Here’s something to lighten your day a little: Monty Python’s John Cleese as Sherlock Holmes in the 1977 British television film The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It.
As the title suggests, it’s a very silly film. Cleese plays Arthur Sherlock Holmes, grandson of the famous detective. His sidekick, Dr. Watson, is similarly descended from a familiar character in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Together they set out to foil a diabolical plot by their nemesis, a descendent of Professor Moriarty. The modern-day Holmes has some of the same mannerisms as his famous grandfather, but is decidedly less clever and likes to keep his calabash pipe filled with exotic varieties of cannabis.
Cleese co-wrote the script with Jack Hobbs and the film’s director, Joseph McGrath, who is best known for directing the Peter Sellers movies Casino Royale and The Magic Christian. It was produced for London Weekend Television by Humphrey Barclay, who is generally credited with bringing together much of what eventually became the Monty Python cast, including American animator Terry Gilliam, in the subversive late-1960s children’s show Do Not Adjust Your Set. Cleese’s wife at the time, Connie Booth, who was also collaborating with him on the TV series Fawlty Towers, plays the detective’s landlady Mrs. Hudson. And Arthur Lowe is very funny as the dim-witted Dr. Watson.
The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It is a low-budget affair — extremely goofy — and not for everyone. But if you’re a fan of classic British TV comedy and you love outlandish gags, you should get a kick out of it. The funniest parts begin after the 13-minute mark, when Cleese arrives onscreen.
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