Well, right off the bat I have to say, this is not the greatest episode I've seen. Nor is it the greatest Sherlock Holmes story, either. Indeed, "The Man with the Twisted Lip" seems a singularly odd choice for dramatization. Of all the 56 short stories in the Canon, why adapt this one? Reading the story again, and watching this adaptation of it, I am struck by how incredibly dense Holmes is in this case. I hadn't even remembered the plot of the story when I began watching the episode, but early on, I thought, "It's obvious, isn't it? Neville St. Clair and Hugh Boone are the same person." Does it really require so much work on the part of Holmes and Watson to figure out something so plain?
That being said, the adaptation is fairly faithful to the source material. There is, of course, the adjustment of Watson still being a bachelor in the show, which actually improves on the story a bit. Reading through the story, I was wondering what Mrs. Watson would have thought when her husband doesn't come home after going out to find their friend's husband? And that's one interesting thing about the story: we begin with Watson going out to find a friend who has an unfortunate opium addiction, but that turns out merely to be a device to get Watson to the opium den. A very odd shift in the storytelling, I think.
The TV adaptation also fleshes out the character of Neville/Hugh a bit, by giving him all kinds of clever quotes from Shakespeare, Tennyson, and even W.S. Gilbert ("a policeman's lot is not a happy one," from The Pirates of Penzance). This is an example of what Doyle describes in the story as "the facility of repartee." Entertaining enough, but it gets pretty corny at the end, when Neville clumsily paraphrases Shakespeare, saying, "Farewell, sweet Boone...a flight of angels sing thee to thy rest." This is, of course, adapted from Horatio's farewell to Hamlet in the final scene of Hamlet: "Good night, sweet prince/ And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"
As there is no real crime in this story, apart from Neville being a colossal ass to his wife, there's really not a whole lot to recommend about the episode. I found myself occupied through most of the story with fairly trivial questions, for example:
As you can probably tell, this was not my favorite installment in the series. Indeed, I would say it is my least favorite episode thus far. By all means, watch it it for the sake of completeness (as I did), but if you choose to skip it, you won't have missed anything.
The Granada adaptation of "The Adventure of the Second Stain," the last case published in the collection entitled The Return of Sherlock Holmes, is a very solid episode in the series. Jeremy Brett is in particularly fine form in the episode, and the supporting cast is excellent as well, most notably (for me, at least) Patricia Hodge as Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope. (Fans of the British comedy Miranda will certainly recognize Ms. Hodge from her role as Penny, Miranda's mother.)
The adaptation follows the original story quite closely, merely rearranging a few scenes to heighten some of the dramatic tension, but following all the plot points quite closely. The most interesting change comes at the very end, where Holmes is given the chance to indulge in a fine bit of sleight-of-hand to deposit the letter into Trelawney Hope's dispatch box while he is sorting through the letters. In the original, Holmes deduces that Lady Hilda has a duplicate key, and has her place the letter in the box before her husband gets home. In the adaptation there is no second key, and there's a lovely shot where Jeremy Brett walks into the foreground, showing his face in profile as he lights his cigarette, immediately after his little trick.
A couple other little details caught my attention and made me grin with delight. The first is so random that I actually think it may have been a mistake while filming. As Holmes complains about his inability to find the letter over several days, he lights his pipe and flings the match aside. The match is clearly still aflame, and a few seconds later, Watson shouts, "Holmes!" The camera then shows that the pile of newspapers on a nearby chair has burst into flames, and Brett and Hardwicke proceed to put out the flames for a few seconds. There is no mention in the original of anything catching fire, and it has absolutely no impact on the plot, so I wonder if the fire was an accident?
The other detail that made me smile was when Holmes searches for the letter in the hidden compartment in Eduardo Lucas's floor. When he finds it empty, Jeremy Brett utters a snort that sounds exactly like a hog. It made me laugh out loud, but this moment was apparently Brett's interpretation of what the original story calls "a bitter snarl of anger and disappointment." Okay, it was more a snort than a snarl, but entertaining nonetheless!
