Friday, June 25, 2010

Cushing's STUD and BOSC

Now I have watched the Peter Cushing versions of STUD and BOSC, which both coincidentally feature women named Alice. STUD is dramatized by Hugh Leonard. Because it is not the first episode in the 1968 TV series, and the actors are not young, this version omits the scenes with Stamford, and the case is not treated as an origin story about how Holmes and Watson met.

The episode begins with Lucy Ferrier's open coffin, and a man takes the ring off her finger. After the credits, we see Drebber and Stangerson checking into Halliday's hotel after missing their train. They argue, then Drebber returns to the Charpentier boarding house.

Drebber pretends that he left something behind in his rooms, so he can get Alice alone and embrace her. It's troubling that Alice's protests are half-hearted and she even kisses him; she was supposed to be unwilling and frightened in STUD, much like Lucy Ferrier was. Despite Alice not screaming, her mother walks in on them and brother Arthur chases Drebber off. We see him get into the cab, then cut to him going upstairs in the empty house. He finally realizes that he's in the wrong place and protests to his cab driver, but it's too late. A constable later sees a candle burning in the window, and he discovers Drebber's body.

Then at Baker Street, Holmes and Watson have a modified "Book of Life" conversation. It's weird having Watson call the article rubbish, since he's already experienced Holmes's deductive skills. Maybe it would have been better if Watson had said in outrage that the article's author was stealing Holmes's ideas, and then Holmes admitted that he wrote the article? Or maybe they should have just shown Holmes complaining about the lack of crime. Anyway, the messenger comes with Gregson's note, and off they go to the Lauriston Gardens case.

The usual investigation occurs, then Holmes and Watson leave to see Constable John Rance. Gregson greets them as they leave Rance's home, and he tells him that he's on the way to the boarding house. He soon gets the story out of the Charpentiers. When asked for his alibi, Arthur lamely says that he took a long walk to cool down from his anger, and he doesn't mention meeting any shipmate that night.

Meanwhile Holmes praises Watson's writing for once, and then Mrs. Sawyer comes for the ring. When she is gone, Watson is rather amused, but Holmes shushes him. He takes Watson's gun with him as he follows the old woman, but of course loses her. Watson inspires Holmes to look for an actor who plays a woman, and they go to a theatre. Backstage, they question actor John Daley and learn that he had retrieved the ring on a bet from a man in an alehouse. Holmes and Watson then go home to await the answer to his telegram.

The next morning, the Irregulars drop by for their wages, and Holmes even reveals to Watson his telegram from Cleveland about Jefferson Hope. Lestrade discovers Stangerson's dead body, then he and Gregson go consult Holmes. Holmes is surprised that Stangerson was stabbed, but he cheers up when he hears of the pills. He analyses them in his laboratory, eliminating any need for a dog to poison. Holmes captures Jefferson quickly, without a brawl, then we cut to the police station, where Jefferson gives an abbreviated confession about killing Drebber and Stangerson. He does not talk about Mormons or polygamy; instead he only says that Drebber and Stangerson kidnapped Lucy and forced her into marriage. Hope is a very soft-spoken man, and that somehow makes his story more effective.

Holmes explains that he told the Irregulars to fetch Hope's cab, but not to mention the 221B address. Just lead the cab there. That's a partial fix on Hope being lured there, but it's still risky. Holmes says he still views Hope as a murderer, but Hope insists that his actions were good. The episode ends as he dies.

"The Boscombe Valley Mystery" opens with young James McCarthy riding home to the farm. Leaving his horse with an employee named Moran, James takes the saddle into a barn, then sits down, looking upset. He suddenly stands up and grabs a shotgun off the wall.

After the credits, Holmes and Watson are at home in Baker Street, and the doctor is obviously not married. So Holmes tells him about the circumstantial case straight away at breakfast. In flashback we see old McCarthy (known as Charles in BOSC, but called William or Bill here) arguing violently with Moran about the horse. James is still in the barn, possibly overhearing things, but then again, maybe he's still focused on his own miseries. Old McCarthy finally stalks off, and later his son walks away carrying his shotgun. We cut to young Patience Moran seeing James McCarthy with his dying father, who keeps saying "A rat." The flashback ends with James stumbling away, covered in blood.

On the train, Holmes and Watson get a smoking carriage, but there's a comical scene in which a gentleman joins them, bringing with him a large potted plant for some reason. Both Holmes and Watson look irritated by the stranger's arrival, and eventually Holmes makes disconcerting deductions which result in the man running off to the dining car, but leaving his potted plant behind. They laugh.

Holmes and Watson arrive in town and actually attend the coroner's inquest, seeing the testimony of both Patience Moran and James McCarthy. Afterward, Holmes and Watson speak to Alice Turner and local Inspector Lanner. (Lestrade is replaced by Lanner, probably because Lestrade's role in BOSC has always been questionable. How exactly does a private citizen hire a Scotland Yard inspector, after all?) Perhaps in a silly mood, Watson gets up at the witness box and tries to pose like Blind Justice, before Holmes calls him away.

They investigate the scene at Boscombe Pool, finding cigar ash and traces of a limping man at the crime scene. Returning to the farm, they speak to Mr. Moran, who tells them about how McCarthy has no money and never paid any rent to Turner. With a limp and a history in Australia, Moran appears to be a credible murder suspect, but Holmes says his shoe size is too small. Holmes then visits sick old John Turner and asks why he opposed the marriage between James and Alice. Turner hallucinates about Australia and babbles about a Cobbs coach.

Holmes and Watson then visit James McCarthy in jail, and he confesses that he argued with his father about Alice. At the local pub, Holmes tells Watson that they'll have to miss dinner, and Watson understandably pouts. They look at a map of Australia and discuss Black Jack, the highwayman who disappeared 10-12 years ago after robbing many Gold Rush miners. Then Holmes and Watson encounter James McCarthy's wife, a barmaid named Stella. Holmes talks to her alone while Watson finishes drinking his cider. Later, they confront John Turner about the murder and obtain his signed confession before he dies dramatically.

The case solved, they return on the train, while we see Alice burning her father's scrapbook about Australia. (So clearly she is no longer ignorant of her father's past, unlike what is implied in BOSC.) Then James comes into the room and kisses her passionately. Holmes explains that Stella already had husband, so now James is free to marry as he'd like.

It was a pretty good adaptation, although old John Turner looks so sickly and barely able to walk, that it makes it seem impossible that he could have done the murder. They laid it on too thick I think, and they don't explain why Turner decided not to attack with his sword-cane, and used the rock instead. The writers also should have been more careful of the chronology, because Alice and James are too old for Black Jack of Ballarat to have been still active a dozen years ago.

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