News Bulletin 66

Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:

February 4 – 10, 2012

“I have no wish to commit you to anything without your having it all laid before you.”

 It’s actually a pretty good weekend to be snowed in, as TCM are showing back-to-back Rathbone—seven out of the fourteen, in fact. And there’s also an opportunity to see the first ever episode of Inspector Morse. A chance, too, to see Eric Porter as Moriarty and compare him with Jared Harris and Andrew Scott. All in all, not a bad week!


Sherlock Holmes: The Eligible Bachelor (ITV3 on Freeview10 and Freesat115 also Sky119/Virgin117 at 10.30am) First shown on February 3, 1993, this is another one of the two-hour specials: and it outstays its welcome, by adding elements which just don’t make sense.

Simon Williams—playing Lord St Simon—has adapted the Hound for the theatre, albeit as “a comedy melodrama, where an ancient curse returns to terrify the Baskerville family.” I can’t actually recall many laughs in the original story! Anna Calder-Marshall—playing Helena/Agnes Northcote—is the wife of David Burke, the first to play Watson to Brett’s Holmes. Mary Ellis—playing Lady Florence—was born before “The Adventure of the Empty House” was published: she also appeared as Mary Maberley in Granada’s “The Three Gables” in March 1994. It was to be her final performance.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1939 (TCM on Sky 317/Virgin 415 at 12 noon and 5.55am Sunday) One of the all-time greats and I also score it over the Rathbone/Bruce Hound of the Baskervilles made a few months earlier. 20th Century-Fox had been happy to invest heavily and the production standards were very high. Rathbone and Bruce were also settling nicely into their roles—although I still have concerns about how Watson was portrayed!

George Zucco was an excellent Moriarty: “Holmes…I’m going to break you. I’m going to bring off right under your nose the most incredible crime of the century, and you’ll never suspect it until it’s too late. It’ll be the end of you, Sherlock Holmes.” To his credit, he made Holmes work for his money in this one!

Even though the film did well at the box-office, the company got cold feet and decided that Holmes was too old-fashioned and out-of-place for a world which had gone to war again. Universal Pictures stepped in, picked up the rights, updated Holmes and had him fighting the Third Reich in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror in 1942.

Dressed to Kill, 1946 (Sky 317/Virgin 415 at 1.35pm) The last of the Rathbone/Bruce series this one is, frankly, bizarre. Best advice is to suspend your critical faculties and enjoy the inter-play between Holmes and Watson. Shortly after the film was released Rathbone decided not to renew either his film or radio contracts to play Holmes, hoping that he could escape from the character and do ‘other, better work.” Too late: for that generation he was Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (Sky317/Virgin415 at 3.00pm)  The third Holmes vehicle in 1943, this is one of my favourites in the Rathbone/Bruce series. I was getting a little tired of the in-your-face anti-Nazi propaganda of the previous three, so it was nice to see a return to more old-fashioned detection—albeit set in a nursing home for  convalescent officers. It’s also got a really strong Holmesian storyline—borrowing heavily from The Musgrave Ritual— and an excellent screenplay from Bertram Millhauser.

I also love the closing lines from Holmes: “There’s a new spirit abroad in the land. The old days of grab and greed are on their way out. We’re beginning to think of what we owe the other fellow, not just what we’re compelled to give him. The time is coming, Watson, when we cannot fill our bellies in comfort while the other fellow goes hungry, or sleep in warm beds while others shiver in the cold. And we shan’t be able to kneel and thank God for blessings before our shining altars while men anywhere are kneeling in either physical or spiritual subjection. And, God willing, we’ll live to see that day, Watson.”

The Woman in Green, 1945 (Sky 317/Virgin 415 at 4.15pm) This was the 11th of the 14 Rathbone/Bruce series and is clearly not one of the best. Moriarty—already killed off in two other films—was back, this time played by Henry Daniell (Rathbone’s favourite Moriarty, by the way). And after the success of Gale Sondergaard as Spider Woman the previous year, we have the lovely Hillary Brooke as Lydia Marlowe, the Woman in Green.

It’s a terribly convoluted plot centred on what are supposedly “the most atrocious murders since Jack the Ripper.” But it’s worth watching for the confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty: “We’ve had many encounters in the past. You hope to place me on the gallows. I tell you I will never stand upon the gallows. But, if you are instrumental in any way in bringing about my destruction, you will not be alive to enjoy your encounter.”

Terror By Night (Sky317/Virgin415 at 5.30pm) released in February 1946 this was the second last of the Rathbone/Bruce series. It’s all a bit stagey—hard to avoid when set on a train—but at least it’s Holmes the detective rather than Holmes the Nazi fighter. Good performance from Alan Mowbray as a disguised Colonel Moran, “the most sinister, ruthless and diabolically clever henchman of our late and unlamented friend, Professor Moriarty.” Mowbray had also played Inspector Gore-King in “Sherlock Holmes” (1932, with Clive Brooke as Holmes) and  Inspector Lestrade in “A Study in Scarlet” (1933, with Reginald Owen as Holmes.

Pursuit to Algiers, 1945 (Sky317/Virgin415 at 6.35pm) There is actually no mystery and no detection involved. As one critic noted at the time: “Pursuit to Algiers does nothing but keep the Sherlock Holmes franchise for Universal and lessen its value.” There isn’t even a half decent baddie to keep us occupied.