The episode wraps up with Jeremy Brett jumping into the air in celebration, an action that seems a tiny bit out of character for the detective. However, as I consider Brett's approach to his portrayal of Holmes, I think one of the things that makes it so enjoyable much of the time is how much humor he injects into the role, without it devolving into slapstick. I have to admit that, every once in awhile, he carries it a bit too far, as in the adaptation of "The Musgrave Ritual." (See my previous review for my thoughts on that episode.)
Overall, I found this episode rather enjoyable to watch. I don't know if it would ever end up in, say, my top five favorites, but it did have a dramatic arc that I found rather satisfying. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments after watching the episode linked below.
NOTE: On the YouTube playlist I've been following, "The Second Stain" is listed as S03, E04, while IMDB's entry on this season lists it as episode 3. I apologize for any confusion this discrepancy may cause.
Well, here we have a very unusual adaptation indeed! Readers of the original Sherlock Holmes canon will recognize "The Musgrave Ritual" as one of the few stories that actually takes place before Holmes and Watson meet. Right off the bat, this poses some difficulties for writers adapting it for the screen. The story consists largely of Holmes telling Watson about one of his earlier cases "before my biographer had come to glorify me." He tells Watson of cases that have long intrigued Sherlockians:
the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminum crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife.
As Holmes tells Watson the story of how one of his former university colleagues, Reginald Musgrave, showed up at his rooms in Montague Street, the story-within-a-story actually becomes a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, leading to double quotation marks within single quotation marks within double quotation marks. So, obviously something different needed to be done with the adaptation.
Now I would have expected the story to be told as a flashback, Holmes telling Watson about one of his cases in the old days. However, the writers chose to get a little more creative: they insert Watson into the story, and the scene is now Holmes and Watson being invited for a little vacation time at the estate of Reginald Musgrave. As the adventure unfolds, the dynamic duo are in the middle of the action, and the tale gets rather entertaining and interesting. Most of the major plot points are imported intact from the source material, as well as large chunks of dialogue from the original. Not the least of these is the "Musgrave Ritual" from the title. (I have removed all of the many quotation marks, for ease of reading.)
Whose was it?
As the adaptation unfolds, the mystery is rather engaging for the viewer, but there are some misssteps along the way. The most bewildering choice, I thought, was that Holmes inexplicably spends the first half of the episode wrapping himself in an afghan blanket, as if he is freezing, while no one around him seems to be too cold at all. I found that little detail to be incredibly distracting. Also, Jeremy Brett spends an entire scene holding back laughter, and then erupting into guffaws for...no reason whatsoever.
One might also be surprised (in the original story and in its adaptation) by an adventure in which Holmes solves the case of the mysterious Musgrave Ritual, but seems completely unconcerned by the missing Rachel Howells, who most likely was directly involved in the murder of the butler Brunton. The adaptation solves this problem, to a certain extent, by having the woman's body emerge from the pond, as another servant (with whom Brunton had an affair) discovers the corpse and runs away, shrieking. Considering, though, that the pond had been searched thoroughly at an earlier point in the episode, this doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.
So, is this a faithful adaptation of the story of "The Musgrave Ritual"? Well, yes and no. As I mentioned, most of the story is fairly similar, but there are certainly many liberties taken, rearranging it for ease of storytelling, as well as to have Watson be a participant. Still, it's enjoyable enough to watch, and there are great moments throughout, including a lovely shot of Holmes, Watson and Musgrave at work on the mystery, which I've shared at the top of the post, and a humorous moment when Watson miscalculates the length of a shadow (after Holmes has exclaimed, "The answer lies in trigonometry!"). Overall, an entertaining, if a bit unusual, entry into the Granada canon.
Shakespeare and Sherlock
Posted on May 6, 2014 by Sylvia Morris
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous characters in literature. So compelling has Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant detective proved to be since the stories were written over a century ago that he has been brought to life in scores of films, TV series and radio plays. And the character himself has inspired novelists and playwrights to write new stories. So powerful a hold does this fictional character have that a museum dedicated to him, furnished as if he had really lived there, is situated in Baker Street, London.
