The Second Stain (TV episode 1986)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Second Stain

The Second Stain (episode No. 16) is the 3rd 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 23 july 1986. 51 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Second Stain (1904).

The Second Stain episode unfolds against an interesting historical background: the interplay of alliances, mainspring of the European policies during the nineteenth century. Holmes's mission consists in no less than spare the British Empire an expensive and bloody war, and its momentous importance is emphasized by Elgar's number one march and John Bruce's majestic pictures. Of course, to a certain extent, the case fades away: finally, Holmes will not save his country, but merely a young lady's marital bliss. Yet, Lady Hilda's adventure makes the viewer think about what Victorian rigid moral standards and women exclusion from public affairs could lead to. Harry Andrews is remarkable as Prime Minister Lord Bellinger, an old, sly and experienced politician endowed with a clear head and an unwavering determination, who dissembles out of professional necessity but doesn't lack kindness at heart. Patricia Hodge expresses as well Lady Hilda's secret inner turmoil as her perfect self-control. The crime scene examination during which Lestrade, savouring the great detective's surprise and puzzlement, revels in supplying him with sensational information features among Colin Jeavons' best comic acts. As for Jeremy Brett, his acting is as expressive and varied as possible. Dignified and inscrutable in front of Lord Bellinger, his Holmes, suddenly turned into quicksilver, dashes as soon as Watson tells him Lucas has been murdered. During the enthralling ending devised by John Hawkesworth, Holmes the daring actor proves capable of maintaining against all the evidence that the lost letter has never left Hope's dispatch-box and to put it back in its proper place under two statesmen's very nose. But he becomes, under Lady Hilda's radiant and grateful eye, a sensitive though reserved man who smiles only surreptitiously and with his eyes lowered. Once alone with Watson, Holmes jumps for joy. This final leap was Brett's brain wave and it looks like an explosion which releases Holmes' carefully suppressed emotions.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Lord Bellinger, Prime Minister, and Trelawney Hope, his right-hand man, pay Holmes a secret visit, for a letter from a foreign potentate, so insulting to Great Britain that it could spark off war, has vanished from Hope's dispatch-box. Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope, in turn, calls on Holmes and tries in vain to snatch from him some information on the case. Holmes assumes Eduardo Lucas to be involved in the letter disappearance, but as he prepares to go and question him, he learns that he has just been murdered. The letter disappearance and Lucas murder are probably linked, but how? The investigation makes no headway, until new data put an end to the detective's impatient wait: Lestrade has arrested Lucas' murderess, his madly jealous wife, and noticed the floor bore no trace of blood corresponding to the carpet stain. Then, who rotated the carpet, and why? Holmes advises Lestrade to demand from the constable on duty a full confession. The Inspector gone, Holmes dives onto the floor and finds a hiding-place under a floorboard. Unfortunately, it's empty. The constable admits he let a lady in. The sight of the blood made her faint, but when he returned with a glass of Brandy, she was gone. Holmes shows Lady Hilda portrait to the constable, who recognizes her as his would-be crime scene visitor. Convinced she has the missing letter, the detective enjoins Lady Hilda to deliver it into his hands. She plays the offended innocent, but surrenders when Holmes threatens to tell her husband the whole story. Having in his possession a compromising letter written before her marriage, Eduardo Lucas had required from her, in exchange for her indiscreet love letter, the foreign potentate's one. She had just handed him the wanted missive when his wife burst in and stabbed him to death. But Hilda had seen where he had hidden the letter and came to recover it the day after. Upon Lord Bellinger and Trelawney Hope arrival, Holmes tells them the so-called lost letter has probably never left Hope's dispatch-box. Unconvinced, Hope searches it once more and finds the letter, which Holmes has just deftly put back where it belongs. Hilda is saved!

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