The Speckled Band (TV episode 1984)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Speckled Band

The Speckled Band (episode No. 6) is the 6th episode of season 1 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and David Burke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 29 may 1984. 52 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Speckled Band (1892).

According to David Stuart Davies, « The Speckled Band is a preposterous tale involving fantastic, risible and incredible events [..]. Yet, this dark, Gothic concoction works on the page, and it certainly worked in Jeremy Paul's adaptation for Granada. » It's nothing to be surprised at as the story brings the viewer all the thrills he could wish for. By choosing a snake as murder weapon, Conan Doyle arouses fear right away, for in our imagination snakes represent sly and hideous evil. We hate Doctor Roylott, a Machiavellian and merciless brute, powerfully embodied by Jeremy Kemp and we are moved by his victims: poor Julia who, cheerful and unsuspecting, plays croquet with her fiancé under her stepfather and future murderer's eye, and lovely Helen, played by Rosalyn Landor with quivering sensitivity. Jeremy Brett shines by his accurate, efficient and attractively stylish acting as well as by his dynamic demeanour and remarkable expressiveness. His Holmes is sometimes considerate and amiable, sometimes supremely detached or cheeky and provocative, but always fascinating. The Holmes/Watson team works marvellously here and not only during comical events like the moment when Holmes drags Watson out of sleep. Both men bring useful information which furthers the investigation and above all, take part in bold actions. While they race to Julia's room like a rescue operation commando, they climb fences, dive onto the ground and watch out for the enemy in the darkness, from which director John Bruce draws great effect. As for the designer, Michael Grimes, he could not get a period train. Without losing heart, he built a Victorian carriage and mounted it on a flat-bed truck which swayed alarmingly while carrying the good doctor and the great detective along country roads. A convincing proof of Cox team's ingenuity, dedication and spirit of adventure!




Plot summary (spoiler)

At an early hour of the morning, a terrified young lady, Helen Stoner, comes and asks Holmes for help. A short time before her planned marriage, her sister Julia died without identifiable cause after uttering these mysterious last words: "The Speckled Band." Some days before her demise, she had complained about being disturbed, during the nights, by a strange hissing. Now, it is Helen's turn to get married and her step-father Doctor Roylott, an unsociable and violent man, has forced her to move into Julia's bedroom under false pretences. Holmes, worried, decides to go with Watson to Stocke Morane the very same day. During the travel, he explains to his friend that, in accordance to his wife's will, Roylott can dispose of his stepdaughters' income, until they get married. As for Watson, he has learned that Roylott, imprisoned for beating an Indian servant to death, came back to England a very embittered man… While looking over Julia's bedroom, Holmes notices that its ventilator opens onto Roylott's bedroom and that the bell rope is a dummy. So, he lies in ambush with Watson in the garden pavilion. When Roylott has retired to his room, Helen warns our heroes by means of a light signal and leaves Julia's bedroom, where they take up position. After a long and agonizing wait, they hear something hissing: a snake. Holmes strikes it with a rod and the angry reptile returns to his owner and bites him. Roylott, who refused to lose his stepdaughters' income because of their marriage, had trained the snake to slip, through the ventilator and along the bell rope, to the bed of its victims and to come back when he whistled for it. But Roylott's living weapon turned against the villain and killed him!

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