I would like to start this review off by stating (again) how much I love David Burke's portrayal of Watson in this first season of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! Right at the beginning, when he says, "You're interested!" the playful smile on his face makes me think that he has perfectly captured the excitement that makes Watson want to be Holmes's biographer. I was also pleased that the writers of the episode managed to keep some snippets from Watson's delightful introduction to the case:
...it seemed rather a piquant thing to us to chevy him about the playground and hit him over the shins with a wicket.
In the original story, this is a humorous line that Watson writes, but does not say out loud to Holmes. It made me smile to read it, and it made me smile even more to hear Watson say it. But I digress...
Another one of my favorite moments in the story is when Holmes and Watson meet Mr. Joseph Harrison. When Holmes deduces (without being told his name) that Mr. Harrison is not a member of the family, Harrison figures out immediately that Holmes had caught a glimpse of his JH monogram. Harrison, unlike most characters in the canon who are witness to the detective's ability to instantly make surprising deductions, is particularly unimpressed, remarking, "For a moment I thought you had done something clever." In the adaptation, Jeremy Brett responds to this criticism with the slightest raise of an eyebrow. It's a tiny detail, but I love it.
I'm afraid I can't help but be a bit entertained, reading the original story and watching this adaptation, by Percy Phelps's case of the good ol' Victorian plot device of "brain fever." I understand having a nervous breakdown because of an enormous setback in one's government job, but the sight of this posh British chap in his dressing gown succumbing to an attack of "the vapors" (as his fiancée dabs his brow) is more than a little comical. After all, the event had taken place two months ago, and the guy has been an invalid the whole time! Meanwhile, Holmes just looks on, almost completely unsympathetic.
Holmes's "flower monologue," after he has heard the details of Percy's case is an odd thing to read, but even more odd to see on screen. (The "flower cam" that show the flower from Holmes's point of view is unintentionally hilarious.) Miss Harrison is clearly not at all pleased with the great detective's seeming lack of interest in the case, a displeasure which is conveyed very clearly in the set of the actress's jaw. One can hardly blame her, I suppose...
The "flower cam" is not the only unusual shot in the episode. I was struck by the composition of this shot of Holmes and Watson discussing the case after leaving poor Percy.
"Hey, I've got an idea! Let's shoot the actors through a window, with two candle holders in the foreground. Won't that look great?" (Hint: it doesn't.) And that's not the only bizarre camera work in the episode: when Holmes and Watson are interviewing Lord Holdhurst, the camera inexplicably pans to a point of view where the actor is almost completely hidden by the chandelier. Later in the episode, Holmes's violent encounter with the villainous Mr. Harrison is filmed in a rather strange sort of slow-motion sequence. (Interestingly, Holmes can be seen to carry a sword concealed in his walking stick.) Very bizarre direction...
Still, despite some of the odd camera work, and some rather slow pacing, I am still incredibly impressed by how good Jeremy Brett and David Burke are in their roles. The camaraderie between the two characters, the little details each actor inserts into his portrayal, it all adds up to a delightful presentation of one of literature's most famous friendships. As usual for the Granada series, the costumes are top-notch, as are the overall production values.
Overall, it's not my favorite episode, but it was mostly enjoyable to watch. It's a decent adaptation of a lengthy story with a surprisingly anti-climactic ending. While it can't compare to a more exciting adventure (such as, say, "The Dancing Men"), it is still well worth watching, mostly in order to see Brett and Burke at the top of their game.
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.