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I have made no secret of loving the very vast majority of the Granada Sherlock Holmes adaptations, and for me The Speckled Band is one of the better entries of the series. The story itself is one of the best of Sherlock Holmes, at least in my personal view, as it is so thrilling, and Dr Roylott is one of the most memorable "villains" of any Holmes story especially of how he's described, you know straightaway this is not a character you would want to mess with. Adaptation wise, The Speckled Band is excellent, the story is still thrilling and the beginning and ending both have a haunting and compelling atmosphere to them. The Speckled Band also succeeds on its own terms, the production values are as usual very evocative, the music is superb and the script is exceptional in its quality. The acting is fine, David Burke is only decent here as Watson, it's a good enough performance but to start with I felt he could have done a little bit more with the character. However, Jeremy Brett is brilliant giving one of his coolest and more urbane performances of the series particularly in his scene with Roylott and Jeremy Kemp is delightfully eccentric and overbearing. In conclusion, of a fine series The Speckled Band is a standout. 9/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Certainly an intriguing comment for Holmes to say to Watson in "The
Adventure of The Speckled Band" - unfortunately when he does illustrate
it he mentions Dr. William Palmer and Dr. Edward William Pritchard,
both quite notorious poisoners but more like third rate doctors, and
tells Watson they were at the head of their profession. Hardly.
Ms Julia Stonor comes into Holmes' rooms at 221B Baker Street, telling Holmes of her fears. A few years earlier her sister Helen died under peculiar circumstances: Helen and Julia lived with their mother's second husband Dr. Grimsby Roylott (of Stokes Moran), a moody man who they can get along with. Roylott has a bad temper, and once threw a tradesman to the ground when he annoyed him. Roylott lives on an income that is based on his being in charge of the girls' trusts funds. Helen though met a young man, and they announced their engagement. Roylott was silent at this news. Then, a couple of weeks later Julia heard some whistling noises during the night, and then heard her sister screaming. She and her step father found Helen in her bed dying, her last words, "The speckled band!". At the time a gypsy camp was near the house, and Julia thought this was what the reference was too - but she saw no trace of any gypsy in the room.
Why has Julia Stonor come? Well she too wants to marry and has just gotten engaged. So she has announced it too. Now that gypsy group is back, and she is worried about her sharing her sister's fate.
Holmes agrees to take the case, and Julia (relieved) leaves. A couple of minutes later her step-father pops up, brandishing a riding crop and warning Holmes to keep his meddling out of his family affairs. "I'm not a man to be trifled with", Roylott tells him. He then takes the poker from the fireplace and bends it in his bare hands. Then he leaves.
Holmes looks carelessly after Grimesby Roylott leaves and mentions casually to Watson he is not to be trifled with either. And Conan Doyle has Holmes straighten out the poker with his bare hands.
"The Speckled Band" was the second of the short stories that Conan Doyle wrote in THE STRAND MAGAZINE in 1891-92 that were collected in his book THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (still one of the two best collections of the shorter stories). It is also one of the most frequently anthologized tales by Conan Doyle, and a clever one (despite some vagueness about the weapon used). To us it is fairly simple to see who is the villain and what is the killer. Conan Doyle used the same trick in two other stories in THE ADVENTURES series, "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" and "A Case of Identity", so that one ends up suspicious of all step-fathers. But that was a common thread in Victorian fiction. Step-parents, after all, had little real affection for the children of dead predecessors or divorced predecessors. One fascinating but rare exception is the step-father step-daughter relationship in Henry James' contemporary novel WHAT MAISIE KNEW, but that has a built-in tragedy at the end of its own.
Since the story is so well known I won't give away the conclusion. I will say it is interesting that this repeat of the Jeremy Brett episode of his splendid series of Holmes' stories is shown the same night as MURDERS AT THE ZOO (on another channel) which hinges on a similar plot idea. Brett is finely languid and then active as the great detective, abetted by David Burke (his first Watson on the series). As Roylott, Jeremy Kemp gives a threatening bully performance that is hard to beat. It was Kemp's second entry into the world of Sherlockian Villainy - he was the anti-Semitic Austrian-Hungarian nobleman against Nicol Williamson's Holmes and Alan Arkins' Sigmund Freud in THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION.
