The Last Vampyre

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The Last Vampyre

The Last Vampyre (episode No. 34) is the 4th TV movie episode of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 27 january 1993. 101 min.

The episode is based on Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire (1924).

The art of sending your collaborators for disaster

In 1992, the systematic elimination of former Granada executives was completed with the dismissal of David Plowright, the last champion of artistic quality. The commercials in power now obeyed only to audience rates, on which their advertising revenues depended. While June Wyndham-Davies was holding three one-hour scripts ready, they demanded a feature film for Christmas, a formula that was supposed to meet the audience's expectations. Jeremy Paul had to write the script in three weeks!

The Sussex Vampire, a problematic choice

Left free to adapt the short story he would adapt, Jeremy Paul chose The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, a short story with no outline of a secondary plot to develop. To flesh out this static story where everything ends up being explained, Jeremy Paul had no guide at all.

Adaptation or pastiche?

To spice up the adventure, the script profoundly transformed the characters. Ferguson and Jack are no longer tenderly united here: their distance was necessary for the teenager to seek a spiritual father in Stockton. But the predominant role of this fascinating and dangerous character created by the scriptwriter radically changes the meaning of the story. Arthur Conan Doyle's story was based on the jealousy of an unhappy teenager towards his half-brother and the initial mystery received an exclusively natural explanation. The film, on the other hand, is based on the crises caused by the presence of a mysterious stranger in Lamberley and turns into pure fantasy when Holmes has the premonitory vision of a gesture of invitation from Stockton.

Scientific investigation and fantasy story, a risky association

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes being absent for a long time, the supernatural atmosphere cannot be prematurely dissipated by his positivism. But in the episode "The Last Vampyre", his rationalism, which leads him, among other things, to deny the reality of the spectrum that appeared to him, defuses the fantasy. Conversely, the need to preserve the mysterious atmosphere of the film hinders Holmes' usual elucidation work. He does not, for example, examine Stockton's cart to determine the exact causes of his death. How can we be satisfied with hearing him say to Watson: "Accident? Fatality? Who knows? Who knows?"

Holmes reduced to the role of a spectator

The Pastor hopes in vain that Holmes will succeed in reassuring the villagers. He failed to calm the Ferguson family's divisions, protect Stockton or prevent Jack's fatal jump. This inefficiency was the indispensable condition for a tragic outcome. But Stockton did not operate any proven evil spells and Holmes did not seem to conduct a real follow-up investigation, so the plot, lacking sufficiently of clear lines of force, was reduced to a disjointed succession of enigmatic incidents.

An uncomfortable actor

Jeremy Brett, who was usually a fierce defender of the original stories, could not oppose the drifts of the script here. His heart disease weakened him, taking away his natural fighting spirit. Moreover, since lithium prescribed for his mental disorders had made him considerably overweight, he knew that he no longer had Holmes' figure and was suffering cruelly from his own appearance. Where would he have found the necessary insurance to protest?

A vampire with real powers

Criticism has not spared "The Last Vampyre". Yet, if it failed by his confusion and darkness, it is played with talent. The couple of opponents formed by Jeremy Brett and Roy Marsden has stature and Maurice Denham plays an endearing Reverend Merridew. The film offers beautiful, strange and tragic images, such as the castle fire or the crazy night race in Stockton and strong scenes, such as the one where Jack plays the violin frantically despite the baby's crying and his angry mother-in-law dislocates the delicate instrument. Without being a success, "The Last Vampyre" definitely does not deserve to be trashed.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Ferguson's return to Lamberley with his new wife and baby arouses the jealousy of his crippled elder, Jack. The villagers, on the other hand, fear their new fellow citizen, Stockton, a descendant of their cruel lords. The Pastor confided to Holmes his concern: the sudden death of the blacksmith after a dispute with Stockton and that of the baby the day after his visit to the Fergusons convinced everyone that Stockton was a vampire. When Holmes and Watson arrived in Lamberley, there was an epidemic. Mrs. Ferguson, her maid and especially Jack, fascinated by vampires and convinced to be one of them, seem hypnotized by Stockton who, according to Holmes, is only a "psychological vampire". But deaf to his soothing advice, Ferguson attacked Stockton, who, furious, left in a cart at triple gallop and died in a terrible accident. The villagers threw his coffin into the castle's cellars, where Ferguson rushed to pierce his heart. Holmes discovered him lying, knocked out, on the body of the "vampire" and could not stop Jack, his attacker, from throwing himself off a wall. Leaving Lamberley bereaved, the two friends returned to London, dark and perplexed.

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