The Dancing Men (TV episode 1984)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Dancing men

The Dancing Men (episode No. 2) is the 2nd episode of Granada series first season: Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and David Burke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 1st may 1984. 52 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Dancing Men (1903).

This particularly brilliant adventure is based on a riddle: what is the meaning of the lines of stick-like figures which terrify Elsie Cubitt? The decoding of this secret language is all the more gripping since it is far from being a mere intellectual challenge: the Cubitts fate depends on it. Soon a race begins between Holmes, who goes methodically forward, and the tragedy brewing at the Cubitt's house. Holmes, played by a remarkably fit and sparkling Jeremy Brett, appears here as the infallible observer, the logician of genius up to disprove the hasty conclusions of the police, the strategist who plays the villain at his own game and the man of action as quick as a flash. The story is a tragic one, where an innocent couple suffers a crushing and undeserved fate. Yet, it includes delightful humorous moments, mainly provided by the Holmes and Watson relationship, made of superficial frictions and deep attachment. We smile when Holmes criticizes Watson for repeating, in spite of his promise, that his deductions, once they have been thoroughly explained, are absurdly simple or when he allows the Doctor to shine by explaining the code as if he had himself broken it. The Dancing Men is a very enjoyable episode where the viewer gets everything he is expecting from a Sherlock Holmes story.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Elsie and Hilton Cubitt live happily at Riddling Thorpe Manor, up to the day when a line of stick-like figures drawn on a bench frightens Elsie out of her wits. Hilton, distraught, comes and seeks advice from Holmes. But upon his return, a new line of mysterious graffiti awaits him. Meanwhile, Holmes strives to decipher the language of the "dancing men". Soon he succeeds in making out a sentence which reveals the identity of its author: Abe Slaney. Holmes asks an American inspector for information about Slaney. While he is waiting for an answer, Hilton forwards him a last message. It means: Elsie, prepare to meet thy God! Holmes and Watson rush towards the manor. Too late! Hilton has been shot dead and Elsie, who has attempted to commit suicide, is charged with the murder. Holmes, investigating on the spot, becomes certain that the culprit is Slaney, whose dangerousness has been confirmed by the American police, and lures him with a coded message signed "Elsie". Slaney falls into the trap. He confesses he used the language of the "dancing men", which Elsie knew, to force her to flee with him. While Elsie begged her undesirable suitor to leave her alone, Hilton appeared suddenly and Slaney shot him. Cleared, Elsie is free to spend the rest of her life at Riddling Thorpe Manor.

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