With this post, I am resuming a series of reviews that has been on hold for far too long: a couple years ago, I began watching the entirety of the Granada TV adaptations, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. I have reviewed every episode up to (and including) the Granada version of The Sign of Four.
I resume the series with the next episode to air after The Sign of Four: "The Devil's Foot." This episode originally aired on April 6, 1988. It is based on the story entitled "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot," one of the stories in the collection called His Last Bow. The story was published in England in 1910, and appeared in America in 1911. Reportedly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ranked it #9 on his list of his dozen favorite Holmes stories.
The Granada adaptation follows the story pretty closely. Viewers who are sensitive to horrific images may wish to be warned that a couple of the characters who die in the story are filmed with spooky, open eyed looks of horror on their faces, and one other character is shown foaming at the mouth. It's a pretty creepy episode overall, with the most bizarre sequence being one in which Holmes exeriments with the effects of the strange powder that he suspects led to the death of two people, as well as the lunacy of two others. In the original story, the effects of the powder are described from Watson's point of view, while in the adaptation, we are given Holmes's point of view, which includes him bleeding from the eyes as he relives his struggle with Professor Moriarty on the edge of the Reichenbach Falls. In fact, one of his hallucinations shows both him and Moriarty falling to their deaths, which never happened, of course. The sequence is a bit disturbing, and the music that accompanies it is an interesting mixture of violins, synthesizer and drums.
One interesting addition to the plot happens towards the beginning of the episode. Watson makes no reference to Holmes's famous addiction to cocaine at the beginning of the story, providing this description: "Holmes’s iron constitution showed some symptoms of giving way in the face of constant hard work of a most exacting kind, aggravated, perhaps, by occasional indiscretions of his own." However, the adaptation shows Holmes with his cocaine syringe, with some rubber tubing wrapped around his upper arm. Watson enters and Holmes immediately tries to hide the evidence of his drug use, and though the good doctor does not criticize his friend, he is clearly troubled by the knowledge that Holmes has not shaken his addiction. Later in the episode, Holmes buries his syringe in the sand on the beach, wiping away the evidence with his hand.
Even though I found Brett to be fairly compelling in his performance, it is clear that the effect from his medication for his bipolar disorder was beginning to show. He looks a bit puffy, and his focus sometimes seems to be lacking a bit. Edward Hardwicke, who played Watson (and does a fine job in this episode) was quoted long ago as saying that Brett was smoking about 60 cigarettes a day, which could hardly have helped his health at the time. Still, the quality of the episode doesn't seem to be faltering too badly at this point, and I found it to be an engaging story, for the most part. Fans of the great detective may be a bit surprised by Holmes's decision after he discovers the identity of the murderer.
While it was hardly my favorite episode of the series thus far, I still think it was well worth watching, and a faithful adaptation of its source material. You can watch the episode on YouTube below. (Which reminds me, I shall be attempting to fix some of the dead links in earlier reviews in this series. But that process will take a bit of time.)
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.