Season 2 of Granada's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starts with a gripping, dramatic episode, complete with a creepy "bad guy" (played to great effect by British actor Joss Ackland), a winsome heroine (the late Natasha Richardson playing Violet Hunter), and a bloodthirsty hound (not that hound, mind you). Honestly, re-reading "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" just now, I felt like the Granada series took a fairly average story and made it into something much more exciting. Overall, they were very faithful to the source material, but they managed to rearrange a few plot points and use a fine cast to elevate the adaptation beyond its original form.
For one thing, Joss Ackland is extremely creepy as Mr. Rucastle. Sure, he's jovial enough most of the time, but Ackland is a talented enough actor to make every line seem sinister. From the very first time we meet him, we feel as if things just aren't quite right with this "generous" employer. Meanwhile, Natasha Richardson as Violet Hunter gave the role the right balance between a young lady who's getting more and more frightened and the kind of ingenuity that obviously wins the great detective's respect.
Jeremy Brett and David Burke are excellent, as usual, and there's a particularly delightful sequence at the opening of the episode where we are treated to one of Holmes's rants about how Watson has injected too much romance into the stories that Holmes thinks should be cold, logical case studies. We also are treated to a classic Holmes line, as the detective and his sidekick take the train to meet up with Miss Hunter: “Data! data! data! I can’t make bricks without clay.” (This line, which happens back at the flat at 221B Baker Street in the story, is moved a bit later in the TV episode, which I think works quite well.)
I should also mention the little detail of the slight change of setting of Mr. Rucastle's daughter's prison: in the original story, it is merely a mysterious, shuttered wing of the Copper Beeches estate. In the adaptation, however, it has been transformed into a mysterious "turret," which I think works a bit better. That's what I enjoyed about this episode: the writers, while staying quite faithful to the original story, made minor tweaks to the plot, which ended up giving the story a lot more drama and forward momentum.
This was really a top-notch episode to begin the second season of the successful series. Before I wrap up the review, I should probably mention the entertaining final scene, in which Watson is clearly reading his most recent write-up of the events at the Copper Beeches, with no little delight at the effect his "romantic" storytelling has on his friend. By this point in the series, one can easily tell how comfortable David Burke and Jeremy Brett were becoming in their own roles, as well as in the camaraderie shared by the two friends. It really was a very fine episode to begin the second season!
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.