I recently returned a copy of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes DVD at the library. Now, when you think of "rivals", you think Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Philo Vance, Nero Wolfe - characters that were published within Doyle's lifetime and managed to stick around, more or less. If you're under 40, maybe your parents were Ellery Queen fans and have a few beat-up books squirreled away someplace, or have seen the eponymous mystery magazine or watched Castle and Murder, She Wrote without realizing that you're watching Ellery Queen in all but name only. If you're a Poirot or Wolfe fan, those books are easy to find. Philo Vance novels popped in and out of print over the past few decades and films featuring Basil Rathbone, Errol Flynn and William Powell as "Needs-a-kick-in-the-pants-Vance" appear on Turner Classic Movies once in a while.
None of those guys appeared in this collection. What's left is very interesting - a collection of detectives with gimmicks and M.O.'s that resemble a distillation of qualities we associate with Sherlock Holmes:
Profound knowledge of Forensic Science - Dr. Thorndyke
Streetwise, with an eye for opportunity - Dorrington
Pragmatic and busnesslike in dealing with clients - Martin Hewitt
Brilliant Amateur Gentleman Slueth - Dixon Druce
Flashy Bravado - Max Carrados
Gothic settings and confronting the supernatural - Thomas Carnacki
Flair with Disguises - Romney Pringle
Quarrels with the police - Lady Molly
Inside knowledge of the Underworld - Simon Carne
Eye for detail on a specific subject - Bernard Sutton
Most of the characters had one episode devoted to them. Some, like Martin Hewitt and Dorrington, had two or three to make up a full 13 episodes. They were run-of-the-mill stories, and not really interesting. Unfortunatley, I wish they had chosen to adapt more Carnacki stories - I thought that episode worked best - it could've been made now, only with better special effects.
As Carnacki, Donald Pleasance seems slightly more effective than Dr. Loomis was at chasing Michael Myers, but at least Carnacki has neat gadgets, like the electric pentangle, and does not bore us with psychobabble. There were only six stories written with this original ghostbuster, with a number of pastiches that followed by other writers. Best of all, Carnacki appears in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Comics.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS! For the first time, an obscure character that I'm actually interested in seeing more of has an important role in that comic! Now I want to go look for the stories featuring him and not wonder why Moore seems so dead-set against Sherlock or Dracula appearing in his funnybook. Yes!
Sadly, that one episode is the only onscreen adaptation of a Carnacki story. The summaries offered on Wikipedia hint that at least two more stories could've been filmed under the given budget. Another season of the show was filmed with a different crowd of would-be rivals, and I have yet to see it, but I have to be honest and say the BEST thing about the whole series was the title sequence. It's very catchy.