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The View from the East End (73)

By Inspector Hopkins

September 9, 2007
 

The Granada Film Series    (part 4)

by Inspector Hopkins

Within the entire set of Granada one-hour Films, there exists a subset of Films which are designated differently. The newer Sherlockian will recognize that out of the total of 60 Canonical tales, a subset of four “novelettes” exists: STUD, SIGN, HOUN and VALL.

The “Feature Film Collection”

Two of these four novelettes, plus three other “regular” Canonical tales were made into two-hour movies by the folks at Granada Films. The two novelettes were introduced in the fourth season of the series, and the three other tales in the sixth season, interspersed with the usual one-hour Films for those seasons.

Let’s take a quick look at the Feature Film Collection, arranged from best to worst in terms of fidelity to the Canon:

#1 The Sign of Four
Undoubtedly the most faithful of the five Feature Films!  The storyline was followed almost exactly with verbatim dialogues.  Jenny Seagrove was almost exactly the way I had pictured Mary Morstan to look, except that her hair was not blond as described in the Canon. Ronald Lacey’s portrayal of Thaddeus Sholto was excellent and it matched the Canonical description perfectly. From the bumbling Athelny Jones all the way down to little Tonga, all the other characters were accurately portrayed as well. Even Toby’s performance was believable!

Although Watson appeared quite interested in Mary Morstan, and specifically mentioned her beauty several times, he did not get romantically involved with her as per the Canon. As I stated before, Watson’s bachelorhood was necessary to keep the rest of the series continuous, tractable, and smoothly flowing. However, I do like to think that if Jeremy Brett had lived, and if Granada had managed to complete the entire Canonical series as planned, they would have arranged for Watson to marry her in some sort of a concluding “finale” episode.

Three cheers and top votes go to Granada for this story.

#2 The Hound of the Baskervilles
Second place goes to this one, in spite of several missing or altered scenes from the actual Canonical story. The outstandingly breathtaking scenery and overhead shots give me a feeling of the vastness and desolation of the Moor, just as I picture it every time I read this story. Once again, all the characters were superbly cast and fit their respective roles. Baskerville Hall was excellent. As in the original story, Watson was accurately portrayed as reporting to Holmes. This was well done without the usual “leveling out” effect evident in other Granada films. I thought Fiona Gillies as Beryl Stapleton was strikingly beautiful, and I liked the ending scene when she and Sir Henry seemed much relieved that the other escaped death.

Most of the rest of the storyline was accurate and extremely well done.

#3 The Master Blackmailer  (CHAS)
This was the first of three Feature Films made from a regular short story in the Canon, and possibly the titles were changed to reflect this. Of these three Feature Films, this one is definitely the best. Granada did a great job of expanding on some of the background action in the story, and the circumstances under which Milverton’s victims fell prey to his blackmail.  I particularly enjoyed watching Brett’s portrayal of Escott the plumber and how he became engaged to Agatha, something which seemed a bit hard to believe when read in the Canon. Once again, the casting was excellent and Robert Hardy’s top-notch portrayal of CAM really made it easy for me to hate his character!  Some changes to the plot and some missing scenes from the original story did not affect fidelity to the Canon.

#4 The Last Vampyre  (SUSS)
This is where Granada Films started to drop the ball in remaining faithful to the original story.  Although entertaining to watch, this Film had many more characters and was more complex than the original story.  Even though most of the dialogue was exact, the plot was overly and unnecessarily complicated. The ending was completely un-Canonical with the deaths of both Baby and “little Jacky” Ferguson.

#5 The Eligible Bachelor  (NOBL)
This one was so bad I had to watch it in two sittings, and even then, I still did not get the plotline. This Film was exceedingly overcomplicated with much imagery and supposedly artistic “dream scenes”. There were more characters than necessary, and the original story’s plotline was badly distorted. The ending was terrible. If there is anyone out there who can explain the plot in this one to me, I’d greatly appreciate an e-mail from them.

Keeping in mind that I watch and re-watch the “regular” Granada films and the “Feature Films” in random order, it is interesting to note that there is a pattern. Coincidentally or not, the order that I have listed them above turns out to be the exact same order in which they were produced. This might support a contention that the series got progressively worse with each successive season.

Until next time, when we will take a look at yet another aspect of the series, I am,

Yours Faithfully,
STANLEY HOPKINS