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Anachronism Stew / Sherlock Holmes

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Sherlock Holmes

  • Just prior to his hanging, Blackwood is told he has been sentenced to death for "the practice of black magic". British law has not recognized magical acts since the Witchcraft Act of 1735. The only prosecutions have been against those who commit fraud by pretending to cast spells. Ironically, 'committing fraud by pretending to cast spells' better describes the crimes Blackwood has committed.
    • Lord Blackwood is on Death Row (and presumably hanged) at H.M.P. Pentonville. London's death row was at H.M.P. Newgate until 1902. Further, Lord Blackwood's execution is done American-style. In Britain, the hood placed over the condemned's head was white, not black. The rope also was not the coiled noose of western movies; it passed through a simple eyelet.
  • In the opening, a constable can be seen loading a plastic shotgun shell in the breach of his shotgun. Plastic shotshells were introduced in 1960. In 1890, they were either all brass or paper.
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  • Gladstone the dog is an English Bulldog, probably because the books refer to Watson "keeping a bulldog." In reality, the word "bulldog" would have referred to a more pit bull-like dog at the time, as modern flat-faced bulldogs didn't yet exist.
  • In many scenes, Sherlock Holmes wears a shirt with an attached collar. That was introduced by Van Heusen in 1929.
  • Following Holmes' leap from the House of Parliament, a statue of Queen Boudicca can be seen at the end of Westminster Bridge. The statue was erected in 1902, 8 years after the opening of Tower Bridge, which is partially completed in the film.
  • During Irene's first conversation with Holmes, she says she brought dates from Jordan. The country of Transjordan was established in 1921; the name changed to Jordan in 1949. Although, the name "Al-Urdun" (Jordan) was used on Umayyad post-reform copper coins beginning in the early 8th century, in 1890 the name Jordan did not appear on maps to represent the land of modern Jordan and would not have used other than as the name of the river Jordan. The land today known as the country of Jordan was labeled on maps of the era as Gilead or Bashan.
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  • On a view of Picadilly Circus, Regent Street appears as it was rebuilt in the 1920s. In 1890 it was still Georgian architecture.
  • Early in the film, Holmes reads a Daily Graphic dated 13 November 1890. The front page features a report of Blackwood's impending execution, accompanied by photographs of Blackwood, Holmes, and Watson. The Daily Graphic was the first newspaper to print a halftone photograph, but it started in 1891.
  • The term "radio" was first used as a noun in 1907.
  • One shot of the Clocktower of the Palace of Westminster (commonly known as Big Ben) shows Portcullis House, the UK MPs' offices, with its distinctive chimney stacks, to the right. Portcullis House was built in 2001.
  • In the beginning, Holmes tests the revolver silencer. His gun is an 1895 Nagant revolver, with the Soviet Tula arsenal mark (hammer inside the star) and 1941 (the year of manufacture) below it.
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  • Holmes describes the devices used to kill one of the villain's opponents and torch the abattoir as "employing a flammable substance." "Flammable" entered the language in the early 20th century, as a disambiguation of "inflammable," which means the same thing, but was mistaken for its antonym, "non-flammable." For safety reasons, it became preferable to use "flammable" when giving warnings about combustibility.
  • Watson uses a streamlined, mercury-filled sphygmomanometer to take the Colonel's blood pressure. The instrument wasn't widely available, or widely used, until 1901.
  • When Blackwood talks to Ambassador Standish at the secret society meeting, he says America has been weakened by its "recent" Civil War. The Civil War ended in 1865, and the Reconstruction was over by 1877, so by 1891 when the film takes place, America was hardly in a weakened state. That said, it was a very costly war and its effects still lingered past Reconstruction, not magically disappeared, so "weakened state" is a gross overstatement, but not entirely incorrect.
  • The date on the newspaper Holmes is holding after he was bailed from jail is Friday, November 19, 1891. November 19th was actually on a Thursday that year.
  • After the case is closed, Lord Blackwood's machine is taken by the "Secret Service". While there was a Special Branch of the police, the military intelligence Secret Service Bureau wasn't created until 1909.
  • "Haymaker" is used when Holmes is anticipating his opponent's moved in the pit fight. The term was first used in 1906.
  • The version of "Rocky Road to Dublin" heard during Sherlock's pit fight was recorded by The Dubliners in 1964 — 74 years after the events of the film.

