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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Speckled Band

episode 6

UK 1984
produced by
Michael Cox for Granada Television/ITV
directed by John Bruce
starring Jeremy Brett, David Burke, Jeremy Kemp, Rosalyn Landor, Denise Armon, John Gill, Rosalie Williams, Tim Condren, Stephen Mallatratt
screenplay by Jeremy Paul, based on the story by Arthur Conan Doyle, music by Patrick Gowers

TV-series
Sherlock Holmes, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) and Doctor Watson (David Burke) are paid a visit by one Helen Stoner (Rosalyn Landor), who lives in a mansion in the country with her reclusive stepdad Dr Roylott (Jeremy Kemp), a collector of exotic animals. She tells Holmes that she suspects her sister (Denise Armon), who died a sudden death two years ago with "the Speckled Band" being her last words, was actually killed. And now Helen fears she's going to die the same death, since she was just moved to her sister's old room and hears the same whistling noises her sister described the days before she died.

When only minutes after Helen's departure, Roylott pays a visit to Holmes to threaten him, Holmes knows there is a case ...

Unbeknowest to Roylott, Holmes and Watson sneak into Helen's room that very night to stand guard - and really, before long they hear a whistling noise, and a venomous snake comes through the phony ventilation shaft. Holmes has apparently expected that, so he chases the snake back with a walking stick ... and on the other hand of the shaft, it bites its owner, Roylott, to death.

You see, Roylott could only reign freely over his deceased wife's money as long as his stepdaughters remain unmarried. Once Helen's sister wanted to marry, he made up the scheme with the snake, knowing its poison would be undetectable for local coroners. And now that Helen also threatened to marry ... well, why wouldn't the same scheme work twice?

And the mysterious last words, "the Speckled Band"? Oh, that's the name of the snake actually.

 

Jeremy Brett gives one of his best Holmes-performances, showing not only his character's ruthlessness but also his fears and the like, but the rest of the episode is a bit uneven: The ending is actually suitably macabre and atmospheric - but the baddie of the piece is given away too soon in the story (about halfway through), and given away without a doubt (other versions of the story at least tend to pretend there are other suspects or make the villain's identity less obvious), thus eliminating the "who"-aspect of the murder mystery and concentrating on the "how". But even if that takes quite some suspense out of the story, at least the "how" is highly original in this case.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD