"Is there any point in the case to which you wish to draw my attention?"
"Yes. To the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime."
"The dog did nothing in the nighttime."
"That was the curious incident."
One hundred years ago this month, an unforgettable meeting never took place. Today, millions can describe, in precise detail, the first encounter between a veteran army surgeon and the world's first consulting detective. It is an acquaintance fans of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson never tire of making.
Although Holmes' creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, certainly did.
Doyle died utterly frustrated by Holmes' popularity, which he felt detracted from his "important" literary work. He had managed to kill off Holmes for exactly three years (in The Final Problem) before an outraged public forced his resurrection.
Eventually, Sherlock Holmes transcended not only Doyle's lifetime but his writing as well. Every year brings a new novel, play or film featuring the eccentric master sleuth with the loyal sidekick and the uncanny powers of deduction. The exact number of Holmes films, made by nearly every country in the world, is impossible to calculate. Here are eight of the best. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939, Spotlight, $29.98) -- If ever an actor were born for a role, it was Basil Rathbone for Holmes. Everything about him -- voice, stature, skill (even an aristocratic nose) -- was so precisely right, people still measure other screen Holmeses against his. Nigel Bruce's bumbling, fumbling, but equally memorable Watson significantly deviates from Conan Doyle's. The actors' first teaming elevates this sterile, predictable tale of murder on the Yorkshire moors. Incredibly, only three (out of 14) of Rathbone's Holmes films are available on videocassette. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939, Spotlight, $29.98) -- Twentieth Century Fox knew just what to stress in its second Holmes outing, and it wasn't a sappy love story like "Hound" had. Rathbone and Bruce wisely got top billing and attention as Holmes battles his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty (George Zucco), for the crown jewels. It's a crisp, haunting mystery with elaborate Hollywood sets doubling nicely for Victorian London. Terror By Night (1946, Spotlight, $19.95) -- Rathbone's Holmes (now at Universal Studios) spent most of World War II fighting Nazis in an entertaining movie series. After V-E day, however, it was detective business as usual. Holmes and Watson board a train for Scotland to figure out which passenger is a murderous jewel thief. The confined setting actually enhances the suspense. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959, CBS-Fox, $29.98) -- England's Hammer Studios did more than revitalize the horror genre. It made the definitive adaptation of Conan Doyle's classic novel, with terror elements intact, and in color. Peter Cushing, himself a renowned Sherlockian, gives an energetic interpretation as Holmes, while bounding through the moor to foil a family curse. "Do as the legend says," he warns. "Keep away from the moor at night when the powers of evil are exalted." Andre Morell makes a literary Watson. A Study in Terror (1965, RCA-Columbia, $69.95) -- If Sherlock Holmes had existed when he was supposed to, Victorian slasher Jack the Ripper never would have gotten away with it. The first of two cinematic duels between Holmes and the Ripper -- both featuring Anthony Quale as Inspector Lestrade -- packs plenty of chills. Holmes (a perfectly suitable John Neville) tries to end the Ripper's career. Jack doesn't appreciate it. This one puts many modern thrillers to shame. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970, Key, $59.98) -- No Holmes film has been more lovingly crafted than Billy Wilder's tribute to the Master. It works equally well as detective story, comedy and romance, with Wilder's genius everywhere in evidence. The trail of a missing husband leads Holmes to the legendary Loch Ness monster. Although Colin Blakely and Christopher Lee almost steal the show as Watson and Holmes' brother, Mycroft, Robert Stephens' subtle performance in the title role eventually takes the prize. The Seven Percent Solution (1976, MCA, $59.95) -- Imaginative chronology would also place Holmes and Sigmund Freud at the same time and place. That's exactly what writer Nicholas Meyer did with best-selling, highly-entertaining results. Watson, an amazingly adroit Robert Duvall, lures Holmes (Nicol Williamson) to Vienna where Freud (Alan Arkin) can cure his cocaine addiction. A stimulating case provides the final therapy. Good old-fashioned fun, filmed in Austria. Murder By Decree (1979, CBS-Fox, $39.95) -- Round Two in the Holmes-Jack the Ripper bout benefits from '70s conspiranoia and an all-star cast. Holmes suspects the Ripper is a member of the royal family. Parliament mounts a cover-up. Christopher Plummer is an unusually sensitive yet still effective Holmes. Watson, appealingly played by James Mason, gets equal time for once. A creepy, slightly unpleasant, ultimately satisfying film; with Donald Sutherland and Genevieve Bujold. Avoid at all costs: Young Sherlock Holmes (1985, Disney, $59.95), Steven Spielberg's lavish travesty of Sherlockian lore. It also rips off "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," "Gremlins" and "The Goonies." No one should be that desperate.