A fun series for Holmes fans, even if the budget is very low and the plots and supporting actors weak. (It was shot in France, with a largely French supporting cast—and having Frenchmen attempt English characters and English accents is, needless to say, jarring.)
Ronald Howard, Leslie’s son, plays Holmes in the Rathbone mold, though more youthful, vibrant, even impish. Not a perfect Holmes, perhaps, but he hits on elements of the character that Rathbone and Brett didn’t emphasize as much. H. Marion Crawford is a lot of fun as Watson, though he alternates between the goofier, comic-relief Nigel Bruce approach to the character and a more faithful Doylean approach.
We do get the first filmed version of the Holmes-Watson meeting, which is excellent, though it’s placed in a story (“The Case of the Cunningham Heritage”) that doesn’t exactly measure up to the plotting of A Study in Scarlet. “The Case of the Pennsylvania Gun,” by the way, is a faithful, if dull, adaptation of The Valley of Fear. And there are some surprisingly intriguing plot-ideas, including a Christean/VanDinean murder-by-nursery-rhyme episode (“The Mother Hubbard Case”), though nothing’s ever that complicated.
The best episodes I’ve seen are “The Case of the Exhumed Client,” which reworks the murder-method of Doyle’s “The Devil’s Foot,” and the Carrian “Case of the Winthrop Legend,” a plot with which Rathbone and Bruce would have been at home.
Has anyone else here seen any of these? They’re all in public domain and available on YouTube, by the way.
I remember seeing two episodes on TV on some network or the other in the early 1980s. One was good and one was bad. The bad one ended with Holmes and Watson entering the villain's lair and fighting their way in, Watson punching out the attackers and teaching Holmes an uppercut.
The good one had a great scene with the dynamic duo on a balcony watching a suspect inside a study. Watson would say, "Look, he has the murder weapon." Holmes, not looking says, "He doesn't have it." Watson: "Now he's hiding it." Holmes: "He isn't hiding it." It was very funny and made a lot of sense when explained.
I probably watched at least one more but no doubt didn't like that either because I never bothered with the rest of the run.
Might take another look one of these days. I will watch one or more of your recommended episodes.
Thanks for the reply, mikef6—I haven’t seen either the good or the bad episode you mentioned, but it is definitely a mixed-quality show. But it does some positive qualities that I think make it at least worthwhile, especially the performances. Do check out at least “The Case of the Winthrop Legend”; I think it’s the best episode of the lot and actually manages some decent, if clichéd, atmospherics despite the short running time.
Now no more the the brightened beacons, Now no more the hardened hulls, Just the crashing of the whitecaps, Just the screeching of the gulls…
The Fifties TV Sherlock Holmes series is an acquired taste that it took me a while to acquire, but in time I did. At first I resented what to me seemed like a B knockoff of what Rathbone and Bruce had been up to at Universal but on a shoestring budget.
When I gave it a serious chance it began to grow on me. It has a style all its own. Enjoyment of it nearly demands empathy, sympathy, some kind of feeling, fond feeling, for what Sheldon Reynolds & Company were trying to do.
That they seemed to use the same three or four actors in supporting roles gives it a repertory feel, and not an unpleasant one. Familiarity does not always breed contempt. In my case, with this show, more like fondness, genuine affection. It was never brilliant or surprising, and yet if one gives it a chance it can be rewarding in the things it does well.
I'd love to see it again on broadcast television but I doubt that shall ever happen again due to its being black and white. They used to air it semi-regularly on the local PBS station where I live, usually one of their UHF channels, around 11:00 PM to midnight. It made for a wonderful nightcap.
Have bypassed DVD's of this in various bargain bins over the years. I'm tempted to check them out now, largely on the basis of H. Marion Crawford, a solid character actor who made for two of the best villains, imo, of the old Dangerman series.