Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Want This - Basil Rathbone Selects Strange Tales

See this book cover I have displayed? It is a must have item for me, one that I didn’t even know existed until I visited the new Mad House, The Macabre Magazine website yesterday and saw it displayed halfway down the right column. The actions that followed are probably pretty obvious if you know me; I went from the Mad House site to Amazon and looked up the book. $3.99 for a used copy -- a bit pricey compared to what I usually pay for my old Amazon horror titles, yet a price that didn’t cause a single moments hesitation in the decision to buy a copy. Why? you ask. Is the promise of four strange tales really that irresistible? My answer: No, but having a book edited by Basil Rathbone, especially one that features what appears to be his decapitated head, is. Let me explain. As a child growing up my mother loved the old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes episodes. In fact, she loved them so much that she never tired of them and introduced them to me and my little brother while we were growing up. Because of this we too fell in love with these old black and white Sherlock Holmes episodes and used to watch them all the time on TV and then, once the technology was present, on the DVDs we had collected. Even my distaste for the way Watson was portrayed, not to mention all the various changes (mutilations?) from the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, which I have been reading for years and love, didn’t take away from the episodes. They are just too much fun, which makes it almost impossible to have any negative feelings toward them; though I must say I do now prefer the Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law versions of Holmes and Watson to any that have come before.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, if I would buy a book simply because Basil Rathbone selected the stories, then I must really be a fan of Basil Rathbone and can probably rattle off every part he has ever played in. This isn’t the case. Sure, I know about his portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in the classic Rrrol Flynn Robin Hood, and I do remember seeing him portraying an evil wizard in some sword and sorcery movie on Svengoolie once, but that’s it. I couldn’t tell you what rolls, aside from those two and Sherlock Holmes that that he played in, and really don’t have any desire to see them. Instead it was simply a love of the old Sherlock Holmes episodes that made buying this book irresistible, not to mention the love my mom had of them when she was little. It is also interesting to note that my mother did once get to meet Basil Rathbone as a child when her family was in Europe. He was even kind enough to sign a personalized autograph to her and my grandmother, one which I had to promise to take very good care of on its trip to my scanner from my Mom’s office. I don’t know for sure, but have a feeling this wonderful chance encounter she had with him as a child, and the warmth he displayed when talking to her, probably played a huge part in her continued enjoyment of his Sherlock Holmes portrayal. As for my continued love of those portrayals, I have no idea but am sure nostalgia plays a part.

For those interested the personalize autograph reads (as far as I can tell): To Ann & Betty Paganini, both all good wishes for 1966. Basil Rathbone.