The Illustrious Client (TV episode 1991)

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The Illustrious Client

The Illustrious Client (episode No. 31) is the 5th episode of season 5 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 21 march 1991. 52 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Illustrious Client (1925).

The Illustrious Client is a superb episode, however, there is no real investigation in the story. Holmes is reckless in reacting casually to Gruner's death threats and sending Watson for a dangerous diversion. As for his attempts to dissuade Gruner and Violet from marrying each other, they could only fail. His only really effective initiative was to join Kitty Winter: it saved his life and allowed him to take possession of Gruner's diary, indisputable proof of his perfidy. But the episode is no less fascinating, because the actors' acting, script and staging further enhance Arthur Conan Doyle's characters, which are full of relief. Anthony Valentine, if he does not have the exceptional beauty of the original character, magnificently translates its malignant perversity. Kim Thomson embodies a graceful, moving but indomitable Kitty, while Jeremy Brett's presence, beautiful male voice and magnetic gaze of his clear eyes make Holmes so imposing that his relative ineffectiveness is forgotten. The powerful dialogues and the presence of the actors make Holmes' confrontations with Gruner and Violet pieces of bravery. The scenes in which the Baron enchanted his victim, or leafed through his libertine catalogue with delight, added by scriptwriter Robin Chapman, and his reconstruction of Kitty's past, left unclear by Conan Doyle, complete the plot. But the stroke of genius is the introduction into the musical accompaniment of passages from Mozart's Don Giovanni, which provide a deep and grandiose background to the story. The outcome is of remarkable tragic strength, especially in the original version where Anthony Valentine's heart-rending screams seem to be those of Don Juan himself dragged into hell. Finally, the human warmth emanating from the Baker Street trio forms a comforting counterpoint to the harshness of this dark drama, adapted, filmed and performed with a rare talent.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Sir Damery, representative of an anonymous "illustrious client", entrusted Sherlock Holmes with an unusual mission: to dissuade Violet Merville from marrying Baron Gruner, a refined but highly dangerous scoundrel who collects women and porcelains. Unfortunately, Gruner totally enchanted the girl. Holmes therefore asked his informant, Shinwell Johnson, to find a witness in the London lowlands to the Baron's still secret misdeeds. Then he tries to convince Gruner to give up any claim on Violet, but the Baron, believing he has all the assets in his game, refuses with a quiet assurance. However, Johnson discovered the desired witness, Kitty Winter. Former mistress of Gruner, who destroyed her life, she said she would do anything to lose the Baron and agreed to accompany Holmes to Miss Merville's house in order to divert her from a marriage that could cost her her life. But nothing shakes Violet, not even the sight of Kitty's terrible scars, once mutilated by vitriol by Gruner. However, when Kitty reveals to Holmes the existence of the libertine notebook in which Gruner writes down his conquests, he finds hope for a way to fool Violet. But he was attacked and left for dead by the Baron's henchmen. Less affected than it seems, Holmes counterattacks soon. He asked Watson to learn Chinese porcelain as a matter of urgency and to introduce himself under a false name at Gruner's to offer him to buy an extremely rare piece. But the Baron, having unmasked Watson, pulled out his revolver, then, hearing a sound of broken glass, ran and discovered Holmes, who had come to seize the famous notebook. The Baron, triumphant, is about to shoot, when Kitty appears and throws a vial of vitriol in his face. Holmes is saved, Kitty avenged and Gruner's cynical notebook can finally open Violet's eyes.

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