News Bulletin 74

Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:

March 17 – 23, 2012

“Where is the mystery in all this?”

Absolutely nothing new on the Holmes front this week.

For those of you who like ‘cosy’ modern detectives, Simon Brett’s The Body on the Beach is being read (by Joanna Tope) for the next two weeks: Monday – Friday on Radio 4 Extra at 6.45am,1.45pm, 8.45pm and 1.45am. The books are gentle, undemanding and quietly humorous. 


The  Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Freeview10/Freesat115 also Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 6.10am)

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.

The Teahouse Detective: The Body in the Barge (Radio4 Extra on DAB also Freeview & Freesat708 also Sky0131/Virgin910 and online

Baroness Orczy is best remembered as the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but she also wrote a number of stories about armchair detective Bill Owen, who related the cases to a young journalist as they took tea at the ABC Teashop, near the Strand. The stories had first appeared in The Royal Magazine in 1901, but neither Owen nor The Royal came anywhere close to enjoying the success of Holmes or The Strand.

Anyway, this is a tight, old-fashioned entertainment with the always reliable Bernard Hepton as Owen.  It was first broadcast in 1998.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 6.00am)

Episode 4, First Series—The Solitary Cyclist (May 15th, 1984) A nice little episode dramatised by the late Alan Plater. He was one of British TV’s most accomplished scriptwriters and adapters, with credits including Z Cars, Soft Softly: Taskforce and the Beiderbecke series.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 1.50am)

Episode 5, First Series—The Crooked Man (May 22nd, 1984) Dramatised by Alfred Shaughnessy, best known as the script editor of the hugely influential and massively popular TV series, ‘Upstairs Downstairs.’ Norman Jones, who played ‘The Crooked Man,’ was a well known face on British television, although never a star. Denys Hawthorne, who played Col. Barclay, was born in Northern Ireland and graduated in law from Queen’s University.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 8.00am)

Episode 6, First Series—The Speckled Band (May 29, 1984) Another excellent dramatization from Jeremy Paul, with Jeremy Kemp in terrific form as Roylott. It’s a very easy role to turn into a sort of pantomime villain, but Kemp manages to make him a more rounded character than we know just from the short story. Rosalyn Landor, who plays Helen Stoner, is now a multi award winning narrator of audio books in America.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 8.00am)

Episode 7, First Series—The Blue Carbuncle (June 5th, 1984) Does this episode ever get show at Christmas time?! An excellent adaptation of what is one of my favourite stories. There are three great strengths to this one: 1) Brett’s delivery of the line about the goose coming back to life; 2) Ken Campbell’s perfect portrayal of James Ryder; and 3) and the always value-for-money Frank Middlemass as Henry Baker. This is just fun to watch and a reminder that a great part of the success of the Granada series lay in the strength of the casting of key roles.


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

Episode 1, Second Series—The Copper Beeches (August 25, 1985) It’s hard to believe, but apart from an uncredited role in “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in 1968, when she was only five; and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turn in the 1984 television series “Oxford Blues,” this was Natasha Richardson’s first major role. And she is very good as Violet Hunter, one of my favourite characters from the Canon.

Great work, too, from the ever reliable Joss Ackland, as Jephro Rucastle. He had roles in “The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation As We Know It” (a rarely seen 1977 comedy with John Cleese as Holmes and Arthur Lowe as Watson) and Sherlock Holmes and the Incident at Victoria Falls ( a shouldn’t be seen 1991 film with Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee as possibly the worst Holmes/Watson ever).

Terror By Night (TCM on Sky317/Virgin415 at 7.55pm) 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.


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

Episode 2, Second Series—The Greek Interpreter (September 1, 1985) Charles Gray had been a very good Mycroft Holmes in the 1976 film “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” (one of my favourite Holmes films), so it was always a pleasure to see him reprise the role in the Granada series.

My one major concern is with the screenplay, because I don’t think that Derek Marlowe has captured either the soul or sound of Holmes.


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

Episode 3, Second Series—The Norwood Builder (September 8, 1985) Not one of the best of the Granada series, but a few nice touches along the way, including good work from Matthew Solon as McFarlane. It’s always good, too, to see Colin Jeavons back as Lestrade. I have mentioned before that Jeavons is one of the truly great character actors of British television and he was a superb Uriah Heep in the BBC’s 1966 adaptation of David Copperfield. He also played Professor Moriarty in the 1983 series The Baker Street Boys: The Adventure of the Winged Scarab—Part 2.