Douglas Wilmer in Sherlock Holmes – The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax

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Holmes muses to Watson that in his opinion “one of the most dangerous things in the world is the drifting and friendless woman. She may be perfectly harmless in herself, but all too often, she is a temptation to crime in others.  She is a stray chicken in a world of foxes, and when she is gobbled up, she is hardly missed. I very much fear that some evil has befallen the Lady Frances Carfax.” This monologue is a preamble to Holmes’ request that Watson travels to the hotel in Lausanne (where Lady Frances was last seen) so he can investigate her sudden disappearance.

Holmes is convinced that the trip will do his friend good, since he’s observed that Watson has been feeling run-down lately.  Watson, of course, is amazed that Holmes knows this – and Holmes’ explanation (involving the way Watson’s shoe-laces are tied) is a classic Conan-Doyle moment.

Watson travels to the hotel and speaks to the manager Moser (Roger Delgado).  Moser mentions that Lady Frances seemed to be worried by a bearded stranger and there’s also the question of why she gave a cheque for fifty pounds to her former maid.  The manager is also able to tell Watson that Lady Frances spent some time in the presence of Dr. Shlessinger and his wife.  This seems to be a dead-end though, as Dr. Shlessinger is a man of piety and devotion who surely can have connection to the case.

Watson’s investigations continue, but it’s maybe no surprise to learn that all of his efforts turn out to be futile.  Luckily, Holmes is on hand to shed some light on this tangled mystery.

The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
was originally published in 1911. Like the preceding story adapted for the series, The Retired Colourman, it’s memorable for depicting an independent Watson, sent off to investigate by Holmes.  It’s just a pity that since this happened so rarely, the two were broadcast one after another.

But no matter, as once again we can enjoy the sight of Nigel Stock’s Watson in investigative mode.  As ever, Stock plays these scenes so nicely (witness the moment when Moser wonders if Watson is a detective and you can see Stock visibly grow in stature).  Of course, things don’t go very well and he has to be rescued by Holmes after he gets into a tussle with the bearded stranger.

Despite Holmes’ claims that he was too busy to make the trip, he has (after reading Watson’s initial reports) decided to come over after all – and Wilmer’s sudden appearance is delightful.  Holmes is wearing a very effective disguise and his ironic comment of “Dear me, Watson. You have managed to make a hash of things, haven’t you?” is one of the episode’s many highlights.

For those brought up with the efficient and unflappable Watsons of the Granada series, this may be a little difficult to take – but it’s totally consistent with Conan-Doyle’s original story.  As good as the Granada series was (for the most part) it’s fair to say that on occasions, their eagerness to redress the perceived imbalance in some of the previous portrayals of Watson sometimes pushed the character too far the other way (making him rather too capable).

This excerpt from the Conan-Doyle story is interesting –

To Holmes I wrote showing how rapidly and surely I had got down to the roots of the matter. In reply I had a telegram asking for a description of Dr. Shlessinger’s left ear. Holmes’s ideas of humour are strange and occasionally offensive, so I took no notice of his ill-timed jest.

The clear inference from this is that Watson is heading for a fall, since we know that Holmes never makes a frivolous request.  And the fact that Watson, after all his years of experience, should think so doesn’t reflect well on him.

It’s also worth viewing the Granada adaptation, which takes many liberties with the original story – including completely removing the plot-thread of Watson being sent to investigate Lady Frances’ disappeance (in the Granada version he’s already present at the hotel and sends for Holmes when he becomes concerned for Lady Francis’ safety).  All of Watson’s mis-deductions are therefore absent, which isn’t surprising since they would have jarred with the efficient and capable picture of Watson presented since series one in 1984.  It’s a valid decision, but it sits rather uneasily with the Granada’s original claim that they would return to the original stories and present them authentically (undoing the harm they considered was done by earlier portrayals, such as Nigel Bruce’s).

Thanks to Holmes’ intervention, it becomes clear that the bearded stranger is a friend not foe.  His name is the Hon. Philip Green and had Lady Frances’ family not objected, he would have married her years ago.  Joss Ackland (as Green) is completely unrecognisable (he’s sporting long black hair and a black beard).

One of my favourite actors, Ronald Radd plays Peters, the villian of the piece and a brief appearance by another favourite, Roger Delgado, is just the icing on the cake.  Holmes and Watson return to London and track down Peters (the erstwhile Dr. Shlessinger).  I love the moment when Holmes and Watson confront him.  Holmes warns Peters that Watson is a very dangerous ruffian and, after a moments pause, Stock raises his stick in a mildly threatening manner!  It’s only a little throwaway moment (possibly worked out in rehearsal) but it never fails to raise a smile.

