Friday, June 25, 2010

Cushing's SIGN and BLUE

This version of SIGN was dramatized by the Sherlockians Michael and Mollie Hardwick. The episode begins with Bartholomew Sholto dead, holding a Sign of Four paper in his lap. Next, Mrs. Hudson announces Mary Morstan in Baker Street. (Thereby cutting out the cocaine scene, as well as the deductions from Watson's watch.) Oddly, Miss Morstan says that she is a companion, not a governess, for Mrs. Cecil Forrester. She is also dressed rather too garishly, in my opinion.

Mary Morstan explains about her father's disappearance first and then shows them the pearls. Her letter is dated November 7th, defying both the July and September dates. Instead of meeting at the Lyceum, the carriage picks them up at Mrs. Forrester's house. During the carriage ride, we see Watson begin telling the story of the double-barrelled tiger cub, but he is so lovestruck that he zones out in the middle of it. Holmes visibly rolls his eyes, and is glad when they arrive.

Thaddeus Sholto speaks with a very strange, stuffed up accent; I hope they don't mean that to be a sign of his effeminate nature. Sholto summarizes his father's deathbed confession very effectively, reducing the flashback principally to the moment when Major Sholto spotted Small at the window and died. Then we see the Sholto twins digging for the treasure, but they only find the body of Captain Morstan. After explaining about the pearls, Sholto laughs hysterically and reveals that the treasure is now found. Miss Morstan does not look much cheered by this news. They leave for Pondicherry Lodge.

Though he is often omitted from adaptations, McMurdo the prizefighter is there, and he lets them into the house. When Mrs. Bernstone comes downstairs, Watson tells Miss Morstan to stay with her while they investigate the locked room. They discover Bartholomew's body, and Thaddeus points out that the treasure is gone. They send him and McMurdo to report the death, then cover up the body and begin their investigation. Soon Inspector Athelney Jones arrives and he arrests Thaddeus.

Holmes sends Watson out, and we cut to his return with Toby the dog. They follow the creosote trail straight to Mordecai Smith's establishment. They question Mrs. Smith until her baby cries. Back at Baker Street, Holmes gives Wiggins his instructions and money. He and Watson discuss the pygmy, then Watson decides to return Toby and visit Miss Morstan. Mrs. Forrester wants all the gory details about the murder, and Watson gets lovey-dovey with Mary Morstan again.

At home that night, Holmes wakes Watson before he goes out dressed as a sailor. The next day, Jones arrives, and complains that Thaddeus has an alibi for the murder. Holmes returns, but does not try to fool Watson or Jones with his disguise. He immediately gives instructions for the boat trap, and we cut to the river chase. It takes place in the morning instead of at night. Tonga leaps out to fire the blowpipe, and he gets Watson's hat. Watson is not fazed, merely raising his gun and shooting down Tonga. The captain fights with Small, who flees the boat and scrambles for the shore, but they capture him. In the cabin of the police boat, Small explains his history.

Back at Mrs. Forrester's house, Miss Morstan worries for Holmes and Watson. Suddenly, Thaddeus Sholto arrives, and he gives Miss Morstan the remaining pearls. Then Watson arrives with the treasure chest, and he seems to get the wrong idea from Sholto kneeling before Miss Morstan. They all greet Watson warmly though, and ask about the progress of the case. He presents the box, but doesn't intend to open it. The women pressure him into it, though Watson says that Small threw away the key into the Thames. Sholto suggests using a fire iron, and Watson opens it. The box is empty, of course, and we cut back to Baker Street. Holmes explains to Watson that Small said that he'd thrown the jewels away.

Watson apparently has not become engaged to Miss Morstan, who was nevertheless satisfied with the outcome of the case. Holmes praises her, but again expounds against love. He says that he would never marry, lest it bias his judgment. Watson thinks that Holmes is weary, and asks "You don't ask much of life, do you?" Holmes makes a speech about how he lives for his brain work, then we fade out, with no talk of cocaine.

BLUE was dramatized by Stanley Miller, and he expanded on the story with many amusing scenes. The episode begins at the Hotel Cosmopolitan, where the Countess of Morcar (also called Lady Morcar) berates James Ryder for the smokey smell in her room. He promises to have her grate fixed, then she leaves for an hour. Ryder meets the maid Catherine Cusack in the hotel room, and they embrace. Then John Horner (apparently not a plumber in this) arrives to fix the fireplace grate, while they leave to attend to "other business." Later that night, the Countess gets dressed to go out, and she discovers the theft of the carbuncle.

