The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (TV episode 1991)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Disappearance of Lady Carfax

The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (episode No. 27) is the 1st 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 21 february 1991. 50 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1911).

The adaptation of The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax was controversial because of the changes made to the original. But the low budget meant that it was not possible to tour the Continent. This prevents us from seeing Holmes send Watson to Switzerland in his place and then blame him for the predictable failure of his mission. Certainly more pessimistic than the outcome of the news, that of the film accentuates the tragedy of the story. And can we decently blame the scenario for giving Lady Carfax, ghostly character in the original, a place of choice? Despite the criticisms of the purists, the adaptation fascinates by its profoundly dark and mysterious atmosphere. Thanks to the director's brilliant discovery, John Madden, Holmes bases his reflection on the use of figurines representing the protagonists of the drama. When the one symbolizing Lady Frances Carfax accidentally comes across the article about the drowning of the heiress Rosenbloom, it is as if fate itself was warning Holmes of the fatal fate that threatens her. Patrick Gowers' music, with its strange, distressing and funeral resonances, contributes greatly to creating a very engaging dramatic atmosphere. Brett, his face carved by trials, embodies a dark, tormented, laconic, introverted Holmes, whose contained energy explodes into brief and violent deflagrations that make him terrible and sweep away any resistance. In front of him, Jack Klaff plays a passionate and fiery Philip Green and Edward Hardwicke, a fiery, combative and manly Watson. The episode is punctuated by unforgettable scenes, including Holmes and Watson's visit to the bank, where Lady Frances appears on the balcony, like a beautiful frightened bird and above all the extraordinary sequence of the burial, with the image of the stone angel watching over the rest of the deceased and, in contrast, that of Holmes, sparkling with vengeful fury, pointing Schlessinger as a target in Watson. A high quality episode to watch and watch again!




Plot summary (spoiler)

Watson, on holiday, wrote to Holmes about the picturesque residents of his hotel: Major Schlessinger, an invalid war missionary, his nurse Miss Calder and especially the fascinating Lady Frances Carfax and the unknown horseman whose appearances upset her. But Holmes anticipates an imminent tragedy. Having consulted the Scotland Yard archives, he met Watson. Too late! Lady Frances is missing. Her brother, the Earl of Rufton, confirms that the mysterious horseman is Philip Green, Frances' former suitor, and reveals that she has priceless jewellery in her bank. Holmes and Watson rushed there, soon joined by Green, but Frances, who had withdrawn his deposit, escaped them. Holmes feared that she would be in mortal danger, because the so-called missionary was an eminently dangerous con man, who took advantage of isolated and charitable women to capture their wealth. Indeed Frances, who had come to give him his jewellery to finance his so-called good works, fell into his clutches. But Holmes discovers where Schlessinger sends his accomplice to negotiate Frances' jewellery and asks Green to watch out for her. Having followed her, Green saw the Schlessinger couple delivered a coffin of unusual dimensions... Holmes and Watson, alarmed, burst into the con man's house urgently, but discovered only an old housekeeper in the coffin. However, Holmes feels that the truth he is missing is not far away. At dawn, she suddenly appears to him. He rushed to the cemetery where the housekeeper was buried and the coffin opened: under the corpse of the old lady lay Lady Frances, chloroformed. His life is saved, but Watson fears terrible consequences. Holmes, appalled, accused himself of having failed.

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