The Boscombe Valley Mystery (TV episode 1991)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Boscombe Valley Mystery

The Boscombe Valley Mystery (episode No. 30) is the 4th episode of season 5 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 14 march 1991. 51 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Boscombe Valley Mystery (1891).

John Hawkesworth adapted The Boscombe Valley Mystery with his customary fidelity. The short story did not require major changes. It certainly lacks action, which the film partially remedies by evoking Turner's adventurous past in a sequence worthy of a Western, but not suspense: who killed, if James is innocent? And how will the detective succeed in exonerating him if he keeps the name of the culprit to himself, as he promised? The story has investigation sequences typical of the Holmesian method: observing the surroundings of the pond, finding clues invisible to others and deducing from them the characteristics and actions of the murderer in their smallest details then, perceiving the logic hidden under the apparent absurdity, understands that "a rat" is the end of the word "Ballarat", poorly articulated by McCarthy dying. But the emotion is also very present in the episode. Alice and James are a charming couple, full of sensitivity and freshness, whose fate interests them and John Turner, although criminal, is moved by his suffering, his love for his daughter and his deep gratitude to Holmes. More humble than usual and sensitive to the distress of Alice and James as well as to Turner's tragic fate, the detective appears very human here. Director June Howson multiplies close-ups, giving the slightest expression of the actors maximum impact. During the confrontation between Holmes and Turner, for example, Jeremy Brett, fearless, slightly lowers his head to better stick his piercing gaze into Turner's eyes, which grow bigger with surprise and fear, because he understands that nothing can escape the detective's implacable lucidity. Added to this, the delicious landscapes and fine touches of humour that generously scatter this episode complete its success.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Called by Alice Turner to the rescue of James McCarthy, unfairly accused of the murder of her father, a farmer from Australia, Holmes went with Watson to Boscombe Valley. Everyone is convinced that during a violent argument, James fatally beat his father. Only Holmes doubts, as Alice's letter is so blatant in truth. Inspector Summerby tells him that the victim was farming a farm owned by his rich Australian friend John Turner and the gamekeeper Crowder tells him that the McCarthys had fought near the pond and James came out in panic to ask him to rescue his father. Crowder, discovering his death, called the police. The coroner, outraged that James refuses to reveal the motive for the dispute and claims that the dying man's last words were failed, charging him with murder. But Alice guessed the reason for the argument: once again, McCarthy ordered James to marry her, who formally refused. He will explain to the detective that he shares Miss Turner's feelings but believed he was bound by a marriage contracted in a state of intoxication, whose disability he had just learned. Near the pond, Holmes discovers the prints of the McCarthys but also those of a third man and the stone constituting the weapon of the crime. The last words, apparently incongruous, of the victim were the final syllables of "Ballarat", name of the city where came Turner, the murderer, nicknamed "Jack of Ballarat" during his youth of outlaw. McCarthy, knowing his past, was blackmailing him. Hearing him reiterate to James the order to marry Alice to take his fortune, Turner, revolted, killed him with a stone. Holmes promised the old man, sick and incurable, to let him die in peace. Without denouncing the real culprit, he will succeed in clearing James, thus making the two lovers happy.

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