Game of Shadows

  • With the exception of the Gewehr 88 rifles (one is even marked "SPANDAU 1890") and Gatling guns fired by factory guards in the forests, all of the firearms produced by Moriarty are anachronistic (arguably hand-waved, since the entire basis of Moriarty's plot revolves around producing new, technologically advanced weapons so that he can turn an enormous profit by starting World War I, this makes perfect sense. Presumably the weapons are prototypes. It's not a stretch to imagine that other companies got their hands on the designs after Moriarty "died" and began producing them a few years later).
    • The first mass-produced submachine gun appeared in 1915.
    • The Mauser C96 machine pistol that is fired by Holmes during the Heilbronn train yard shootout was not produced until 1896. However, the C96s have magazines, which makes them M712 Schnellfeuers, designed in 1927 but not commercially available until 1932, with hammer and address panel from the 1930s.
    • The assassins on the train use a .303 Maxim 1895 machine gun with spade grips, which is not an error in and of itself (Hiram Maxim's first patents were registered in June and July 1883 and the first prototype was demonstrated in October 1884, with a prototype being given to the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition in 1886–1890 while the Singapore Volunteer Corps was the first unit in the Empire to field the Maxim gun in 1889), their use of spitzer ammunition is, however. France was the first nation to field spitzer rounds in 1898, while Germany began testing the Spitzgeschoß aerodynamic bullet in 1902 and entered production in 1904; the first .303 spitzer round was the Mark VII, adopted in 1910. The assassins also use No. 2 Mk. II Hale grenades, introduced in 1907.
    • Meinhard guards attack the escaping party with 7.58 cm Minenwerfers, not introduced until 1909. This is also an unusual tactic for the guards to employ, as shelling the woods will most likely injure their own people as well as Holmes'.
    • The Meinhard factory has electric lighting.Schneider's company first started selling electricity in Germany in 1892, though Moriarty surely found another source before electricity was commercially available.
    • The dart cartridge Moran uses is actually a Winchester-made .223 Remington case. The .223 was introduced in 1964 and is derived from both the .222 Remington, introduced in 1950 and the .222 Remington Magnum, introduced in 1958.
  • Watson and Holmes are seen driving a four-wheeled automobile in 1891, two years before the first four-wheeled models were introduced and four years before automobiles were commercially available in the UK. Lampshaded by Watson, who clearly recognizes how noticeable the automobile is when Holmes suspects Moriarty has him under surveillance, to which Holmes replies, "It's so overt, it's covert."
  • Claude Ravache commits suicide with a Modele d’Ordonnance Mle 1892 revolver. Watson picks it up and uses it for much of the film's remainder.
  • In the alleyway brawl in the opening, one the attackers holds a Webley Mk. V topbreak revolver on Holmes, which Holmes then take, unloads and returns. The Mk. V was introduced in 1913.
  • When Holmes looks into the office in Heilbronn's arms factory, we see a map of Europe which shows, among others, Germany and Finland as players in Moriarty's World War, represented by their current flags, probably used for the benefit of the audience. The modern German flag was first used 1848-1866 in the Deutscher Bund, but by 1891 a different flag was in use, with black at the top, white in the middle and red at the bottom. It was the flag of the North German Confederation (Norddeutscher Bund) 1867-1871 and the German Empire (1871-1918). After that, in the Weimarer Republic (1919-1933), black-red-gold was the official flag again. Finland, meanwhile, was part of Russia until 1917.
    • Although the English flag does feature St. George's Cross, in 1891 England was not a nation. At that time, the Union Jack would have been used to identify the United Kingdom. Moreover, the term used would have been 'Großbritannien' (in reference to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) instead of 'England'.
    • Although displayed correctly, the flag of Prussia seems out of place since in 1891 the Kingdom of Prussia was part of the German Empire, represented through the (incorrect) German flag in the same room.
