The Six Napoleons (TV episode 1986)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
<< S03E06 The Man with the Twisted Lip The Sign of Four >>

The Six Napoleons

The Six Napoleons (episode No. 20) is the 7th 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 20 august 1986. 52 min.

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

Gripping, amusing and warm at the same time, The Six Napoleons episode is particularly gratifying. From the very beginning of the story, simplified and clarified by John Kane, the outlandish offences reported by Lestrade arouse the viewer's curiosity. The remainder of the film is interspersed with most entertaining scenes like the sequence where Lestrade and Watson, bored, drowsy and chilled to the bone but submissive, wait sheepishly for Beppo's appearance, under Holmes' iron rule. The criminal's stormy capture is crowned with an amazing new development which Jeremy Brett plays with panache: having removed the tablecloth without knocking down the cups it supported, he carries it to another table where he settles the sixth Napoleon with loving care and then, smashes it, under Lestrade and Watson's astounded eyes. Eric Sykes is perfect as the old, grumpy and unlucky journalist Horace Harker, Gerald Campion and Jeffrey Gardiner hilarious as Morse Hudson and Mr Sandeford. But this episode attraction lies above all in the trio Holmes, Watson and Lestrade make up. Holmes, for example, dismisses disdainfully the assumptions of his companions, who think the vandal might have acted under the influence of an idée fixe, but confesses that he can't provide a better explanation. Immediately, the Doctor and the Inspector begin to chuckle and nudge one another like two schoolboys delighted to fault their stern teacher. The amusing skirmishes devised by John Kane don't harm the three men's friendship, which is obvious from their fireside chat to the magnificent final scene. Lestrade doesn't seem any longer ridiculous, for he forgets about his vanity, and from the bottom of his heart congratulates Holmes, more moved than ever. The detective holds out one hand to the astonished Inspector when he leaves, averting his gaze to hide his emotion. Played in this way, Watson, Lestrade and Holmes stop being merely efficient fictional characters, to become real and touching human creatures.




Plot summary (spoiler)

One evening, Lestrade reports to Holmes and Watson a string of queer offences: a burglar broke into Morse Hudson's shop, then into Doctor Barnicot both surgery and house, only to break their busts of Napoleon. The morning after, Lestrade invites Holmes to meet him at journalist Horace Harker's house: someone has stolen and smashed his bust of Napoleon and slit the throat of an unknown person on his doorstep! In the photograph found in the murdered man's pocket, Morse Hudson recognizes Beppo, an Italian who worked at Gelder's, where his special batch of six busts came from. Four of them have already been smashed by the mysterious vandal. Holmes finally succeeds in convincing the reluctant shopkeeper to tell him who bought the two remaining ones… The manager of the casting factory in turn remembers Beppo, who was sentenced to one year imprisonment for having wounded a fellow country man the year before. Holmes persuades Lestrade, who has identified the murdered man, Pietro Venucci, to accompany him to Chiswick, at Mr Brown's place. Holmes, Watson and Lestrade, waiting in ambush, see Beppo break into Brown's house, come out with his bust of Napoleon and shatter it to pieces. Lestrade's constables cart off the burglar, but there is nothing of interest to be found in the bust. The day after, Mr Sandeford arrives at Baker Street with the sixth Napoleon which Holmes has bought from him. Sandeford gone, Holmes breaks the bust and finds among its fragments the famous black pearl of the Borgias, stolen from the Prince of Colona. Lucrezia Venucci, who was the Princess' maid, was supposed to steal the pearl and her lover Beppo, to hand it over to Pietro Venucci. But Beppo thought it better to steal the pearl for his own benefit. Pietro came at Gelder's and challenged Beppo to single combat, but received a knife wound. Pursued by the police, Beppo noticed the plaster of the busts ordered by Morse Hudson was still soft, and hid the pearl in one of the six casts. Once released from the prison, Beppo hunted desperately for the pearl and slit the throat of Pietro, who was set on killing him to avenge the betrayed Venucci family.

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