Conan Doyle liked the story, and would write a full-length play THE SPECKLED BAND in 1910, which was a theatrical success. He would rename his villain Dr. Rylott. And Lynn Harding, the old Victorian actor and melodrama star - Tod Slaughter's rival, would repeat his original performance as Rylott in the 1936 film version of the play and story opposite Arthur Wontner as Holmes.
The Speckled Band is considered one of the best of the Sherlock Holmes
stories. I know that if for no other reason that way back in the day
when I was in high school it was this short story that was used in one
of my English classes as an example of creating an enduring character
in literature. In this one the character is the most celebrated
detective in the history of fiction.
Jeremy Brett as Holmes and David Burke as Watson get involved in the murder of Denise Armon when they're hired by her twin sister Rosalyn Landor who feels quite certain she's next. She lives with her stepfather Jeremy Kemp who is a doctor and who served in the Indian army as did Dr. Watson back in the day.
In this particular short story Arthur Conan Doyle does give you a nice group of suspects though he does lean in his writing towards the culprit. The dying words of Armon are the title of this mystery and once Holmes figures it out, he'll also know how the homicide was committed and inevitably who the perpetrator is.
Forensics is always important in Sherlock Holmes stories and probably more so in The Speckled Band than others. If you choose to view this episode, you'll see what I mean.
This was certainly one the better episodes; containing a beautiful and
modest damsel in direst need of male protection from an extraordinary
eccentric overbearing brutal villain who is faced up to by Holmes
(Jeremy Brett) at his coolest and most urbane. The damsel is, by a mere
hair, saved and the villain receives not a hair less than his just
desserts. A thrilling, chilling full-blooded and most satisfying
rendering of Conan Doyle's story.
But of all the Watsons there have been, from the elderly duffer and comic buffoon (Nigel Bruce in the 1940s' film versions) to younger and smarter ones, I can never reconcile myself to David Burke. A respected actor but as Watson he always gives - or perhaps was asked to give - too broad a performance with an absolute absence of nuance, rather as if in a boistrous stage farce. Holmes was of course a consummate judge of character and that, we must presume, included the person he wished to have as his close companion both at times of highest challenge and at times when he was at his lowest ebb. Holmes was an obsessive and a loner who struggled with his demons. So outstanding were his intellectual powers that he had no need of lesser brains - there were very few indeed he considered his equal - Moriarty, "The Woman" and perhaps in a different way, his brother Mycroft. Foreign royalty, the Prime Minister came to him on questions of ultimate importance. Holmes is under no misapprehension about his own abilities. That is the point of Holmes - at what he does he is the best. David Burke's quirky Watson sometimes tries to outguess Holmes. I do think that Holmes would have found such a Watson both extremely irritating and a liability. Edward Hardwicke in contrast is all those things that Holmes needed: completely predictable, utterly dedicated and loyal, never ever challenging but tactfully doing the decent thing when Holmes' manners and sensitivity to others feelings were lacking. It is in fact a portrayal of a successful marriage where one is brilliant, difficult, histrionic and uncompromising and the other is quiet supportive and understanding. It is the only kind of relationship Holmes would have needed or wanted.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Speckled Band is without doubt one of the standout episodes from
the fantastic Granada series. It's difficult watching this episode not
to get drawn into the plot, which has to be one of the best Conan Doyle
wrote, which of us doesn't possess a phobia or at least an unease when
it comes to snakes. I won't go into the specifics of the death, just in
case, but it must be one of the most cruel, horrific deaths that Conan
Doyle wrote, it really is the stuff of nightmares.
As always we are treated to some fantastic production values, everything is very slick, impeccable period detail, some lovely costumes, it really is a pleasure to watch. The debate will forever continue over Hardwicke vs Burke, personally I've always been impartial, what I would say is the Brett/Burke combination is at its high point here, the characters are so easy with one another, the relationship strong and the results fantastic.