  • Holmes follows Moriarty's lecturing tour across Europe and mentions Oslo, Norway. However, as of 1891, Oslo had been called Christiania since the mid-1600s. It was not called Oslo again until the 1920s.
  • Partially anachronism, partially anatopism (out of place) - the locomotives in the German train yard are from several decades later, and are British designs of the Great Western Railway.
  • Mycroft anachronic: in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, set in November 1895, Watson says he had known very little of Mycroft and saw him only once in another story set in 1888. Only after that Holmes tells him how important is Mycroft in the Government bureaucracy. His story had been altered to fit the canonical 1891 disappearance of Holmes. However, Game of Shadows is different enough from "Final Problem" to be considered part of a different canon, so perhaps in the canon of the Guy Ritchie movies, Watson has had more encounters with Mycroft than in the original Conan Doyle canon.
  • Holmes uses a tube of lipstick to sabotage the villains' guns on the train. Lipstick in a tube was not invented until 1915.
  • When Holmes and Moriarty are playing chess, Moriarty says "Your clock is ticking, may I remind you this is blitz chess." The earliest known usage of the term 'blitz chess' according to the OED is in 1942.
  • Professor Moriarty is shown playing a 12" gramophone record in his office and the armaments factory. The 12" gramophone record was not introduced until 1903.
  • During the final dance scene, Dmitri Shostakovich's "Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2" plays. Shostakovich did not write the piece until 1938, when it was written for the State Jazz Orchestra, in Moscow
  • At the telegraph office, the word "Telegraphen" is spelled with "ph" on the wall in the background, but with an "f" ("Telegrafenamt") on the door itself. Although both spellings are correct in modern German, the "f" variant was not used in the 19th century; it came up much later.
  • When Mycroft approaches Mary, the new Mrs. Watson, in an advanced state of undress, he says he begins to understand how a man could be attracted to a person "of your gender". Prior to the late 20th century, "gender" was a purely grammatical term, referring to a noun being masculine, feminine or neuter. Mycroft would have used the word "sex".
  • Upon arriving for Watson's stag party, the band is entertaining the party-goers with "The Band Played On", which was written in 1895 by Charles B. Ward, lyrics by John F. Palmer. Later in the same scene, the music of "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo", written in 1892.
  • When Holmes succumbs to his wounds as they make their escape on the train, Watson performs chest compressions and precordial thumps. Compressions were not utilized until 1960, and the thump was not instituted until over ten years later.
  • Watson relates the story by typing on a typewriter, which is shown at the beginning and end of the movie. He is clearly using an Underwood No. 5, a classic typewriter, which did not exist in 1891, and even the Underwood model No. 1 had not yet come out.
  • Like the first film, the word "haymaker" is used, this time by Moriarty when anticipating a fight against Holmes. But it wasn't used as a fighting term until 1906.
  • When Watson first goes to Holmes' flat, Mrs Hudson hints that she is concerned at Holmes' mental state but suggests a stay in a "sanatorium". This would instead imply he needed rest and treatment for tuberculosis, which is what was provided at a sanatorium. The word was only later, and especially in the USA rather than England, also used to describe a hospital for those with a mental illness.
  • During the establishing scene of Baker Street near the start of the film construction workers are seen in the street. A sign says, "'UNDERGROUND' Railway Construction Keep Out". In 1891 the railways being constructed under London were yet to be collectively called 'UNDERGROUND' and the logotype used on the sign, with the larger initial U and final D, was not seen until 1908.
  • Moriarty plays Schuber's "Forelle" over a PA system at the Mainhard compound. But PA systems with the proper quality and power to do so were not available until the 1920s.


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