Nobody has opened a Hamlet museum, but if there was to be a Shakespeare character to have his own museum this would probably be it.
Once again, the "game is afoot!" (A famous Shakespeare quote that Sherlock Holmes is known to apply from time to time, including in this story and its adaptation...) "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" is a dramatic tale, one in which an abused woman lies to protect the man she loves, and in which Holmes ends up taking the law into his own hands, with Watson's full compliance. Nevertheless, justice is done, and right prevails. The Granada adaptation is fairly faithful to the story, although there are certainly a few sequences added to flesh it out a bit, including an unusual plot point about the Lady Brackenstall's pet dog, Fudge. The ending is slightly different (no spoilers!), and Holmes and Watson have a brief discussion as to the ethical consequences of the detective's decision to operate outside the precise confines of the law.
Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke are excellent, as always, and Brett displays quite a bit of agility in a scene in which he climbs on top of a huge mantelpiece, to examine a torn bell-pull. Although I don't know the order in which episodes of this season were filmed, I get the feeling that Hardwicke was feeling more comfortable in the role of Watson than he was in "The Empty House." (But I acknowledge I could be reading more into the performance than is actually there.)
Although the writing of the episode is quite good, I do have to say a few words about the unusual cinematography on display. I'm afraid the director relied far too much on odd camera angles and reflections. The latter is particularly noticeable: I lost count of how many times one character or another was reflected in a mirror, or a metal sign, or a window. Regarding odd camera angles, there were several shots from extremely high angles, or through partially obscured windows, or even a few from the point of view of a cab driver. I found all of these bizarre visual choices quite distracting, as there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to them, and they made the visual aspect of the storytelling confusing and unsettling.
Still, the story was extremely engaging, and I particularly enjoyed a scene where Holmes visits the shipping manager, who turns out to have read many of Watson's published adventures, and has applied some of Holmes's methods of deduction. The scene, which is only a simple paragraph in the original story, was tremendously entertaining, even though it featured another odd directing choice, as Holmes continually focuses on a chess set (caught mid-game). I really expected him to move one of the pieces, but was surprised when the camera abruptly cut away to the next scene.
So overall, "Abbey Grange" was an enjoyable installment in the series, despite its weird visual style. Maybe not one of my favorite episodes so far, but not a waste of time, either. Enjoy watching the YouTube video below, and feel free to share your own thoughts on the episode in the comments. (WARNING: there is some fairly explicit violence in the episode, including a bloody murder, so if you are easily triggered, be aware.)
And I'm back, after a most enjoyable Holy Week and Easter Sunday! Speaking of "resurrection"...
Sherlock Holmes is back for the second series from Granada TV, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke taking over the role of Dr. John Watson from the inimitable David Burke. I'm sure Sherlockians weren't the only viewers who knew what was coming up in this pivotal episode, and adaptation of "The Empty House." There are no surprises here, especially when the series has the word "Return" right in its title!
Other than the slight detail of giving Watson a more active role in the case of the murder of Ronald Adair, the episode follows the original source material very closely. After an opening sequence that is a bit slow, dramatically speaking, we are treated to Holmes's surprise appearance in Watson's office, as he suddenly transforms from the old book seller into the great detective, causing Watson to faint "for the first and the last time in my life," as Watson puts it in the story. For me (and no doubt, for most viewers) this reunion scene was the main source of enjoyment. Much of the story is told in flashbacks, as Holmes relates what really happened at the Reichenbach Falls. Indeed, if one looks very closely, one can see that all the wide shots of Watson searching in vain for his friend are actually shots of David Burke playing the role in the previous season.