The episode was expertly cast, Jeremy Kemp was perfectly cast as Dr Grimesby Roylott, his appearance somehow fitted the character, as did the velvet voiced Rosalyn Landor who beautifully portrayed Helen Stoner.
I cannot pick up on a single fault with this episode, it's one of a handful of episodes I gladly score a 10/10
In one of the best Holmes short stories, this TV episode hold true to
most of the writing as Holmes and Dr Watson find a sinister scheme that
could save the life of their beautiful woman client. But they will need
to act fast because time is of the essence in this wonderful episode.
The story centers around Julia Stoner who is living with an eccentric step-father, Doctor Roylott, in a manor needing repair outside of London. Just recently Julia's sister had died an unusual death after a few nights of hearing strange whistling noises in her room. Now with repairs being made on the manor, Roylott tells Julia that she will have to move into her sister's old room. The first night in the room she hears the whistling noise that scared her sister. Julia seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes will get to the house and notice things that only he is capable of understanding. Add the background of Dr Roylott while in India and Holmes will know that the beautiful young woman is in extreme danger. All we can do is hope that Holmes, along with Dr Watson, is able to prevent another death.
One of the better stories and one of the better acting episode of the collection. Jeremy Brett is again wonderful as he plays Holmes, with all his facial tics, to near perfection. Entertaining episode to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't know why I find this one of the more enjoyable cases of
Sherlock Holmes. Maybe it's because it's really so simple -- the
motives, the characters, the mystery and its solution.
Maybe it's the hilarious way Dr. Grimesby Roylott storms unannounced into 221B Baker Street and threatens and insults Holmes -- "Sherlock Holmes, the Scotland Yard jack-in-office!" Then he bends a steel poker before rushing out. What the hell is a jack-in-office?
Maybe it's the snake -- "a swamp adder, the deadliest snake in India." The quirky characteristics of Holmes' character is nothing compared to those of the snake.
First of all, there is no such snake. None called a swamp adder, at any rate.
Second, here is a snake who drinks MILK from a saucer.
Third, the snake is trained to do tricks that none has ever learned before. I mean, think of it. Snakes don't actually DO anything except lay around the house. They don't roll over or sit up and beg. Have you ever known a snake to do anything but act like a brain-damaged piece of garden hose? No. You have not.
Fourth, the snake has learned to return to his home when he hears a whistle. But snakes have spent so many eons underground that they've lost their ears and are deaf.
No -- this is SOME snake, trust me. You wouldn't want to arouse "its snakish nature," as Holmes puts it.
I've always like Jeremy Kemp too, and he's fine here as the villain. What a versatile actor he is. Watch him as an aristocratic German flier in "The Blue Max" -- all restraint and reserve. Or in that spoof of Nazi movies where his role is comedic.
Rosalyn Landor is the lady in distress and she's very comely and vulnerable. I like that in a woman. Any normal snake would enjoy even the prospect of biting her, as would any normal man.
This ranks high among the fifty-some stories that Conan-Doyle penned.
This is the first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read (I guess, I was about ten). As strange as it is, it has a tremendous place in my heart. The Jeremy Brett/David Burke version is the best I've seen. It does justice to the canon. This is the story of two sisters who have an inheritance and who live with their father, a violent, explosive man. One of the sisters succumbs to some weird attack. It is our hero's task to figure out what is going on. These young women have been living in the oddest situation. For example, their beds are fastened to the floor, immovable. Strange sounds are heard in the night. Wild animals pervade the property around the house. The motivations are not that unusual as we watch things unfold, but the methods are really bizarre. I think it's the circus like atmosphere of this poor young woman's world that is the attraction. As a previous commentator, I also enjoyed the evil father's confrontation with Holmes, who is really unflappable, no matter what. Conan-Doyle frequently took liberties with the natural reality (despite being a medical man himself) and often assumed his readers would take things at face value. I know I did. This is a really fun story with sad implications and heartbreak. Sometimes we forget how the first girl died and what a loss this was for her surviving sibling. Watch this, ignore your scientific hesitation, and just enjoy it.
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