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, 1942 (Sky317/Virgin415 at 7.45pm) Almost three years after 20th Century-Fox had decided not to continue the Rathbone/Bruce series, Universal Pictures picked up the option and pitted our heroes against the Nazis. The plot has a number of interesting twists, not least that one of the supposed good guys turns out to be von Bork. Ok, it’s enjoyable, if undemanding stuff, but Bruce still grates as Watson—particularly in this sort of war time setting. I’ve never been convinced that the WW2 films played any significant role in propaganda terms. Indeed, it’s hard to disagree with film critic Howard Barnes’ view: “As a sort of intelligence officer in the present conflict, the detective is bizarre and ineffective.” But audiences seemed to like it.


Dressed to Kill, 1946 (Sky 317/Virgin 415 at 7.30am) SEE SATURDAY

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (Sky317/Virgin415 at 8.50am)  SEE SATURDAY

The Woman in Green, 1945 (Sky 317/Virgin 415 at 10.05am) SEE SATURDAY

Terror By Night (Sky317/Virgin415 at 11.20am) SEE SATURDAY

Pursuit to Algiers (Sky317/Virgin415 at 12.30pm) SEE SATURDAY

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (Sky317/Virgin415 at 1.45pm and 5.35 am Sunday) SEE SATURDAY


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.55am)

Episode 4, Second Series—The Resident Patient (September 15, 1985) Nicholas Clay, who plays Dr. Trevelyan, had played Stapleton in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in 1983, with Ian Richardson as Holmes. Patrick Newell, who plays Blessington, appeared in “A Study In Terror (1965), “Young Sherlock Holmes” (1985) and also played Lestrade in a 1980 Holmes series for Polish television. Sadly, though, this is just a so-so adaptation of what is, admittedly, not one of Doyle’s best stories.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 4.00pm)

Series 2, Episode 5—The Red-Headed League (September 22, 1985) There are lots of reasons to like this episode, not the least being Roger Hammond’s performance as Jabez Wilson. He gets it just right: a wonderful combination of chubby pomposity and utter bafflement, playing wonderfully well against Brett at his mischievous best. And great to see the magisterial Eric Porter in his first outing as Moriarty. You all know, of course, that Moriarty wasn’t in the original story, but John Hawkesworth (who dramatised this episode) was just setting us up for the next episode of the original run—The Final Problem.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Series 2, Episode 5—The Red-Headed League (September 22, 1985) SEE MONDAY

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 4.00pm)

Series 2, Episode 6—The Final Problem (September 29, 1985) This was to be David Burke’s last outing as Watson, so it’s worth remembering that he left very large shoes for Edward Hardwicke to fill. More great work from Eric Porter—probably my favourite Moriarty—and a stunningly filmed climax.

The ‘Crew’ watched this episode at our last sailing and we all enjoyed it enormously. I hadn’t watched it for about five years, but I still thought Porter’s Moriarty was more convincing than Jared Harris (A Game of Shadows) or Andrew Scott (The Reichenbach Fall).

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (Sky317/Virgin415 at 7.45pm) SEE SATURDAY


Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (Sky317/Virgin415 at 6.30am) SEE SATURDAY

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Series 2, Episode 6—The Final Problem (September 29, 1985) SEE TUESDAY

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 4.00pm)

Series 3, Episode 1—The Empty House (July 9, 1986) And a very warm welcome to Edward Hardwicke as Watson (His father, Sir Cedric, can be heard as Holmes on Saturday 19—see above). Personally I thought that Brett’s disguise as the old bookseller was pretty hammy, but at least we didn’t have to put up with it for too long. Patrick Allen—who was one of British television’s best known actors and voice-overs—is superb as Colonel Moran.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 7.55pm)

Episode 3, First Series—The Naval Treaty (May 8th, 1984)

I think that the episodes dramatised by Jeremy Paul are amongst the best: and this is one of my favourites. Paul went on to write The Secret of Sherlock Holmes for Brett and Hardwicke in 1988, which had a very successful run in the West End.

NB: This episode will only be shown if ITV1 shows an FA Cup fourth-round replay. So check schedules on the day.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Series 3, Episode 1—The Empty House (July 9, 1986) SEE WEDNESDAY

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 4.00pm)

Series 3, Episode 2—The Priory School (July 16, 1986) Nicholas Gecks, who plays James Wilder, went on to play Inspector Lestrade in ‘Sherlock: Case of Evil’ (2002), a made-for-TV film which doesn’t often see the light of day. Thankfully! He also had a small part in  ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady’ (1991), with Christopher Lee as Holmes: which is similarly bad. Overall, one of the weaker entries in the Granada series.

Paul Temple and Steve (Radio 4 at 11.00pm)

Episode 3 of 8: Presenting Ed Bellamy

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Temple mysteries, particularly the series that still turns up on Radio 4 Extra at regular intervals. This is a new production—first broadcast in June 2010—of the 1947 detective serial and sounds pretty good; with Crawford Logan making an excellent Temple and Gerda Stevenson splendid as his wife, Steve.  The producer, Patrick Rayner, was one of the key people behind the Merrison/Williams Sherlock Holmes complete canon for Radio 4.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.55am)

Series 3, Episode 2—The Priory School (July 16, 1986) SEE THURSDAY

Inspector Morse (Sky119/Virgin117 at 10.15)

Episode 1—The Dead of Jericho (January 6, 1987) It’s hard to believe that it is twenty-five years since the first of this hugely successful series was broadcast—on Sherlock Holmes’ birthday, no less! John Thaw (playing Jonathan Small) appeared with Jeremy Brett in  The Sign of Four in December 1987; and Kevin Whately (playing Jim Browner) appeared with Clive Merrison in Radio 4’s The Cardboard Box in January 1994.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 3.50pm)

Series 3, Episode 4—The Second Stain (July 23, 1986) Two lovely performances from the very distinguished Harry Andrews (Lord Bellinger) and Patricia Hodge (Lady Hope) add much needed gravitas to what has always struck me as a fairly lightweight plot.