A Canine Sherlock Holmes

(Charles Urban Trading Company, UK, 1912)

Dir.: Stuart Kinder

Cast: Spot

intertitle/subtitle: EN/PL, source: EYE

A brazen bank robbery has taken place – with the criminals using poisoned coins and threatening to detonate a bomb. The bank’s management calls for the help of detective Hawkshaw, accompanied by his faithful canine assistant. And it’s Spot the dog who – both literally and figuratively – picks up the scent of a man named Raffles and leads to the case being solved.

A parody of the Sherlock Holmes stories that takes advantage of both the popularity of the genius detective and other crime series of the time, as well as that of contemporary canine movie stars.

The film explicitly refers to some of the conventions of the genre not only with its formula of a humorous investigation, but also the names of the characters which appear: Hawkshaw had been a synonym for a detective ever since Tom Taylor's play “The Ticket of Leave Man” in 1863, and Raffles also alludes to the famous gentleman burglar, the literary character created by E.W. Hornung (incidentally, Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law). The idea of the detective and dog duo – with the animal as the human's partner or, as was the case here, essentially taking over the role of the main investigator – had already been seen several times, as in Pathé's "Les Chiens Policiers" by Lucien Nonguet (1907) or "The Detective’s Dog" by Alice Guy-Blaché (1912) from her own Solax Studios which she had founded herself. These films were part of a wider trend of "canine cinema", in which the animal hero usually turned out to be smarter and more effective than people. This trend had its own stars, including a collie named Rover, known from the pictures by Cecil M. Hepworth, or Jean, another collie, from the Vitagraph studio. Spot – the only member of the cast of “A Canine Sherlock Holmes” to be credited by name – was another such star, being the mascot of the studio and featuring in commercials. He also appeared in "Five Pounds Reward" (1913) and "Spot as Cupid" (1912) - again, of course, rescuing people from various difficult situations. (KW)

April 7 | 20.00 |  Iluzjon cinema

live music: Diomede

  • Canine Sherlock Holmes

    source EYE Filmmuseum