|Index||4 reviews in total|
I am a big fan of the Granada Sherlock Holmes series as I have said
many, many times. This may not be exactly faithful to the original
story, while Moriaty was a very welcome presence compared to the
original story he feels rather thrown in and there are some very
memorable and humorous bits of dialogue that didn't quite make it on
However, on its own terms The Red Headed League is very, very good and reinforces what I love so much about the series. As always, a lot of care is taken into how well constructed the adaptation is visually. The photography is very skillful, the costumes beautifully tailored and the scenery and sets wonderfully meticulous and atmospheric. I was too taken with how Sarasate was portrayed and the lengths that were made to make the actor look like the violin virtuoso.
The music is once again wonderful, with themes that are both beautiful and haunting. The story is well paced and interesting, the dialogue is sometimes humorous but very often thought-provoking and the direction is solid. The acting is excellent as is consistently the case with this series. Jeremy Brett with his towering presence and gritty baritone of a voice gives a very commanding title role performance, and David Burke is a thoughtful and composed Watson. Eric Porter also does very well with his appearance as Moriaty, his performance is somewhat brief but that was a decision for the better, too much Moriaty and I personally don't think this would have been as effective.
In conclusion, maybe not as strong as The Norwood Builder, The Crooked Man and The Speckled Band, but a strong episode. 9/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the stories I most enjoy, perhaps because it was the
first of Conan-Doyle's stories I stumbled across in my teens. But,
really, it's more than just a matter of sentiment. The movie is well
constructed and finely performed, even if it departs a bit from the
printed tale. And it has more humorous moments than most.
Mr. Jabez Wilson is a red-headed, down-on-his-luck pawnbroker who comes to Holmes and Watson looking for an explanation of some strange events. He recently acquired an assistant willing to work for half wages. The assistant spends a good deal of time developing his photographs in the cellar.
He brings to Wilson's attention an opening in something called The Red-Headed League, which might provide him with some badly needed income. Wilson, puzzled though he is, applies for the job and gets it. The work involves sitting in an empty office for four hours a day, copying the Encyclopedia Brittanica. As Wilson explains it to Holmes and Watson, the responsibilities weren't entire onerous. He actually learned a lot about things beginning with the letter "A" in the encyclopedia. He begins a learned discourse on the properties of artichokes before Holmes cuts him off.
Then one day Wilson shows up for work and a sign is hanging on the office door: "The Red-Headed League is Dissolved." Holmes and Watson both burst out laughing but soon get down to serious business.
The young assistant and a fellow thief are tunneling underground to reach the vault of the bank behind Wilson's pawn shop. The League was a ruse to get Wilson out of the shop for a few hours a day as the tunnel progressed.
Professor Moriarty is behind it all -- at least in the film. He's not mentioned in print. And for some reason, other memorable lines are omitted from the film: "I wasn't looking at his face. I was looking at the knees of his trousers." And, "Why, dear me, it sounds quite hollow." And, "Run, Archie, and I'll swing for it!" I won't even bother to describe the conversational environment of these words. I recommend reading the story if you haven't already. It's pretty short.
There is a reference in the original to a concert by Sarasate. Pablo Sarasate was a real historical figure, a violin virtuoso of the period. The film not only mentions the concert but shows us a few minutes of Sarasate himself winging his way through a particularly difficult piece. The actor, Bruce Dukov, actually LOOKS like Sarasate -- same features, same hair style. That's an example of how much attention was paid in this series to period detail.
Moriarty seems thrust into the narrative, though. And he's a little too plump and ugly to fit Conan-Doyle's description. He ought to be skinny and bald and weave his head slightly from side to side in a reptilian fashion.
No matter, though. A splendid job.
This is perhaps the best known Holmes story next to "The Hound of the Baskervilles." It involves a man, Jabez Wilson, who has been given a strange job, copying pages from the Encyclopedia Britannica in longhand. He sits at a desk in a stark room and receives payment beyond that fitting the job. Not only that, he has gotten the job because he passed muster, competing against other men with red hair. He actually went to interviews where the authenticity of the red-headed gentlemen was checked. Now, something has changed and he decides to bring his case to Holmes and Watson. One has to accept that the potential criminal enterprise has become so convoluted as to draw attention. Still, it is a delightful story which has stood the test of time. Like "The Blue Carbuncle," we are never to take anything as a life or death situation. Conan Doyle had a sense of humor. Jeremy Brett coolly investigates this with his deep tones filling the room at 221B. Well acted and portrayed with relish.
While not one of my favorites this one is certainly one of Granada's top Holmes adaptations. The story is slick, interesting, and elegantly unfolds itself. It starts out as a laughable case but it becomes serious with a bigger picture beginning to emerge and something sinister lurking beneath. It manages to be both a detective mystery and a crime story with nice touches of build up and humor. Professor Moriarty (played by Eric Porter, giving genuine meaning to word "diabolical ") makes his first appearance even though it is brief (although it was not in the original story). However, nothing is wrong with that as the series wisely used Moriarty sparingly and he would have a much larger role in the story right after this one "The Final Problem".
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