton is a descendant of a family burned as suspected vampires a century before, the local vicar begins to fear that the villagers may try to get retribution. Sherlock (Jeremy Brett) and Dr. Watson (Edward Hardwicke) are called in to investigate Stockton.
It's somewhat unbelievable that Sherlock would accept such a case but this is how Conan Doyle wrote the story, so the movie cannot be faulted for this.
However, a problem occurs when the writers attempted to pad the story and thus make it longer than it really is. As a result the movie is somewhat boring and ludicrous in spots until the last 25 minutes. I feel this movie would have worked better if it was 50 minutes but instead it is more than double this length.
Brett (as usual) does a good job (despite looking haggard) in capturing the essence of the famous gumshoe in his performance. I feel also that Roy Marsden does a good job in his performance as the suspected vampire.
Finally, the costumes, background music, attention to detail, and cinematography are quite well done.
In conclusion, despite its long length, this is a decent movie to watch even if you have read the story it's based on.
(1994; 105 min; British drama; made for TV; full screen)
on February 4, 2003
I love this series. I mean I really, really do. For me Jeremy Brett will always be Sherlock Holmes. However you can't hit a home run every time and this (Like the original Doyle story) is not the best episode of the series. Part of the problem is there really isn't a crime in the story, or at least until 3/4 of the way into it. It's almost like a soap opera with Holmes wandering around with not much to do as this dysfunctional family comes apart. Holmes and Watson are for the most part observers through the whole thing with not much for them to except ask people if they believe in Vampires. We definately don't see Holmes doing what he does best and that's making deductions and solving a problem.
The problem isn't as much Brett or the people who made this episode. This simply isn't one of Doyle's best stories. They do a good job of sticking close to the original story which is probably the problem.
If you love the series then you're going to pick up this episode anyway. If your not familiar with the series just be aware there are better episodes. Fantastic ones in fact. If you're new to the series and just want to pick up an episode to see what it's all about, try some of the DVDs from the first season or Hound of the Baskervilles. Save this one for later but don't see it as your introduction to the series.
on May 11, 2012
One of a series made for TV by the BBC starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Watson.
Only because I'd read the book, and I think seen this film before, was I at all ahead of the rest of the audience in figuring out what was going on. A gentleman returned from Peru with his wife, new baby boy, and a nurse who was apparently a close friend of the wife. His adolescent son Jack, crippled in an accident several years ago, is a raging, seething hostility, but it's not clear why.
Also recently arrived in the village is a mysterious dark stranger who is an anthropologist and spent time in Peru. Did he know the wife or the maid back in Peru? Nothing definite.
As in most Holmes mysteries, there are layers of red herrings, and in this case a major one is the fact that the mysterious stranger has inherited a ruined mansion which was burned down some hundred years ago by villagers who believed his ancestors were vampires. His aloof manners and knowledge of death myths and rituals from around the world certainly don't help any.
OK, that's enough. Can't have you guessing too much of the plot.