The Cardboard Box (TV episode 1994)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Cardboard Box

The Cardboard Box (episode No. 41) is the 6th episode of season 6 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 11 april 1994. 51 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Cardboard Box (1893).

When this episode was shot, Jeremy Brett, too sick, had to abandon the series. He terminated his contract with Granada and died of a heart attack on 12 september 1995. The course of the Sherlock Holmes series had not been littered with roses. The various protagonists of this cinematographic and human adventure fought hard to overcome the considerable obstacles represented by the reduction of budgets, the demands of management or dramatic health problems. Through courage, talent and solidarity, they have succeeded in creating a work of remarkable quality that deserves to survive the passage of time.

"The Cardboard Box" closes the Sherlock Holmes series in style. Trevor R. Bowen spiced up the plot by introducing the false lead of Jacottet's revenge against Miss Cushing. Moreover, while in the original short story the police stopped Browner as soon as his boat was docked, the scenario, reinforcing the suspense, made him disembark before Holmes learned of his arrival. Will he be able to capture him in time at Sarah's? Because Bowen invented a dramatic encounter between the sailor who was mad with pain and the young woman, desperate for her hatred. Browner's confession of the crime is even more striking here, because instead of telling it, he relives it, hallucinating it, before our eyes. As for the characters, they gain in presence and complexity. Mary Browner, the invisible heroine of the book, appears in the charming, childish and innocent features of Lucy Whybrow. Ciaran Hinds makes Browner's simplicity and resigned suffering so touching that the atrocity of her crime would be forgotten and Sarah seems both guilty and victim. Bowen having set the drama for Christmas, the cheerfulness of the streets and the warm and familiar atmosphere of Baker Street enhance the tragedy in contrast. Artistly filmed by Sarah Hellings, the snow-covered landscapes first exalt the magic of Christmas, but at the end, their whiteness, responding to that of the walls enclosing Browner or Sarah's sick bed, symbolizes emptiness, loneliness and death and, under the snow, we will discover Mary in her ice coffin. Jeremy Brett, despite her exhaustion, reveres to the spectators with brio. His Holmes, brilliant, resolute and often very funny, is above all human and vulnerable. Unlike the "discourse of the rose", his questions about the meaning of a world gangrened by evil reflect a distress that the actor expresses with moving sincerity and conviction. Hospitalized, Brett could not see this final episode, so poignant in many ways.




Plot summary (spoiler)

On Christmas Eve, Miss Susan Cushing, terribly worried, came to see Holmes. Her younger sister, Mary Browner, missed their weekly appointment and has not been found since. That same evening, Susan, opening the cardboard box that seemed intended for her, vanished in horror: it contains two human ears! According to Inspector Hawkins, the sender is surely Jacottet, the medical student who was staying with Miss Cushing and who, having "guilty relationships" with Sarah, her other sister, had been driven out as well as her by the outraged young lady. Jacottet will have avenged himself with this heinous farce. Didn't the package come from Harwich, where he was passing to return to Belgium? But the ears, one female and the other male, do not smell formaldehyde at all. Holmes concludes that they do not come from a dissection but from a crime. According to Susan, Sarah did her best to detach Mary from her husband and introduced her to Alec Fairbairn, who was attractive and more educated, in the hope that she would go with him. Sarah is, indeed, passionately in love with Browner. When she accidentally discovered the box at her sister's house, she ran away, horrified. Holmes understood that the name of the recipient, S. Cushing, did not refer to Susan but to Sarah, who knew the dire meaning of the package. Upon learning that Browner's boat was in Harwich when the box was posted there and that the sailor had returned to Ramsgate, Holmes felt that he would rush to Sarah's house to confirm that the box was intended for her. Accompanied by Watson and Hawkins, he ran to intercept him there. Browner, imprisoned and haunted by the memory of his crime, admits the killing of Mary and Fairbairn out of jealousy. Then, in accordance with his threat, he sent their ears to Sarah, who was responsible for his misfortune.

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