The Blue Carbuncle (TV episode 1984)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Blue Carbuncle

The Blue Carbuncle (episode No. 7) is the 7th episode of season 1 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and David Burke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 5 june 1984. 52 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (1892).

The Blue Carbuncle is a delightful Christmas story. The set and above all Patrick Gowers' charming musical variations on a selection of Christmas carols, recreate Nativity good-natured, cheerful atmosphere. Of course evil rages, in form of the cursed jewel which prompts men to crime, of Catherine Cusack's perfidy and James Ryder's noxious cowardice. But some good souls make up for its presence: Peterson, honest commissionaire, Henry Baker, poverty-stricken intellectual, played as a very moving and dignified character by Frank Middlemass, and John Horner, reformed thief devoted to his wife and children. Thanks to Holmes, the ending will be a happy one. Horner is released and reunited with his family and Ryder is given a last chance. How did Holmes secure the release of Horner? How will he return the blue carbuncle to the Countess without giving away the thief's name? Who cares, since the story ends well? The cantankerous Countess of Morcar, kind of female Scrooge, and Horner, as loving as Bob Cratchit, remind us of Dickens' Christmas Carol. Ken Campbell's performance, sometimes unjustly described as "melodramatic" is, in fact, perfectly faithful to Conan Doyle's short story spirit. Many funny scenes add to the feel-good element of the show. It is particularly entertaining to see Holmes, dragged from his slumbers by Peterson and craving for his first cigarette of the day, rushing into the sitting room for a match, clad in his nightshirt, or to watch the hilarious show of gambling challenge put on by Holmes and Watson to fool Breckinridge, the quick-tempered poulterer. For all that, The Blue Carbuncle is not a soppy episode. It doesn't lack pace, and Brett's acting is by no means mawkish. Incensed by Ryder's spinelessness, Holmes roars with fury. But the ironic suavity of his voice, his words and his smiles when their discussion begins at Baker Street, is still far more ominous and more frightening than his furious outburst. The Blue Carbuncle, which combines vigour with jollity and emotion, is a real jewel!




Plot summary (spoiler)

Back to her London hotel, the Countess of Morcar discovers that her priceless blue carbuncle is missing. Inspector Bradstreet arrests John Horner because, summoned to do some little repair in the Countess' suite by James Ryder, her butler, the unfortunate workman was present the day the jewel was stolen. The following day, commissionaire Peterson comes to seek advice from Holmes, for he found a goose and a hat left by a man (Henry Baker) who, after breaking accidentally a shop window during a brawl, ran away when he saw him. Holmes orders Peterson to eat the goose, and keeps the battered hat. But soon Peterson comes back, quite upset: while cleaning out the goose, his wife found a blue carbuncle! Holmes places in the papers an advertisement inviting the owner of the lost hat to retrieve it. Baker hurries to Baker Street, relieved to recover his hat. He is delighted to receive the goose Holmes offers him to replace the lost one, which proves his utter innocence. Holmes and Watson rush to the Alpha Inn, where Baker got his goose, and hear the fowl was bought from Breckinridge. The irascible poulterer refuses to tell where his geese were coming from, but Holmes traps him: he bets the geese were farmed in the country, and to prove him wrong, Breckinridge reveals the name and address of his supplier, Mrs Oakshot, James Ryder's sister. At this very moment, Ryder appears and begs in vain Breckindrige to tell him where are Mrs Oakshot's geese. Holmes takes Ryder along with him to Baker Street. He quickly confounds him and the despicable coward confesses that, at a loss to find a place where he could hide the carbuncle stolen at Catherine Cusack's instigation, he made one of his sister's geese swallow it. But when, having killed the bird, he looked for the jewel it was nowhere to be seen! Among his sister's geese, two were alike; Ryder took the wrong one, the other went to Henry Baker. Holmes lets Ryder go, for prison would make him an incorrigible criminal. Horner, released, may celebrate Christmas with his family.

  • Credits: Monique Claisse (texts), Sarah Fava (photos), Granada.