In Baker Street, the Countess arrogantly insists that Holmes take the case, but he refuses, saying that Lestrade already arrested somebody for the theft. The Countess complains that they still can't find the blue carbuncle. Holmes gets impatient with her snobby attitude, and at last she leaves, knocking down Watson on her way out the door. In disbelief, Watson goes inside to ask Holmes about the lady. Holmes however greets Watson happily and makes small talk about their Christmas plans. (Watson is obviously not married.) Watson is taking a short two-day holiday, but will be back on the 23rd, and Holmes invites Watson to attend a concert with him then. Watson agrees, and asks about the rude lady. Holmes finally explains that he refused her case, much preferring that Lestrade's holiday be spoiled than his. Also, the concert they are attending features Irene Adler.

Elsewhere in London, Mr. Baker is leaving the Alpha Inn with his goose, and despite his poverty he is generous enough to give money to two carolers outside. But as he goes down the street, two men attack him, and he fights them off with his cane. He accidentally breaks a window, then they all run away from Peterson the commissionaire.

Thus Holmes is now examining Mr. Baker's lost hat. Watson arrives home from his two-day trip, chattering about some acquaintance who sends "compliments of the season." Holmes says that things were lonely without him, and he cheerfully tells Watson to examine the battered hat. Watson examines it but can only draw the conclusions that the man has grey hair which was recently cut, and that he used lime cream. Holmes makes his own deductions, but Watson protests that the size of a man's head does not necessarily mean that he's smart. Holmes agrees but backs up his point with other observations about the man's foresight and taste, to support him being intellectual. Watson also objects to Mrs. Henry Baker necessarily being the man's wife rather than his mother.

After the mental exercise, Holmes tells the story about Peterson obtaining the hat and the goose, but says that it's too difficult to locate this particular Henry Baker. As Holmes reaches for his Persian slipper, Watson remembers that he was going to give Holmes something. He retrieves it out of his coat pocket and gives Holmes a Christmas present. Holmes appears genuinely surprised and touched. He opens it and finds that it is a special blend of tobacco. He thanks Watson and apologizes that he has nothing in return, because he's not used to such customs. Watson doesn't mind, and only asks to share some of the tobacco. Holmes agrees.

Suddenly Peterson arrives with the gem from the goose's crop, and Holmes identifies it as the missing blue carbuncle. Peterson looks visibly awed and pleased about the £1000 reward. Holmes sends Peterson out to advertise in the newspapers, and asks Mrs. Hudson to send Billy to buy a replacement goose. He and Watson theorize that Henry Baker might be an accomplice of John Horner, and Holmes locks up the carbuncle in a little jewel box.

Meanwhile, poor John Horner is in prison. In despair, he attempts to hang himself by his belt. This part really upset me, since it wasn't in the story and I didn't know how it would end. Back at Baker Street, Watson is summoned by the police because a prisoner tried to hang himself. So back at the prison, Watson attends to Horner, who feels such despair because he was due to be married in January, and he thinks he will be convicted just because of his past crime. Watson believes that Horner is innocent, and promises to do everything he can for him.

Holmes is still skeptical, though, because there is no proof yet of Horner's innocence. At last someone answers Holmes's advertisement, only his name is Harold Baker, not Henry. The Mrs. Henry on the goose's tag is his widowed sister-in-law. It's amusing to see Holmes be wrong after all. The man is indeed intellectual, though, and poor. He also has no knowledge of the carbuncle and accepts the new goose readily enough. Holmes and Watson then go investigate the Alpha Inn, and now Holmes is more willing to think that Horner may be innocent.

They ask where the geese came from, then head to Breckenridge's stall. After a wager to find out about the supplier Mrs. Oakshott, they overhear James Ryder trying to get information out of Breckenridge as well. They corner him and take him back to Baker Street to confront him. Finally the whole story comes out, and Ryder tells how he hid the carbuncle in the goose, but left with the wrong one. At the same time, Holmes writes out Ryder's confession, then makes him sign it. He lets Ryder go, saying he has 12 hours before the police see the confession. Ryder leaves gratefully, then Holmes and Watson discuss the matter.

We see John Horner being released from prison. There is also an extra scene back at the hotel, no doubt to make things seem fair. Holmes brings Peterson with him to see the Countess. She says that she has a new problem. Her maid Catherine Cusack is missing, and now she wants Holmes to find both her jewel and her maid. Holmes clearly thinks the maid voluntarily ran off with Ryder, but he refuses both cases. He presents the carbuncle and explains that Peterson found it and is here for his reward. Then Holmes leaves with Watson and they joke about going home to investigate a new bird. It's quite satisfying and cozy, even better than the original BLUE story.

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