Another gem we have at Rocket that no one knows about is a VHS entitled MURDER ROOMS: THE DARK BEGINNINGS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Fans of the great sleuth will want to check out this British made-for-television movie that presents a fictional mystery investigated by Dr. Joseph Bell and his clerk Arthur Conan Doyle. Any Holmes expert will tell you that Doyle based much of the character of Sherlock Holmes--especially his deductive reasoning and investigating methods--on his mentor Bell who in real life was much like Holmes. MURDER ROOMS is told from Doyle's point of view--he has just killed off Sherlock Holmes in the Strand Magazine and he is recalling how he first encountered Bell. At home, his father is on the brink of madness and his embarrassment over his family's situation has caused him to withdraw and at the same time look for new challenges from the medical school he is attending. The school has recently allowed women to attend which is bringing protests from some of the more fanatical students. Doyle falls in love with one of the women as he helps her with her studies. Meanwhile, a serial killer is escalating his crimes and has drawn the attention of Dr. Bell. Doyle takes Bell's class but his criticisms of Bell's methods present a challenge for Bell and he makes Doyle his clerk. Together, they form a friendship and partnership as Doyle comes to respect the man. Unfortunately, tragedy awaits in the wings...
MURDER ROOMS is great fun especially for Holmes fans who can pick out references to Holmes stories. The idea is behind the film is that the events occurring were the inspiration for Holmes and the many mysteries Doyle would later write so its interesting to see how many references the viewer can pick out. For example, Doyle accompanies Bell on a case which Bell solves--a case that obviously mirrors the later story "The Speckled Band."
Ian Richardson portrays Dr. Bell and he is marvelous infusing the character with much more humanity than his fictional counterpart Holmes.
This movie inspired 4 more 90 minute episodes of MURDER ROOMS which continued the adventures of Bell and Doyle. These are available on DVD and available at Rocket and I highly recommend them as well. Alas, the original movie is only on VHS.