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Apart from some dull spots in the middle and a rather obvious goof in regards to Anna's glasses, The Golden Pince-Nez is a very interesting episode. The writing is good on the whole, the conversations between Holmes and Mycroft are particularly intriguing and the story is compelling with a good atmosphere and a solution that did grab and surprise me.
The production values are superb, I always love how evocative it all is, and the music is often hauntingly beautiful. The acting is fine, the supporting cast do everything they can without standing out too much, but the real joys are Jeremy Brett and Charles Gray who are both brilliant and their chemistry is delightful.
Overall, an interesting episode if not quite one of the best. 8/10 Bethany Cox
It could be that I find this one interesting because my maternal grandmother was full-blooded Russian and my great grandparents (although I never knew them) probably left their home country around the time of the Communist Revolution or not long before. As one of Doyle's historically-based plots, this story, which was one of the later ones to be written, touches on that general period of history.
Acting is very strong all around, as usual. Jeremy Brett is never a let down and although, as previously stated, there is no Watson in sight, Charles Grey as Sherlock's brother Mycroft is always delightful. (Although Mycroft did not feature in Doyle's original--which had Dr. Watson in his rightful place--the elder Holmes was featured in a couple of other short stories that were adapted, so Grey had a recurring part.) The episode is helped tremendously by strong performances from Frank Finlay as The Professor and Anna Cartaret, in a brief but essential role. Also, an actress by the name of Patricia Kerrigan is pretty effective as a suffragist in a new subplot added for the adaptation. Some "purists" get feathers ruffled over any change to one of Doyle's stories but this should be one of the less harrowing ones: the presence of the women's suffrage movement is in keeping with the setting of the story and fleshing out background characters is a sensible enough way to make a short story more substantial without altering the core plot. As for the cast, it is every bit as strong as usual with no duds. The inspector and the professor's housemaid are also played well.
The other character of note is the Professor's house itself. Thanks to Peter Hammond, perhaps the most artsy director in television, the house in which the murder takes place is quite an engrossing and vivid character of its own. It would have been a quirky set anyway but Hammond's classic off the wall style, which an also be seen in other episodes that he directed, takes full advantage of it, with colorful and zany visuals helping to enhance the quirkiness and the filmic value of this episode. Memorable play can be made of something as simple as a large pool of blood on the floor, as happened in a very memorable sequence with the Holmes brothers interviewing the maid.
Fair warning: Hammond's artsy photography and editing choices could be confusing to some, as the opening sequence intercuts two dramatic sequence from totally different times and places in the characters' lives. The opening may throw viewers off at first in this regard but all soon becomes clear.
So I suppose that between loving the house and loving the history, I can't help but rate this episode highly. It's one of my favorites from the underrated and rather unfairly mauled Memoirs series, which I actually rate a bit above most of the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. It's true that Brett's decline in health around the time of production can be a drawback--but not an insurmountable one. And I guess this isn't the strongest *detective* story in the world but I think there is actually a pretty powerful human story at the heart of it. The weakest spot for me is that in the denouement, there is one big element that's rather clichéd. But if The Golden Pince-Nez were the only murder mystery guilty of that, it wouldn't be a cliché. Nonetheless Jeremy Brett and Anna Cartaret carry it off excellently--really affecting performances that handle potentially difficult scenes well.
Plus, Pince-Nez has to be one of the coolest sounding words ever. So bonus points go for that.
The young victim's appointment book leads the team to a meeting of demonstrative Suffragettes who boo the entrance of the local Inspector and Mycroft. The speaker at the podium demands voting rights for women. Mycroft's attitude is one of repugnance. Voting rights for women! "What next, women Constables? Women politicians?" (Margaret Thatcher was PM when this was shot, so it's meant as a joke on Mycroft.) Nobody notes that the speaker stands before a banner on which the name of Boadicea is prominent. "Boadicea" has nothing to do with the constrictor snakes of the New World, as I'd thought. I had to look it up in Wikipedia. It's the name of a woman warrior who led the British tribe of Iceni in a revolt against their Roman rulers around AD 60.
The back story has to do with the Russian revolution and there are one or two visual allusions to some memorable shots in Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin."
The touches of irony and humor are very welcome. The direction seems to be still hung up on glass and reflections of various kinds. But it's a lively story and thoroughly diverting.
I was intrigued to find out Charles Gray stepped in to replace Hardwicke for this episode, Gray's Mycroft was always great value, such a charismatic actor, brilliantly cast as Sherlock's brother, there's a great scene when they discuss their father's magnifying glass. unfortunately he's a bit of a spare part here.
Frank Finlay, a truly fine actor, is the shining light here, as the eccentric Professor Coram. He is very watchable as Coram, he steals the scenes.
I would class this as one of the weaker entries into the strong Memoirs series, but it's very enjoyable nonetheless. 6/10