The Crooked Man (TV episode 1984)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Crooked Man

The Crooked Man (episode No. 5) is the 5th episode of season 1 of 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 22 may 1984. 52 min.

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

Michael Cox was not very taken with the prospect of adapting The Crooked Man for the screen. But he finally yielded to scriptwriter Alfred Saughnessy's and director Alan Grint's entreaties. This outcome, which allows us to enjoy a particularly moving love story, proved fortunate. Nancy Barclay's and Henry Wood's indestructible love stands up to time, hardships and Wood's awful degradation. The hapless officer is vigorously played by Norman Jones. He lives only for Nancy, who has never forgotten him. The Crooked Man is, as well as a heart breaking love story, a striking betrayal tragedy. Barclay sends Wood to his death in order to steal Nancy from him and pays the penalty for it: he is tormented by an inextinguishable jealousy and haunted, like Macbeth, by the indelible memory of his crime. Flashbacks recalling the Indian Mutiny bear witness to the high price paid for the British Empire greatness. The central part of the investigation, devised by Saughnessy as a typical Holmesian murder inquiry, is enthralling and superbly performed. Brett, with his velvet voice, his persuasive tone and his charming smile, conveys the seductive power Holmes can display to draw the truth from a close-mouthed witness. And when he examines the terrace with feline precaution before striding across the lawn like a foxhound, he expresses perfectly the animal passion for hunting which spurs Holmes. As for David Burke, he plays with conviction and brisk energy the active part Saughnessy has granted Watson. Thanks to the work of the whole crew, this episode, getting the most out of Conan Doyle's short story, retains the fundamental elements of a Holmesian investigation, while its pathos and its exoticism enthral the viewer's sensitivity and imagination.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Following a violent conjugal argument, Colonel Barclay's lifeless body is found close to his unconscious wife, Nancy. She is suspected of murdering her husband. Major Murphy urges Holmes and Watson to investigate Barclay's death. He tells Holmes that Nancy Barclay, while she lived in India, was in love with Corporal Henry Wood. But when he was reported missing, she married Barclay, whose obsessional jealousy spoilt her life. At Barclay's house, Holmes hears that, on the evening of the tragedy, Nancy came back from the Mission deeply distressed. And according to the servant who found Barclay dead, his face expressed the utmost terror. The stick supposed to have killed the Colonel has never been seen in the house before and the key of the room where he met his death can't be found. Holmes therefore concludes that a third person was present. Soon he finds human prints and an animal's tracks. Then he goes with Watson to the Mission, where Anne Morrison reports that, the fatal night, her friend Nancy has been terribly upset by her encounter with a poor cripple, Henry Wood. Wood can be found at the regiment canteen, where he performs tricks with his mongoose. As soon as his act is over, Wood tells Holmes and Watson the dreadful story of his life. His regiment being surrounded by rebels, Wood volunteered for going to General Neill and asking him for help. His rival Barclay gave him deceptive directions, which led him in the rebels' hands. Cruelly ill-treated for many years, Wood became a hideous deformed cripple. Back in England, he meets Nancy again at the Mission, follows her, witnesses her quarrel with Barclay and, in order to protect her, enters by the window. Struck by his horrifying appearance, the Colonel dies of an apoplectic fit. The forensic pathologist statement and Wood's testimony will undoubtedly clear Nancy of the murder charge.

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