Return of Sherlock Holmes - The Sign of Four

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Who are THE SIGN OF FOUR and Who Will They Murder Next?

Sep 7, 2011 (Updated Sep 7, 2011)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:A most excellent portrayal of Victorian England.  Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke.

Cons:Certain geographical goofs with the river.

The Bottom Line: One of the best adaptations of one of Doyle's best stories; this is Sherlock Holmes at his finest!


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four (1987) Directed by Peter Hammond.

Sherlock Holmes: You will not follow my precept. How often have I said to you when once you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, *however improbable*, must be the truth?
 
Miss Mary Morstan (Jenny Seagrove) contacts Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) with a missing person's case; she wants help locating her father.  However, he went missing ten years before.  To further complicate things, every year, Miss Morstan receives a singularly valuable pearl, each alike to its predecessors, from a mysterious benefactor.  Now, someone is putting advertisements in the paper that are trying to contact Miss Morstan. 

Holmes, ever the proper gentleman, is quite certain she did right employing him to be her bodyguard, and advises her to push forward with her enquiry.  What unravels is a tale of a tontine, a fabulous treasure, illegally gotten, calumniously stolen, and now sought by a most dangerous pair, one a peg leg, the other, tiny and misshapen.  And everywhere they turn, the Sign of Four, the rune in the Hindi writing system for the number four, litters corpses.  With Dr. Watson (Edward Hardwicke) at his side, Holmes struggles to uncover the truth, and stop the murders, and, if possible reunite Miss Morstan with her father, or her father's treasure.

This Granada Television production is what persuaded the BBC to continue the very successful Jeremy Brett/ Edward Hardwicke team producing two more series of mysteries.  To my mind, these are the definitive Holmes Stories; not only do they have excellent production values, and attention to historical details, as well as a true reverence for the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, and a reluctance to "improve" upon them, but Jeremy Brett so flawlessly nails the cerebral sleuth.  His aristocratic face, oft pinched with annoyance or arrogance, is so perfectly Holmes.  Yet it is his eyes, darting birdlike, drinking in every detail, missing nothing, that truly sells the character.  Hardwicke captures Watson as well, intelligent, experienced, not as clever as Holmes but in no way his inferior.

But one thing I like in particular about this story, one of Doyle's best, is that the depiction of the menacing tiny figure is handled with a Victorian sensibility; it is sensational, exotic, and frankly painted with a Barnum and Bailey brush.  It may look contrived to our modern eyes, but that is the view point and the experience that would have greeted the Victorian viewer.  It shows the Granada commitment to remaining true to the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

So brew a steaming hot cup of tea, hit Netflix, and get lost in the world of Sherlock Holmes.

This is of course, a part of my "It's Elementary, My Dear Watson!" Mystery Write Off.

The Game is Afoot!

Sherlock (Season One)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Sherlock Holmes: The Last Vampyre
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988)
The Sign of Four (1987)


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older


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