Location filming in France helps to give the story a sense of authenticity and whilst there’s the odd production misstep (the body in the coffin looks very odd) all in all this is a very strong end to the series.

This would be Douglas Wilmer’s final appearance as Holmes in the series, as various factors made him decide not to return for a second run.  These included problems with scripts, directors and the news that series two would be made to an even tighter production schedule than the first.  For Wilmer (who considered that the quality of the series was already compromised) this was unacceptable, and it would be Peter Cushing who would have to deal with numerous production difficulties when the series returned in 1968.

It’s fair to say that the series suffers from the same problems of virtually every series of this era.  Boom shadows are a regular presence and the sets sometimes wobble (and so do the actors!).  The stories only had a limited amount of studio-time (with over-runs strictly frowned upon) so occasionally we will see scenes with technical problems (line-fluffs, malfunctioning props) that could have been resolved had the time been available for another take.

But the series also has all the strengths of television of this era – and the main strength is the sheer quality of the actors.  Peter Wyngarde, Patrick Troughton, Patrick Wymark, Nyree Dawn Porter, James Bree, Anton Rodgers, Leonard Sachs, Derek Francis and Maurice Denham are just some of the fine actors to grace the stories prior to this one.  And that’s not forgetting the numerous smaller roles which were equally well performed.

It’s not surprising that the lavish Granada series tends to be regarded as the definitive Sherlock Holmes television version as the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes will never be able to compete in a visual sense (the BBC series was much more studio-bound and therefore lacked the visual sweep of the Granada Holmes).  But these adaptations were as good (and as faithful, if not more so) to Conan-Doyle’s original stories.  Plus the first BBC series has an obvious trump card – Douglas Wilmer.

Few actors have ever been able to capture as well as Wilmer the icy, logical nature of Holmes.  Watson once called him “the perfect reasoning machine” and it’s this precise, mechanical nature that Douglas Wilmer portrays to perfection.  Many actors would have sought to soften him, but Wilmer stays true to Conan-Doyle’s original.  It’s a performance that never fails to impress, as Wilmer (even in the scenes where he has little dialogue) is always doing something that’s worth watching.

He’s complimented by Nigel Stock’s Watson.  It’s, at times, a rather comedic turn, but as I’ve mentioned it’s probably not as far removed from the original text as some people would think.

If you love Sherlock Holmes or you love 1960’s British television then the BFI DVD is a treasure.

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Douglas Wilmer in Sherlock Holmes – The Retired Colourman

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Watson briefly meets Holmes’ latest client, Josiah Amberley (Maurice Denham), on the stairs.  When Holmes asks what opinion he formed of the man, Watson confesses he found him to be “a pathetic, futile, broken creature.”

Holmes agrees, but Amberley certainly seems to have cause for distress.  His wife has disappeared, along with Dr Ray Ernest (a friend of both of them).  Also, his strong-box has been forced and a considerable amount of cash and securities taken.  Can Holmes locate the pair as well as Amberley’s missing money?  Naturally, he can.  But the solution to the mystery isn’t quite as straightforward as it initially seems.

The Retired Colourman was one of the final Sherlock Holmes stories, originally published in 1926.  Given that it’s a very decent mystery, it’s surprising that this was the only time it was adapted for the screen.

With Holmes otherwise engaged, it falls to Watson to begin the investigation.  And this means that the story is a lovely vehicle for Nigel Stock’s Watson.  His performance in the series has, it’s fair to say, attracted some criticism over the years.  He’s not quite in the Nigel Bruce buffoon category, but neither is he as competent as the Granada Watsons.

Stock’s Watson is honest, loyal and totally unimaginative.  Yes, the series does delight in showing him to be several steps behind Holmes at all times, but if you closely read the original stories that’s a perfectly valid interpretation.  For example, in this story Holmes is very blunt when he tells Watson that his initial enquiries have missed almost everything of importance (this is taken directly from Conan-Doyle’s original story).

He’s paired up for most of the duration with Maurice Denham’s Amberley.  Denham, as expected, gives a fine performance and there’s something very entertaining about the combination of the relentlessly cheerful Watson and the doom-laden Amberley.