There's a very brief but very emotionally stirring moment during the flashback, when Jeremy Brett as Holmes just begins to shout out Watson's name, but immediately stops himself. It's a beautiful little detail that shows the deep fondness Holmes feels for his friend. Indeed, Watson's response to hearing that Holmes has kept the secret of his survival for THREE YEARS is remarkably gentle. It wouldn't be any stain on Watson's character if he had been just a bit angrier. However, Edward Hardwicke does show a bit of sadness, as he tells Holmes that he believes he could have been at least as deserving of Sherlock's confidence as his brother Mycroft.
Concerning Edward Hardwicke, he really did do a fine job at stepping into a role that had been played so capably by David Burke. Perhaps because Brett was already so comfortable in the role of Holmes, Hardwicke was able to make the transition into Watson's role as smoothly as possible. I still prefer Burke just a bit, but it will be interesting to watch the process of Hardwicke bringing his own skill set into the production. Certainly, by the end of the Granada series, Hardwicke was able to play Watson in a far greater number of adventures than his predecessor.
While it wasn't the most exciting episode I've seen thus far, "The Empty House" was a perfectly respectable way to begin the next phase of the Granada productions. And as I've mentioned, the joy of watching the Holmes/Watson duo resume their partnership was definitely worth the time I spent watching. Enjoy watching the YouTube video shared below! Once again, the game is afoot!
IT IS with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.
With these words, Arthur Conan Doyle began what was originally intended to b the last Sherlock Holmes adventure. As the story goes, by 1893, Conan Doyle had grown tired of the impact that his Holmes adventures were having on what he considered to be his "serious" writing. It was apparently after a trip to the Alps with his wife that he was inspired to kill off his famous creation at the majestic Reichenbach Falls. In so doing, he created a villain who, despite the small number of times he appears in the Holmes stories, became the great detective's most infamous nemesis: Professor Moriarty.
Backlash to the publication of "The Final Problem," which featured the (apparent) death of Sherlock Holmes, was swift and enormous. The Strand Magazine was inundated with complaints and subscription cancellations. Reportedly, many people could be seen around London wearing mourning clothes, due to the death of their beloved hero. Conan Doyle eventually felt enough pressure from his fans, that he published what is arguable his greatest Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, in 1901. As that novel was a flashback to an earlier adventure, rather than a true "resurrection," it still wasn't enough for Sherlock fans. In 1903, Sherlock Holmes truly returned in "The Adventure of the Empty House," in which it was revealed that the brilliant sleuth had not, in fact, died at the hands of Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.
Which brings us to the wrap-up of the first series of Granada Sherlock Holmes adaptations. "The Final Problem" (1985) is a fitting finale to the second season of that first series. It would prove to be David Burke's final performance as Dr. Watson. Edward Hardwicke took over the role for the second series, entitled (appropriately enough) The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which began airing in 1986. Burke turns in an excellent final performance as the good doctor, and as he takes pen to paper to write "The Final Problem" and bid farewell to his friend, the gravitas is palpable.
Jeremy Brett is in absolutely top form throughout the episode. One wonders if the series had been renewed by this point, or if he also felt that the episode may be his last chance to play Holmes, as well. Whatever the case, he is spectacular. Eric Porter turns in a menacing performance as Professor Moriarty. Overall, the episode is a fantastic adaptation of this most pivotal story, despite a rather clunky special effect that happens when Holmes and Moriarty go over the Falls. The stuntpeople are obviously suspended by wires for their "fall," and the bodies that hit the bottom are clearly dummies. Still, I imagine most of their budget was spent on the gorgeous aerial shots of the Swiss Alps, and what looks to be plenty of location shooting in Switzerland for the second half of the episode.
Despite the climactic ending of the story, there really isn't a whole lot going on in much of the original story, so the writers are forced to pad things out quite a bit. As a result, we have a rather lengthy and unusual sequence after the three attempts on Holmes' s life in London, wherein Holmes recovers the stolen Mona Lisa(!) Indeed, it is that event that precipitates Moriarty's decision in the episode to "dispose" of his nemesis.
