The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (movie 1905)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is an American silent movie, produced by The Vitagraph Company, released on 6 september 1905 in USA, starring Gilbert M. Anderson as Sherlock Holmes. 725 feet (9 minutes). Black & White.

Other titles:

  • Sherlock Holmes or, Held for Ransom (7 october 1905, USA)
  • Sherlock Holmes sidste Bedrift (7 march 1906, Denmark)
  • Sherlock Holmes: or, Held for Ransom (november 1906, UK)

Survival status: Presumed lost.

Maurice Costello didn't play Sherlock Holmes in this movie. He joined Vitagraph only in 1907. See the Howard Ostrom's study about this error. And the plot was not adapted from Arthur Conan Doyle's novel: The Sign of Four (1888) as mentioned in some books. In fact, the plot is about a kidnapping by some members of a band of criminals, who designate themselves "The Sign of the Four."



Plot summary

Plot summary published in Urban catalogue (august 1906, p. 61-63).

Scene 1. — The millionaire's child is kidnapped

While playing in the Park with her nurse, a seven year old child of Mr. George Carruthers, a wealthy London clubman, is kidnapped by some members of the infamous band of criminals, who, in their exploits, designate themselves "The Sign of the Four." The nurse makes a desperate effort to save the child, but she and a bystander, who endeavours to aid her, are both left lying insensible on the ground and the miscreants get away with the little girl in their clutches. We are next introduced to their secret den, a cellar in one of the lonely suburbs of London, where the little child is turned over to the keeping of a hideous old hag, while the conspirators indict a letter to the father as follows:

"Your child is in our hands; come to night at twelve o'clock to the old Snuff' Mill at Wapping; bring £5,000 in gold and come alone. We mean business. Play no tricks, or you will never see your child again.

This epistle having been written, is handed to one of the bandits,_ who cautiously approaches the residence of Mr. Carruthers, delivers the note to him as he is descending the steps of his house, and disappears down the roadway long before the father has had time to grasp the full import of the terrible news contained in the letter.

Scene 2. — The frenzied father goes to Sherlock Holmes for assistance

In his cosy. apartments in Baker Street, the greatest of all detectives is seated in his easy chair, wearing the well-worn dressing gown and smoking the favourite pipe, when his quietude is suddenly interrupted by the appearance of the frenzied father, who thrusts the-kidnapper's note into his hands and implores his aid. After hearing all the details, Holmes decides to go and meet the bandits himself, and-using his phenomenal skill in the art of "making up," he transforms himself in a few moments by the aid of wig, beard and moustache into an exact representation of his visitor. Then possessing himself of the note and making up a fake parcel to represent the money, the intrepid detective starts out single handed on his heroic quest.

Scene 3. — Sherlock Holmes meets the bandits at their rendez vous

Stirring adventures now come thick and fast. One of the desperadoes is at the appointed place, and having satisfied himself that Sherlock Holmes is apparently the right party, he blindfolds him and leads him through tortuous paths to their secret den. Holmes shows them the bag of money and asks that they produce the child. The little one, thinking she sees her father before her, rushes to his side. Instantly Holmes lifts a chair and dashes the lamp on the table into fragments, and picking up the child escapes in the darkness that follows his daring act. The inmates of the room are blindly stumbling about, but the old hag who was nearest to the door slips out after Holmes with feline stealth, and as he pauses for a moment, uncertain which way to turn, she leaps upon his back, and grips his throat with her bony claws In an instant the others rush out and overpower him. In the struggle, his false beard and wig have become misplaced, and as the bandits tear them off, they discover that at last they have in their hands their arch enemy, Sherlock Holmes. Exulting in the fact that now they will be able to effectively get rid of the one man they fear the most, they drag him indoors, lash him to a keg of gunpowder and lighting a slow fuse rush from the cellar, leaving Holmes to a horrible fate. In their excitement, they have forgotten the little girl whom they left outside the house. She has been hiding in fear and trembling, and when she sees them emerge and run away as fast as their legs can carry them, she instinctively runs into the house to find her protector. The interest now becomes intense, as it seems as if the little child is going to instant death. She enters the cellar just in time to stamp out the fuse and save the hero's life. Holmes takes her in his arms and is rapidly proceeding down the road, when he is perceived by the Four, who have been waiting to hear the explosion which was to have hurled him into eternity. They immediately give chase, and an exciting pursuit ensues. The leader of the bandits rapidly gains upon Holmes, who is encumbered with the weight of the child. Suddenly dropping the little. one to the ground, Holmes turns and meets his pursuer with a terrific swing, which catches the bandit on the point of the jaw and completely knocks him out.

Scene 4. — Holmes takes refuge in a deserted house

Our hero now determines to match his wits against those of his pursuers, who are close behind him. He dashes into an old house, and mounting the stairs, barricades the door and searches for a hiding place, which he finds in the huge old-fashioned chimney. The bandits are now breaking down the door, the panels of which can be seen splintering under their blows. Holmes opens a window, and fastening one end of a coil of rope to the casement, throws the other end out of the window, leading them to believe he has escaped that way. Then taking the little girl, he hides in the chimney. The ruse is successful. The bandits finally break down the door, rush in and see the open window with the rope hanging therefrom. They conclude that he has escaped in that direction, and going through the window themselves, start once more in pursuit. After giving them time to get away, Holmes leaves the house and goes off in another direction.

Scene 5. — The joyful reunion at Sherlock Holmes's apartment in Baker Street

The father and mother of the kidnapped child, worn with grief and anxiety, receive a telegram, saying:— "Meet me at my rooms, Baker Street, at 10 o'clock. Good news. Signed, Sherlock Holmes." We see them anxiously waiting his return. Suddenly the curtains are parted, and the tall figure of Holmes looms through the door-way, but he is alone. The mother rushes forward and flings herself at his feet. It is a dramatic moment. Holmes steps back, lifts the curtain a little higher, and, with a glad cry, the little golden-haired child rushes across the room into her mother's arms. Holmes, as usual, refuses any reward except a kiss and a caress from the little girl, and this seems to please him more than the large bundle of bank notes which the millionaire endeavours to force upon him. The picture ends with a pleasing and pathetic picture of the mother and child photographed at close range, depicting their joy at their reunion.



Vitagraph advertisements:

  • The millionaire's child is kidnapped. Her frenzied father visits Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes meets the bandits at their rendez-vous, and after many thrilling adventures and narrow escapes rescues the child. Sherlock Holmes' apartment in Baker Street, London a joyful reunion. - in "The Moving Picture World"
  • This shows one of the adventures of the noted detective in which he almost falls a victim to the band that signs itself 'The Sign of the Four'.