Holmes is rather cruel to Watson – as he sends him and Amberley off on a wild-goose chase so that he can do a spot of burglary at Amberley’s house.  Indeed, Holmes sends them so far afield that Watson and Amberley have to spend the night in a rather uncomfortable country hotel.  In the original story Watson speaks to Holmes on the phone, but here Holmes dictates a telegram to his unfortunate colleague.  The result is the same though and it’s clear from the expressions on the faces of Holmes and Mrs Hudson (making a rare appearance in the Wilmer series) that they have little pity for poor Watson, trapped at a hotel at Frinton with the unpleasant Amberley!

Denham and Stock are the chief reasons why this one is very watchable.  It’s true that there are a few plot-holes (particularly why Amberley decided to consult Holmes in the first place) but these are problems with Conan-Doyle’s story and Jan Read’s dramatisation is content to faithfully adapt the original material.  A generous amount of location filming helps to open the story out (some of the other studio-bound ones do tend to feel a little claustrophobic).

An interesting adaption of one of the “lesser” stories from the canon.

Douglas Wilmer in Sherlock Holmes – Charles Augustus Milverton

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Lady Eva Brackwell (Penelope Horner) has become the latest victim of master blackmailer Charles Augustus Milverton.  Milverton has acquired a bundle of rather indiscreet letters that she wrote to a young army captain.  If they fall into the hands of her intended husband,is the preferavle version.the Earl of Dovercourt, then there’s little doubt that their forthcoming marriage would be in serious jeopardy.

Holmes agrees to act for Lady Eva, but when Milverton holds all the cards, what can he possibly do?

Charles Augustus Milverton was originally published in 1904.  It’s a rather interesting story, mainly because Holmes doesn’t provide any resolution to the tale – a third party does – and therefore he needn’t have appeared at all.  Plot-wise, it strongly resembles A Scandal in Bohemia (both revolve around an incriminating item, which Holmes decides to retrieve via burglary).

Barry Jones’ Milverton isn’t demonstratively villainous.  Since he knows that his position is unassailable, he’s able to project a relaxed persona (although there’s little doubt of the evil that lurks beneath).  Holmes is well aware just how formidable a foe he is, as he tells Lady Eva.  “You have fallen into the hands of a very dangerous man. Charles Augustus Milverton is far from commonplace. In fact, one may safely call him the king of blackmailers. There are hundreds in this great city who turn white at his name.”

Holmes quickly discovers that Milverton can’t be threatened or intimidated and he won’t negotiate.  His price is seven thousand guinees – no more, no less.  When Holmes tells him that surely it’s better to accept a smaller amount than to expose Lady Eva for no personal gain, Milverton replies that it would suit his purposes very well.  If it become known that he had ruined Lady Eva, then his other victims would be all the more anxious to settle.  Penelope Horner’s Lady Eva is the nominal central figure, but it’s Lady Farningham (Stephanie Bidmead) who brings the story to its conclusion.  She had previously suffered at Milverton’s hands and we see her return to exact a measure of revenge.

If the main plot is quite linear, there’s a great deal of incidental business (mostly centered around Holmes and Watson) which make this one very enjoyable.  Nigel Stock is on fine form from the start – he’s disgusted with Milverton’s treatment of Lady Eva (indignantly calling him “a blackguard”) and later picks up a chair to attack him!

When Holmes decides that the only course of action is to burgle Milverton’s house, Watson insists on coming with him – despite Holmes’ protests.  Eventually Holmes agrees and tells him that “we have shared the same rooms for a number of years, my dear fellow. I suppose it might be amusing if we ended up by sharing the same cell.”

Wilmer has some lovely comic business when he’s disguised as a plumber who’s been courting Milverton’s maid (he later tells a shocked Watson that he’s become engaged to the girl) .  The pair enjoy a kiss and it’s obvious how discomforted Holmes is.  He gingerly places his hands on the girl and then shortly afterwards attempts to break free of her tight embrace.  Once they’ve finished, his first thought is to check that his false moustache is still in place!

The Granada adaptation was extended to two hours (and was broadcast under the name of The Master Blackmailer).  It kept the same basic plot as the original short story,  but the two hour running length ensured that a great deal of additional material had to be added.  This means that the Wilmer adaptation does bear more direct resemblance to Conan-Doyle’s original and so, for me, is the preferable one.

Douglas Wilmer in Sherlock Holmes – The Bruce-Partington Plans

bruce

Holmes’ brother Mycroft (Derek Francis) is a man of regular habits. Nothing (except the gravest crisis) would make him deviate from his normal schedule.  So when he turns up at Baker Street, with Inspector Lestrade in tow, Holmes knows it’s serious.