I suspect, if you were only to choose to watch a few episodes of the Granada series, "The Final Problem" would be a must-see installment to have on your list. Or you could choose to do what I am doing: watch them all on YouTube!
Incidentally, as next week is Holy Week and I am a church musician, my schedule is going to be very busy next weekend. Therefore, I am not planning on doing a review next Saturdaay. I will resume my reviews the weekend after Easter, as I move on to the second series, The Return of Sherlock Holmes. I hope you'll join me!
(Apparently, this video is also age-restricted, no doubt due to the violent ending of the episode. You've been warned!)
This week, I come to what is surely one of the most delightful episodes of the entire series of adaptations from Granada TV! "The Red-Headed League" has long been a favorite story of most Sherlockians, and was on a list of Arthur Conan Doyle's favorite Holmes stories as well. The Granada adaptation shows Jeremy Brett at the absolute top of his game, and is a real treat for any viewer. Fans of British comedy will certainly recognize the actors playing John Clay (Tim McInnerny from the popular Black Adder series), and Duncan Ross (Richard Wilson from One Foot in the Grave).
This episode really has it all: humor, adventure, and as always, the rapport between Holmes and Watson, played to such great effect by Jeremy Brett and David Burke. The episode give Sherlockians so much to enjoy, including Holmes's reference to the famous "three pipe problem" and the great shot of Jeremy Brett, knees up and smoking, a picture perfect reference to a Sidney Paget illustration from the original story.
There are so many entertaining moments from this episode, but a couple stood out for me, one of which was Jeremy Brett's leap over the settee as Watson enters towards the beginning of the episode, accompanied by a shout of "You couldn't have come at a better time!" (Fans of the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast will recognize the clip immediately from their intro sequence.) And then there's the reaction from Holmes and Watson as Mr. Jabez Wilson concludes his tale. Brett and Burke burst into laughter, which can hardly be helped, as Mr. Wilson tells them all the words he learned, transcribing the first volume of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Little moments of humor, some from the original story and others not, make the episode tremendously entertaining.
The episode also serves as a setup for the next week's conclusion to the first series, "The Final Problem." We get several scenes with Professor Moriarty, as well as fairly lengthy sequence in the bank vault, wherein Holmes and Inspector Jones discuss Moriarty's role in London crime. All this material, of course, is not from the source material, as "The Red-Headed League" was only the second Holmes adventure published in The Strand magazine, and "The Final Problem" came much later. But in the continuity of this first series from Granada, it works quite well to prepare the viewer for the big series finale.
As I prepare myself to watch "The Final Problem" next week, it's a bit of a bittersweet moment, as I know that episode also represents the final episode for David Burke as Dr. Watson. I enjoy Burke's Watson portrayal immensely. I don't know that Edward Hardwicke, who ended up playing the good doctor for much longer than Burke did, ever quite matched up to Burke's version. Harwicke was no slouch, of course, and he brought plenty of good moments to the role himself, but I suspect Burke will always occupy a special place in my heart.
As I continue this project of watching and reviewing all of the Granada Sherlock Holmes adaptations, I know that the quality of the series will have its ups and downs. As Jeremy Brett's health grew worse and worse over time, the overall quality tends to decline...or so I've always read. (And, having seen some of the later episodes, particularly the adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, I'm inclined to agree with that appraisal.) Meanwhile, it's a marvelous experience to watch all of the episodes in order, and to be able to enjoy the performances when they were at the excellent level of "The Red-Headed League." It was truly a real gift to legions of Holmes fans. Please enjoy watching the episode below...
"The Adventure of the Resident Patient" (from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes) is a story with some macabre elements and a rather unsatisfying conclusion. It's yet another tale in which Doyle couldn't seem to think of a satisfactory manner of the murderers being brought to justice, and settled for a shipwreck bringing justice instead. (See "The Greek Interpreter" for more evidence of this technique.) The Granada adaptation, despite a little bit of acting that borders on melodrama, is fairly successful, I think. The main story is bookended by a couple scenes that are not in the source material: an opening at a barber shop, in which Watson attempts to use Holmes's own methods against him, and a humorous conclusion in which Holmes suggests a different title for Watson's story relating the events of the case. Sherlockian readers may be disappointed to see the barber shop scene replace the opening of the original story, which featured Holmes making some deductions about Watson's ruminations on the American Civil War.
