Let’s talk THE CRUCIFER OF BLOOD starring Charlton Heston!
Quick summary, (for time’s sake, I am lifting this from IMDB):
“Beautiful, young Irene St. Claire enlists Holmes’ and Watson’s help for her father, a former veteran of the Great Indian Mutiny, who has become a hopeless opium addict. His drug dependence is a direct result of guilt and fear arising from a blood pact [on a picture of the cross, hence the word “crucifer”] of secrecy made during the siege of Agra in 1857 in which he was party to the theft of a maharajah’s treasure, murder, and betrayal. When an avaricious co-conspirator dies under mysterious circumstances, St. Clair is certain that the curse will strike him next.”
Here are five fast thoughts about THE CRUCIFER OF BLOOD:
1.) Simon Callow as Lestrade!
Simon Callow is best known as the older gay man, Gareth, from “FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. For me, as a Doctor Who fan, I know him for his amazing performances as Charles Dickens in “The Unquiet Dead” and “The Wedding of River Song”.
Callow’s Lestrade was egotistical, funny and, in the end, knew not to “bite the hand that feeds him.” Meaning, while he treated Holmes with a sense of contempt, he knew that it would be Holmes that would help him solve the crime and allow him to take the credit.
Callow is one of the actors who can turn anything he is in into gold. It was the only redeemable part of ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS (which also features Doctor Who alumni Ian McNeice, who played Winston Churchill).
His Watson was serviceable and, oddly, the “lady’s man” in this piece. I raised my eyebrow at this considering at the time this was filmed, he was 64 and his love interest, Susannah Harker as Irene St. Claire was 26.
The funniest thing about Johnson’s performance of Watson was, he looked like Saddam Hussein!
While Johnson wasn’t the “mother of all Watsons” he matched Heston’s Holmes.
3. Speaking of Watson…
In 1981, Heston originally played Holmes on the stage in Lost Angeles, guess who his Watson was?
(By the way, check out this fun interview with Brett here).
4. Wink, wink! Nudge, nudge!
During the confrontation with villain Jonathan Small, it is set on a ship called “The Gloria Scott”.
At the end of the movie, a captain of a ship begs for the assistance of Holmes and Watson and claims the ship is from Sumatra and he see a giant rat aboard. He claims it is the size of a hound!
Check out the full discussion of the Rat of Sumatra here.
5. Heston as Holmes.
Charlton Heston was 68 years old when he played Sherlock. His Sherlock had that “Heston growl” and I could tell he had fun with it. This was the man who played Moses and Ben Hur and defined his career.
Does he look like what anyone would imagine Holmes looking like? Not really, but I got the feeling he enjoyed himself playing it. The movie was directed by his son Fraser Clarke Heston and he got to play THE MOST FILMED CHARACTER in cinema history!
And now it was his turn.
First, he got the “Holmes as an actor” done right. His disguise as the Asian man running an opium den was nicely done.
Second, it’s just a little thing – I found him wearing the deerstalker naturally compared to other actors who played Holmes – even Peter Cushing.
It was a quick scene with him and Callow walking away from an opium den and put on the deerstalker like it was a baseball hat. Most of the time, I do not see Holmes actors placing it on their head. A lot of times, it’s just there.
Another aside, it would be funny if he said to Callow, “Take your stinking paws off my deerstalker cap, you damn dirty Lestrade!”
If you get a chance to see this movie, do it. It’s a ton of fun and worth your time! Especially if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan.
NOTE: All images courtesy linked back to source (save for the Saddam Hussein and Johnson as Watson. Those were from a random Google search).