But his brother’s arrival is just what Holmes needs, as prior to this he had bitterly complained to Watson about how dull the London criminal had become. Now, Mycroft offers him an intriguing case of the most pressing urgency.

A clerk from the Royal Woolwich Arsenal, Arthur Cadogan West, has been found dead on the Underground tracks near Aldgate tube station. On his body were several documents relating to the top secret Bruce-Partington submarine. Several more vital documents about the submarine are missing and Mycroft urges Holmes to use all of his powers to track them down.  It seems obvious that Cadogan West stole the plans and had intended to sell them to the highest bidder. But as we’ve seen in previous stories, the truth is sometimes not quite so straightforward ….

The Bruce-Partington Plans was originally published in 1908.  It featured the second and final appearance of Mycroft Holmes. He first turned up in The Greek Interpreter, which was adapted for the second series of Sherlock Holmes (starring Peter Cushing).  Sadly, that episode is missing.

We’re slightly more lucky with this one, as the first half of the story exists (and there’s an audio copy of the second half).  For this DVD, the audio for the missing half has been nicely cleaned up and is synchronised to a reproduction of the script (with images of the cast in the background).

This works pretty well, although since the soundtrack is so clear it probably wasn’t necessary to have the script on-screen at the same time as the audio.  Instead, a decent reconstruction could have been made with images taken from the first half, along with on-screen descriptions for any visual sequences.  But while the script is sometimes distracting (mainly because it often varies from the actual dialogue spoken) it still clearly allows the viewer to understand how the story concludes.  It’s also interesting that the soundtrack for the existing half of the story doesn’t seem to be in the greatest shape – at various points the odd word is inaudible.

But although the ravages of time have rather compromised this story, what remains is very decent fare.  Derek Francis is a rather good Mycroft and though this story doesn’t have the same sort of one-upmanship that The Greek Interpreter did, there’s still some nice moments between the brothers (mainly visual ones).  For example, when Holmes offers Mycroft a seat, Mycroft promptly takes Holmes’ own – much to Holmes’ annoyance (and Watson’s amusement!).  Later we see Mycoft very freely use Holmes’ tobacco – and again there’s a slight flicker of annoyance from Sherlock.

An effective piece of model-work (a rather nice train!) and a smoky studio set help to bring the railway section of the story alive in the first half of the story and, as ever, The Bruce-Partington Plans boasts the usual quality cast (even in the smaller roles).

John Woodnutt (a highly familiar face during four decades or more of British film and television) is the station-master, whilst Gordon Gostelow (again, another very well-known actor) plays Sydney Johnson, Cadogan West’s superior.  Allan Cutherbertson, whose lengthy career included a visit to Fawlty Towers as well as a stint acting as Tommy Cooper’s straight-man, was no stranger to dramatic parts – and he’s well-cast as Colonel Valentine Walter.  It’s a pity that his more intense scenes come at the end of the story, when we don’t have the visuals.

As we’ve previously seen, Wilmer’s Holmes can be incredibly rude and off-hand at times.  His dismissal of Lestrade early in the story is a case in point and Stock’s Watson covers well for him – Holmes is clearly a man for whom social niceties count for very little.  But although he can be chilling at times, he’s also able to extend a degree of courtesy – witness his interview with Cadogan West’s fiance Violet Westbury (Sandra Payne).  Violet was convinced that her late fiance was innocent and though Holmes couldn’t hide his irritation when he realised she had little useful to tell him, he was still able to reassure her that he would do everything he could to restore Cadogan West’s honour.

Few actors have ever quite managed to capture all the nuances of Holmes’ character quite as well as Douglas Wilmer did – and he’s a major reason why this series should continue to be enjoyed by anybody who loves the original Sherlock Holmes stories.

Douglas Wilmer in Sherlock Holmes – The Beryl Coronet

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Alexander Holder (Leonard Sachs) is a well-respected city banker.  Early one evening he is visited by a prominent member of society who urgently needs £50,000.  Holder is happy to advance the money, especially when he’s given the Beryl Coronet as collateral.  Holder shows it to his son and niece and though he admits it’s not quite the Crown Jewels, it’s certainly highly impressive – and is worth at least double the amount he’s advanced.

Holder’s son, Arthur (Richard Carpenter), is worried about such a valuable item residing overnight in their house, but he also has concerns of his own.  Although he’s an amiable sort, Arthur is a gambler and owes a considerable sum.  He asks his father for several hundred pounds, but Holder refuses – he’s tired of settling his son’s gambling debts.

