First, let me address a tiny little housekeeping issue: I just realized that I failed to notice that the episodes on the YouTube playlist I've been following got a couple of episodes out of order. The playlist switched the order of Episode 4 ("The Solitary Cyclist") with Episode 6 ("The Crooked Man"). I have corrected the episode number in my fourth review, as well as today's review. After this little blip, I shall be paying closer attention to the episode numbers on the videos, so everything proceeds smoothly from here on out. Now, on with the review...
"The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist," a story from The Return of Sherlock Holmes collection, seems to be a favorite among many Sherlockians, no doubt due in large part to Holmes's description of his fistfight with the ruffian, Mr. Woodley. As an adaptation of the original story, this episode of the Granada series does not disappoint. The episode has everything one could wish for in a Holmes adventure: a lovely heroine, delightful banter between Holmes and Watson, and a villain getting his comeuppance. In addition, the aforementioned fistfight is shown, rather than merely being narrated by Holmes, a delightful performance from Jeremy Brett, AND there is a delightful comic scene at the end (not from the original) that wraps up the episode with some humor.
The episode combines faithfulness to the source material with some very effective dramatic pacing. After the somewhat disappointing "Crooked Man," which I reviewed last week, in which Holmes and Watson seem a bit incidental to the plot, it was a real treat to see this story unfold. My only slight quibble with the adaptation (and it really is a very minor one) was Mr. Woodley's hair style. For some odd reason, he seems to be the only character whose hair looks like something straight out of 1984, when the episode actually aired. He looks like he's ready to appear in an Iron Maiden video on MTV as soon as he gets done with this little Victorian job. As I said, a minor quibble.
I saw in the comments on the YouTube video share below that this episode, though the fourth to be aired, was the first one to be filmed. I'm not 100% sure of the veracity of the comment, but if it's true, it means that the production set a very high bar right from the beginning. The Holmes and Watson chemistry is definitely there, and Brett's portrayal is fabulous from the get-go. His gleeful cackle after he relates the tale of his encounter with Woodley is priceless. David Burke's Watson is equally impressive. Witness, for example, the scene in which Holmes criticizes Watson's fact-finding mission. Burke's reaction to the criticism is most delightful, and the banter continues a bit longer than in the story, to great comedic effect.
Overall, I would have to say that this episode has been one of the most entertaining ones I've viewed thus far. It is sure to appeal to every Holmes fan, as well as the casual viewer who wants to see an entertaining story. Top marks all around!
Despite the fact that I only rated Jeremy Brett as my second favorite Holmes actor in my "Top Five Sherlock Holmes Actors" series awhile back, I still maintain that he is a very close second to Benedict Cumberbatch (in my opinion). And certainly, as far as Victorian settings of Sherlock Holmes go, I don't believe any actor can match him. Even though he had a lot of personal problems that had a negative impact on some of the later episodes of the Granada series, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes episodes were marvelous.
One of my all-time favorite scenes in that first set of adaptations featuring Brett was the scene below, from "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist." Whereas Holmes's fistfight was merely described by Holmes himself in the original story, the Granada adaptation shows us the whole scene in all its glory, and Jeremy Brett is sublime. Watch and enjoy...
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.