This review marks the 50th Watson that we have looked at here. And still, there are more to be done, though not a lot. For number 50 I have selected Vitali Solomin the Russian Watson. I first saw Solomin in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. This version of the Hound (the single most filmed story of Holmes and Watson) is exceptional in many respects. The cinematography is wonderful, the costumes are superb and the locations are excellent. I will say that the moor looks more like Alaskan tundra than the anything else but that is to be expected. It takes nothing away from the story. I also noticed that the team of horses used by Watson have a peculiarly Russian harness but there probably aren’t one in a thousand people that would even notice. (My wife hates it when I notice stuff like that!) This movie stays closer to the original story than any other version I have ever seen. While the film is two and a half hours in length it never drags or is boring. (It does make me wish I had studied Russian when my father told me to.)
Vasily Livanov plays the part of Sherlock Holmes and is very convincing in the part. He is a wonderful Holmes.
Solomin is one of the best Watsons ever. Not only does he look the part, he is the part! Intelligent, action oriented, and carries the majority of the story, just as it was written. Solomin was the definitive Watson in eight films for television during the period 1979 to 1986.
Except for one thing (and I really mean that, one thing) this would be the perfect version of the Hound of the Baskervilles. What is that thing? Sir Henry Baskerville! Sir Henry is played by Nikita Mikhalkov and it is atrocious! When Sir Henry first walked into 221B all I could think was, “what have the Canadians done to the Russians that they hate them so much?” Mikhalkov is one of the best known and most appreciated actors in Russian. He is an ardent nationalist and was once thought of as a possible candidate for high office. But here, he almost ruins the film. His portrayal of Sir Henry is such that the character is a total buffoon. When I first watched it all I could think of was his likeness to Snidely Whiplash from the old Dudley Do-Right cartoons. Maybe that was his only impression of Canadians. Sir Henry is a totally unsympathetic character.
With all the above said, this is a must watch film for all Holmes and especially Watson fans. You will thoroughly enjoy Solomin’s performance as Watson.
Vitali Mefodievich Solomin was born 12 December 1941 in Chita, Siberia. Both of his parents were professional musicians and taught music. His father was a violinist and cellist and his mother a mezzo-soprano. In 1959 Vitali graduated from high school and went to Moscow to study theater where his brother was already studying. From 1959 until 1964 Vitali studied at the Shchepkin Theatrical School of the Maly Theater. Vitali acted on the stage, on TV and in the movies. Not only was Solomin an actor but he was also a writer and director with over 45 films to his credit. While he was considered an exceptional actor, he was best known for his portrayal of Dr. Watson alongside Livinov’s Holmes. In 1992 he was awarded the title “People’s Artist of Russia”. Solomin was married twice and had one child by his second wife Marina Leoidova. Solomin died 27 May 2002 in Moscow of a stroke.