One definite highlight of the episode for me was the scene following Blessington's suicide (spoiler alert!). Jeremy Brett excels in the somewhat lengthy (but immensely entertaining) sequence, wherein Sherlock Holmes prowls about the room, finding details missed by the police, allowing him to reconstruct the events of the previous night. Brett is fabulous, and the reactions of the other character watching him work are priceless.
There are a few other details that elicited a smile from me, such as the little whistle Jeremy Brett gives when he is told of Blessington's death, or the moment in which he tells Watson that he has sometimes feigned catalepsy to deceive someone. I think it's those kinds of little details that often make Brett's performance so enjoyable to behold. He inhabits the character of the great detective to an extent that very few actors have rivaled.
The performances of the actors who played Percy Trevelyan and Mr. Blessington (Nicholas Clay and Patrick Newell, respectively) I found just a bit too intense at times. As I mentioned above, they sometimes border on melodrama, but Brett and Burke serve to balance the overall tone of the episode.
I should probably also mention the exceedingly creepy scene that immediately follows the credits. Most of the Granada episodes I've seen thus far seem to insert a scene introducing the case, before bringing Holmes and Watson into the story. Some of these scenes work well, while others are simply confusing or bewildering. The opening of this episode falls into the latter category, in my opinion. Blessington's dream of seeing himself in a coffin does little to set up the story, and could easily be cut from the episode with no impact on the plot whatsoever.
Still, overall, despite a bit of confusion towards the beginning, the strong performance by Jeremy Brett makes the adventure pretty engaging. Maybe not one of my favorite episodes, but a worthy entry in the series, I think.
To my readers: I suspect the morbid nature of Mr. Blessington's suicide has (quite rightly) led to YouTube's age restriction on the video. Please proceed accordingly.
[Apologies that this review is just over a day late. I had some technical difficulties that prohibited me from posting the review on the regular Saturday. Next week's should be on time, God willing!]
I am very happy to report, the Granada adaptation of "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder," a story from The Return of Sherlock Holmes, is my favorite episode thus far! The writers took an enjoyable enough story, remained very faithful to the plot, and tweaked it just enough, resulting in a beautifully paced and gripping piece of storytelling. In the original, much of the story is Holmes telling Watson what he's been up to. It works fine for me as a reader, but would be exceptionally dull as a television program. By giving Watson more to do, and showing much more of the action onscreen, the pacing and flow of the story are improved tenfold. I found myself glued to the screen for the entire 50+ minutes of the episode.
Jeremy Brett is in absolutely top form, showing us Holmes at his lowest of lows, wallowing in despair that he may fail his client, as well as showing us Holmes at his most delightful level of playful deduction once the pieces fall into place. There's no shortage of interplay here between Holmes and Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade (played perfectly by Colin Jeavons). Matthew Solon is very well cast as the nervous, excitable Mr. John Hector McFarlane. He seems a bit younger than the character is described in the story; I would say he's in his early twenties, rather than his late twenties, as Watson describes him. Honestly, all the casting is perfect, but I was particularly struck by the excellent writing mentioned above. I felt like there was not a single minute of screen time wasted. There were some brilliant moments with no dialogue here and there that did a tremendous job of conveying the state of mind of the characters: Holmes's melancholy when he can't figure things out, Watson's concern for his friend, and Mr. McFarlane's despair when it looks like he may be hanged for murder.
I honestly can't say enough good about this episode. I have really enjoyed watching the Granada adaptations so far, but this one was a noticeable step above many of the other episodes. One gets the distinct feeling that the production team and the regular cast had really hit their stride by this point in the series. "Norwood Builder" is HIGHLY recommended!
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN, and a longtime fan of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.