In the middle of the night, Holder is awoken and comes downstairs to find the coronet in the hands of his son.  He is appalled to find that the crown is broken and three beryls are missing.  Arthur offers no defence and is arrested.  Although an intensive search is carried out, there’s no trace of the missing jewels.  It seems to be a simple case and Arthur’s guilt appears to be obvious, but Holmes is never prepared to take anything at face value.

The Beryl Coronet was one of the earliest Sherlock Holmes short stories (originally published in the Strand Magazine in 1892).  Since it was never adapted for the Granada series, the Douglas Wilmer version is quite noteworthy, as it’s the only sound version of the story (it was twice adapted for the silent screen, in 1912 and 1921).

Although Wilmer and Stock don’t enter the story until the 17th minute, it’s still a lovely vehicle for both of them.  Wilmer’s Holmes is rather enigmatic in this one – until he reveals the true solution to Holder at the end, he’s not prepared to share any of his theories.  This, of course, helps to sustain the mystery, which is no bad thing.  Holmes also gets to don a disguise (which totally fools Watson!)

The story boasts a strong supporting cast.  Leonard Sachs (best known for The Good Old Days) is the unfortunate Holder, whilst Richard Carpenter is his son, Arthur.  Carpenter was a decent actor, but it’s his later career as a writer that he’ll undoubtedly be best remembered for.  Amongst his many writing credits were the well-remembered Look and Read serial The Boy From Space, Catweazle, The Ghosts of Motley Hall, Dick Turpin and the best television adaptation of the Robin Hood legend – Robin of Sherwood. He’s very appealing as the unfortunate Arthur, who’s regarded by everybody (except Holmes and Watson) as clearly guilty.  Another noteworthy appearance comes from David Burke as the devious Sir George.  Burke would later play Watson opposite Jeremy Brett’s Holmes during the first two series of the Granada run.

The Beryl Coronet possibly wasn’t the most obvious story to adapt, but I’m glad they did – especially since nobody else had done so since 1921!  Wilmer continues to dominate the screen and it’s easy to see why, for so many people, he’s regarded as the archetypical Holmes.

Douglas Wilmer in Sherlock Holmes – The Man with the Twisted Lip

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Mrs St. Clair (Anna Cropper) has travelled to London to conduct some business.  On her way back to the train station, she passes through Upper Swandam Lane (home to a notorious opium den).  Mrs St. Clair is astonished to see her husband briefly at the upper window of this disreputable place – but a second later he vanishes (as if pulled back by some unseen hand).

Neville St. Clair is a respected journalist who would have no reason to visit such a dive – unless he was a secret opium addict.  When Mrs St. Clair returns with the police they find no trace of her husband, although in the upstairs room they do discover a box of children’s blocks.  Mrs St. Clair collapses, as her husband told her he planned to buy such a toy for one of their children that very day.  Mr St. Clair’s clothes are also discovered.

All the evidence suggests that a well-known beggar, Hugh Boone (Anton Rodgers), was with Mr St. Clair when he was spotted by his wife.  Boone is quickly picked up by the police, but he’s saying nothing.  Holmes is convinced that Boone holds the key to Neville St. Clair’s disappearance – which he does, although Holmes’ solution is a most unexpected one.

The Man with the Twisted Lip was one of the original batch of Sherlock Holmes short stories, published in the Strand Magazine in December 1891.  Jan Read’s dramatisation is pretty faithful to the source material, but it’s a pity that the original, striking, opening wasn’t used.  In Doyle’s story, Watson travels to the opium den to extract a friend of his, Isa Whitney, who has fallen under the thrall of the drug.  When he’s leading his friend outside, he’s accosted by an old man (who turns out to be Holmes in disguise).  Holmes then explains that he’s investigating the disappearance of Neville St. Clair.  In Read’s adaptation, Watson does discover a disguised Holmes, but it sits rather uneasily in the middle of the story (where it makes less sense).

Although his screen-time is quite limited, Anton Rodgers is very effective as the disfigured beggar, Hugh Boone.  Anna Cropper, as Mrs St. Clair, is the latest stoic beauty to turn to Holmes for help.  A sign that retakes were only undertaken in the gravest circumstances is demonstrated by the scene where Mrs St. Clair visits Baker Street.  After lifting the veil from her hat, it falls down again and she simply has to push it back up and carry on.

Given the small pool of ethnic actors working in the UK during the period, it was very common to see British actors playing characters of every nationality.  Here we see Olaf Pooley (as the villainous Lascar) browned up.  To modern eyes it may seem strange, but it wasn’t an unusual occurrence at the time.

