Return of the Greatest Sherlock #7: Sherlock’s Deepest Thoughts of All
Holmes disappearing without a trace and sitting on a pile of cushions are apparently the two best things about this adaptation of “The Man with the Twisted Lip”. That’s not an insult, because this 1986 TV episode is pretty good, and Jeremy Brett makes it better. He takes Holmes to familiar ground, and the production brings the original story to life, about as well as they’ve done with other Conan Doyle stories. We actually see Jeremy Brett thinking at one point, which must be great film-making, right?
In Granada’s Sherlock Holmes, Watson is not as fleshed out as in the original stories, but Edward Hardwicke does have a lot more dialogue in this one compared to other outings. Watson was never married in the Jeremy Brett TV show, and there’s really never anything new discussed about his life. We can see from this episode that he is living at Baker Street, because Holmes interrupts his sleep and rouses him out of bed. He comes in at dawn, which is probably around 5:00am. We can see the sun shining in the window, and Watson reacts like a normal person, telling Holmes to politely bugger off, but Holmes won’t let him sleep in. Poor guy!
In this one, Watson helps find one of his friends, then the story transitions into another case, which one clever thing I like about this story. The scared wife goes to Baker Street to recruit the dynamic duo to find her husband, whom she hasn’t heard from in some time, but finds only Watson there, trying to relax in peace for once. Granada screenwriter Jeremy Paul suggested his wife for the role of Mrs Kate Whitney, and she does a good job. She’s only really in it for a little while anyway, so it’s not a huge part, because Watson is off to the opium den to pull this guy out of the sewer. By surprise, he finds Holmes there too!
As he tells Mrs. Whitney, Watson thinks Holmes has disappeared without a trace. We can only assume he is investigating some crime, because Watson discovers Holmes in disguise while at the opium den, and the story quickly bridges into this new case. While in this urban drug house, Jeremy Brett’s fake nose and wig doesn’t fool anybody, but I think Brett uses the make-up and an exaggerated style to have fun with the scene. Anyway, the audience is supposed to recognize Holmes too, as we’re in on the joke. This is the opposite of how the Twisted-Lip Man is treated, as Clive Francis is barely recognizable under that make-up. So it takes Watson about ten minutes to find out Holmes hasn’t really disappeared without a trace, but this episode’s surprises don’t end there.
Director Patrick Lau must be a Sherlock Holmes fan, because he brings an original Paget drawing to life for us right there on the screen. This drawing from Conan Doyle’s original story shows Holmes sitting on a pile of cushions smoking. It is probably the most famous drawing of Holmes ever done. The episode brings it to life by showing Brett in deep contemplation while sitting on those same cushions, though the perspective is straight-on, not showing Holmes in profile, as in the drawing. This is not a bad thing, because the straight-on shot allows the camera to zoom in slowly and show Holmes thinking, his eyes closed. They suddenly spring open, as if he realizes something, and Holmes pieces together the mystery of the Man with the Twisted Lip after washing his face. Though this is a generic film-making trick, Brett plays it perfectly, like a working man’s detective, because Brett’s Holmes has powers of deduction which require thought and great effort. He smiles slightly and claps his hands in satisfaction. The whole thing takes only a few minutes and has no dialogue. It is the best scene of characterization in the whole episode.
Alan Plater wrote the adaptation for this episode and it’s pretty much straight from the page. The thing that Plater does add is some needed humanization for the dialogue, which is lacking in the story, especially between Watson and Holmes during several scenes. This is the most apparent when they are riding in a carriage and Holmes is explaining why he was in disguise. Hardwicke groans out his dialogue like a good cynic, probably still annoyed at being woken so early. He is a doctor, after all. I wonder if he ever got any sleep that day!
Lastly, this episode is once again full of great supporting actors. This time Granada’s Sherlock Holmes has a link to James Bond! Albert Moses, who appeared in Octopussy in 1983, appears in the episode as the Lasca, the dubious owner of a criminal hide-out. Unlike in Octopussy, here he’s a criminal jerk, though he only gets a little time to smirk and laugh in some flashbacks. He has a few lines though, trying to put the police on the wrong track. I think he does a good job.
Overall, this is a good episode of The Return of Sherlock Holmes. It is pretty amazing how many good episodes they did in a row for this series. They are all so faithful to the material and the production pretty much matches how I imagine Sherlock Holmes in my mind. Jeremy Brett plays a smart and clever Holmes in this one, but he still needs time to sit and think things over, which is refreshing and human. Remember that kids! Intelligence requires some deep thought born out of sitting on pillows!
|The Return of Sherlock Holmes Episodes|
|The Empty House – July 9 1986|
|The Abbey Grange – Aug 6 1986|
|The Musgrave Ritual – July 30 1986|
|The Second Stain – July 23 1986|
|The Man with the Twisted Lip – Aug 1986|
|The Priory School – July 16 1986|
|The Six Napoleons – Aug 20 1986|
|The Sign of Four – Dec 29 1987|
|The Devil’s Foot – Apr 6 1988|
|Wisteria Lodge – Apr 20 1988|
|The Bruce Partington Plans – Apr 27 88|
|The Hound of the Baskervilles – Aug 31 1988|
|Silver Blaze – Apr 13 1988|