The Musgrave Ritual (TV episode 1986)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Musgrave Ritual

The Musgrave Ritual (episode No. 17) is the 4th 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 30 july 1986. 52 min.

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

The Musgrave Ritual is a gripping tragedy. A victim of his lust for power, wealth and sex, Brunton perishes in his buried jail for having imagined he was invulnerable, and Rachel dies, like Hermione, for having taken her revenge on her deceitful lover without foreseeing that his death would make her life unbearable. But as ever in the series, tragedy is softened by humour and when Holmes, for example, heads with Watson for Sir Reginald Musgrave's stately home, his whining and grumpy mood is great fun. Yet, the trump-card of this episode is probably the fascinating mystery it offers to the viewers. The strange words of the Ritual carry us back to bygone days. Each time the same mysterious rider, dressed as one of Charles the First's cavaliers, appears on his galloping horse and throws in front of Musgrave's castle a bag the content of which will remain unknown till the conclusion of the story, a far off past comes back to life, and Patrick Gowers' delightful harpsichord tune which goes with its resurgences immerses us deeper in the forgotten ages magically revived by the Ritual. But the elucidation of the mystery is carried out in a purely rational way. If it's somewhat strange to see Holmes identifying totally with Brunton and reliving all his actions down to the smallest detail, the discovery of the treasure-hunt starting-point has nothing to do with the supernatural: it is based on Musgrave's sound mathematical training and excellent memory, as well as Holmes' use of Thales' theorem. The Musgrave Ritual is crammed with unforgettable pictures such as the weather-vane adorned with an oak and a cavalier ingeniously devised by designer Michael Grimmes, the figures of Holmes, Musgrave and Watson holding their umbrellas while looking up at the estate giant oak, and the great detective apparently walking on the water or striding through the park with matchless velocity, his cane militarily pointed at his objective. The episode finishes brilliantly with a striking shot of Rachel, who has resurfaced and rests among the aquatic flora like Ophelia in Millais' beautiful painting.




Plot summary (spoiler)

On the morning following Holmes and Watson's arrival at Sir Reginald Musgrave's mansion, his intelligent, educated but flighty butler, Brunton, is reported missing. He is gone, sobs Rachel, the butler's abandoned fiancée. During the night, Brunton was examining one of his master's family papers, the Musgrave Ritual, when Musgrave caught him in the act and told him he would be dismissed. Having read the Ritual, Holmes tries to carry out its instructions, to no avail. At dead of night, Rachel gets up unnoticed. Still dressed in her nightshirt, she rushes to the lake, distraught and carrying a bag filled with scraps of metal which, later on, is found in the lake sludge. Convinced the Ritual is the key to both Brunton and Rachel disappearances, Holmes looks for the oak mentioned in this strange catechism. As Brunton had already found out, it's the oak which adorns the weather vane. As regards the felled elm, Musgrave knowing where it once rose, Holmes can stick a six feet fishing-rod in its place. When the sun goes over the oak, Watson notices the fishing-rod shadow measures nine feet and Musgrave, remembering the elm was sixty-four feet high, works out the length of its shadow, whose end indicates the treasure-hunt starting-point. Holmes, Watson and Musgrave's investigations lead them to a cellar, where they find Brunton's scarf tied to a ring fastened to a slab of stone covering a pit. In the depths, lies the butler's corpse! Brunton had deciphered the Ritual, but could not lift the slab alone. So he once more promised Rachel love and happiness to get her help, but in the pit, found nothing but rusty metal fragments. When the slab, not properly wedged open, suddenly fell back, Rachel left her deceitful fiancé to his fate but later, plunged into the lake with the bag containing their disappointing loot. Holmes cleans the scraps of metal, assembles them, and soon his dumbfounded companions can see, taking form again, Charles the First's broken crown, that his supporters had entrusted to Musgrave's ancestor.

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