The Man with the Twisted Lip benefits from some atmospheric location filming in the East End.  The story could have been shot entirely in the studio, but the real locations certainly add something to the end product.  Within a few years redevelopment would have changed the locations beyond all recognition, so they were used at just the right time.

The first story of the series to be made (it was recorded in September 1964) it’s a very efficient production.  Given that the majority of the stories adapted for this series were later also adapted for the Granada series, it’s difficult to avoid comparing the two.  It’s slightly unfair though, since the Granada series had a much larger budget and therefore it would always score highly, particularly in a visual sense.  But whilst the Wilmer series has more modest production values, it can certainly hold its own performance wise, and in the end it’s the performances that really matter.

Douglas Wilmer in Sherlock Holmes – The Six Napoleons

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Inspector Lestrade (Peter Madden) pays a visit to Baker Street and recounts a strange tale to Holmes and Watson.  Someone in London seems to have such a hatred of the late Emperor Napoleon that they’ve taken to smashing miniature busts of him.  What’s even odder is that they’ve resorted to burglary to do so.

Dr Barnicot (James Bree) is a collector of Napoleonic memorabilia, and he’s disturbed to find both his office and house have been burgled and in each case a bust of Napoleon has been smashed to smithereens.  When another burglary takes place, at the home of a journalist called Horace Harker (Donald Hewitt), Harker not only finds his statue smashed, but a dead body as well …..

Like The Abbey Grange, The Six Napoleons was one of the stories published after Holmes’ return from his tussle with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls (later collected in the volume entitled The Return of Sherlock Holmes).

The farcical side of the story is emphasied in Giles Cooper’s adaptation.  Bree’s Dr Barnicot is a character who’s certainly played for laughs – he’s depicted as a highly eccentric devotee of Napoleon who advances three theories (all of them bizarre) to Holmes, Watson and Lestrade in order to explain who could have committed such an outrage.

Wilmer, Stock and Madden have little to do in Bree’s scene – but Wilmer especially is a joy to watch as he rolls his eyes at Barnicot’s wild flights of fancy and beats a hasty retreat as soon as he politely can.  When Barnicot is alone again, he takes out a Napoleonic hat and, after putting his arm inside his jacket, strikes a suitably heroic pose by the mirror.  You get the feeling that he does this a great deal!  James Bree was certainly an idiosyncratic actor, capable of performances of depth and subtlety (series one of Secret Army) as well as turns which verged on the bizarre and unwatchable (the Doctor Who story, The War Games).  He’s quite odd here, but since he plays it as scripted and only has a small cameo appearance, it’s quite acceptable.  Had he appeared throughout, it might have been quite wearying though.

The opening of the next scene is nice – Watson is striking a Napoleonic pose back at Baker Street, to the amusement of Holmes and Lestrade.  It’s only a little throwaway moment, possibly worked out in rehearsal, but it does help to reinforce the bond of friendship between them.  Since Wilmer’s Holmes tends to be quite serious, the odd lighter moment is welcome.

The Six Napoleons sees the first appearance of Peter Madden as Lestrade.  Characteristically, Wilmer’s Holmes doesn’t pretend to be particularly pleased to see him at the start of the story – he offers him a chair with the air of a man who’d be equally happy if he left straightaway.  But as soon as he piques Holmes’ interest, the Great Detective is clearly much more kindly disposed to him!

It’s a studio-bound production, but director Gareth Davies does manage to make the most of the limited space and he offers the viewer a few good flourishes.  My favourite is the scene set immediately after the burglary at Harker’s house.  The camera tracks past a number of statues, as well as a policeman standing so immobile that he could be mistaken for a statue.  Which is almost what Watson does, as we see him walk down the line, identifying each statue to Holmes – before giving a double-take as he reaches the policeman.

Elsewhere, the limitations of the studio environment are more apparent.  There’s a brief scene set in the garden outside Harker’s house, which shows the sky to be a rather wrinkled backdrop.  Moving clouds are projected on it – had the backdrop not been so tatty it would have been quite effective.

The comic turns contunue throughout the story.  Later, Holmes finds himself caught in the middle of Josiah Brown and his wife (Arthur Hewlett and Betty Romaine) who are a rather voluble couple.  Wilmer’s pained expession is priceless.

Indeed, this is a story where the solution of the mystery is somewhat secondary to the performances.  Giles Cooper’s adaptation is good fun and certainly allows the cast plenty of scope to produce some ripe turns.