The Man with the Twisted Lip (TV episode 1986)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Man with the Twisted Lip

The Man with a Twisted Lip (episode No. 19) is the 6th episode of season 3 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Return of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson, aired on Granada TV on 13 august 1986. 52 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Man with the Twisted Lip (1891).

The story requires from the viewer what Michael Cox calls a suspension of disbelief, for who can easily believe, for example, that a professional beggar, however talented he may be, can secure enough money to afford his family the upper classes lifestyle? Yet, the adaptation is most gratifying. The sight of Mrs Saint-Clair, a dainty and distinguished lady, walking a miserable and squalid Victorian East-End Street (a setting which Patrick Lau revelled in filming) illustrates the clash between two worlds entirely strange to one another. Eleanor David's Mrs Saint Clair is sensitive without excessive mawkishness and Rosalie Williams' Mrs Hudson's serene lucidity and restrained tenderness for her restless tenants are irresistible. Edward Hardwicke's Watson, devoted but not submissive, doesn't shrink from criticizing Holmes or from taking revenge for his thoughtlessness by vanishing in turn without traces. Scriptwriter Alan Plater enhanced the character of Boone by endowing him with the ability to quote in any circumstances the greatest British authors. Boone's erudition leads to hilarious exchanges with Inspector Bradstreet, which add to the many touches of humour already present in the episode. Jeremy Brett presents us with a very human detective who thinks at length, doubts, hesitates and asks Watson's opinion without condescension, but also with a talented performer, who fights Boone-the-actor with his own arms when he prepares the incriminating sponge with the dexterity and the sadistic slowness of an experienced torturer. But above all, Brett enjoyed representing Holmes immersed in the stillness of a deep meditation and when perched on his oriental divan he smokes and meditates until the sun rises and the truth dawns on him, the scene is quite spellbinding. However, there is no monotony in Brett's acting, for as soon as he has found the key to the riddle, his Holmes becomes again the admirable, eccentric and entertaining embodiment of indefatigable energy.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Watson is about to leave the Bar of Gold, an opium den from which he intends to rescue his friend Kate Whitneys' addicted husband, when a repulsive customer grasps him: it's Holmes in disguise! He takes Watson along at Saint-Clair's place, for Neville Saint-Clair has disappeared without traces. On Monday, his wife caught sight of him, glancing down at her from an upstairs window in the Bar of Gold. But the managers denied he was there and threw out Mrs Saint-Clair, who soon came back with Inspector Bradstreet. On the loathsome establishment first floor, they found Saint-Clair's clothes, blood traces on the window sill and last but not least, Hugh Boone, a repelling but well-read beggar, so far considered to be inoffensive, whom Bradstreet decided to arrest for lack of anything better. Upon his arrival at Saint-Clair place, Holmes learns that Mrs Saint-Clair has just received a letter from Neville. Is he alive, as she is convinced he is? Dead, as Holmes and the police believe? Holmes, puzzled, spends the night smoking and meditating. At sunrise, while splashing his face with water, he suddenly grasps the truth, crystal clear. He rushes with Watson to London, where Bradstreet takes them to Boone's cell. Holmes gives the beggar's face a thorough wash and soon, Saint-Clair's features appear! The so-called missing person had been an actor in his younger days. Then he became a journalist and, in charge of an investigation on professional beggars, he made himself up to work his way into their world, and saw that his culture and his wit brought in surprisingly substantial earnings. Therefore, he began to lead a double life: beggar in the day time, gentleman beyond reproach in the evening. Surprised by his wife while he was looking out of the opium den window, he took up his beggar disguise and preferred be charged with the murder of Saint Clair rather than confess that Neville Saint Clair and Hugh Boone were one and the same person. In the end, Bradstreet decides not to prosecute Saint Clair and Mrs Saint Clair forgives her husband for having deceived her for years.

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