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Movie Review - Sherlock Holmes: The Eligible Bachelor (1994)

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Background

This TV film, entitled “The Eligible Bachelor,” is taken from “The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes,” a series filmed in England and brought to the United States in 1994.  The story was originally entitled “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” when it was published by Arthur Conan Doyle as a short story in 1892.

It was a great disappointment to me that Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were not the main characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in this series.  But of course, both actors had long since passed away at the time of this movie’s debut.  I was therefore highly prejudiced that Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes) and Edward Hardwicke (Dr. Watson) did not measure up for me to the impression I have of the famous sleuths.  I will say, though, that Hardwicke did do a masterful job, and even seemed to surpass Sherlock in his intellectual capacity.  The rest of the cast appears to be virtually unknown in the United States.

                                    

221B Baker Street

                                               Sherlock Holmes' Address - Wikimedia

Introduction

The story opens with the revelation that Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) is suffering from strange dreams which obliges him to remain at home in his night clothes, unable to eat, and causing his housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson (Rosalie Williams) great consternation over his poor health. 

Things change for the better when Holmes receives a visit from the distinguished Lord Robert St. Simon (Simon Williams).  Holmes has been distraught because of the meaningless cases he has had recently.  Lost cats, stolen eyeglasses, and unfaithful husbands do nothing to motivate him to leave the house.

                               

Jeremy Brett

                         Drawing of Jeremy Brett by Veronika, Czech Republic - Wikimedia

The Bride Disappears

Lord Robert has been celebrated in the news recently as being the most eligible bachelor in the country.  He just recently married.  His visit to Sherlock Holmes is precipitated by the fact that his wife, Henrietta Doran (Paris Jefferson) had disappeared within hours of their marriage.  As the viewer watches Henrietta come down the aisle, she dropped her bouquet and an unseen person’s hand reached down to retrieve it, seemingly placing something in her hand at the same time.

Lord Robert mentioned that a renowned actress Flora Miller (Joanna McCallum) showed up uninvited to the wedding and was seen speaking with the bride.  Lord Robert admitted to Holmes that Flora Miller had been a mistress of his, but she had become unreliable, and they parted a few months previously.  He had taken care of her generously, but it seems that she was not satisfied with the break-up.

                                                  

Deerstalker Hat

                                                             Deerstalker Hat - Wikimedia

St. Simon’s Financial Difficulties

Prior to the marriage, Lord Robert is seen escorting his bride-to-be around his castle, which had been in the family’s possession for the past 500 years.  There is also a zoo containing a vicious looking tiger that is securely caged.  Henrietta asked Lord Robert if he thought his family would accept her since she was a miner’s daughter.  In truth, Mr. Doran had been successful in his work, and had settled a large sum on his daughter Henrietta upon her marriage.  Also, in a private talk with Mr. Doran, Lord Robert admitted to Mr. Doran that he had been advised badly financially and was in danger of losing his estate.  Upon hearing this, Mr. Doran gave St. Simon a huge check, stating “You look after my girl.  I’ll look after your house.”

In his conversation with Holmes, Lord Robert further revealed that he had been married twice previously.  His first wife, Maud, was murdered, and his second marriage, to his wife Helena, was annulled when she started exhibiting strange mental behaviors.  Holmes asked if Flora Miller might have had anything to do with Henrietta’s disappearance.  Lord Robert disclosed that Scotland Yard was looking into that.

                                     

Sherlock Holmes

                                                        Sherlock Holmes - Wikimedia

The Veiled Woman

Sherlock Holmes came out of his doldrums and went to the theater where Flora Miller was rehearsing her role in Ibsen’s play, “Ghosts.”  When she spotted Sherlock, she said “I will not rehearse in front of strangers.  We are being watched.”  She left the stage.  On his walk back to his house, Holmes spotted a woman in black clothes and a veil walking in his neighborhood.  He had seen this woman the previous night from his window and had chased after her carriage in his night clothes, but to no avail.

Shortly thereafter, he received a visit from this veiled woman who was named Agnes Northcote, the sister of Lord Robert’s second wife Helena.  She confided to Holmes “My sister Helena was more alive than anyone I’ve ever met.  St. Simon destroyed her and took her fortune.  He had her committed to a mad house.”  The woman took off her disguise.  Her face was badly scarred.  She told Holmes that she had walked into the gates of the accursed castle one day and discovered that a tiger was in the room with her.  Someone came after her with a knife.  She said “I was left where the animals were.  It looked like I was attacked by one of them.  I want you to find out, Mr. Holmes, whether my sister is alive.”

The police had been dragging a nearby lake and came upon a white dress.  Also, a book of accounts with mysterious numbers and letters in it.  It was confirmed that the dress was indeed Henrietta’s wedding dress.

                                                            

Holmes' Hat and Pipe

                                                Sherlock Holmes' Hat and Pipe - Wikimedia

Holmes Accomplishes the Impossible 

There is so much more to this story.  I have the sense, however, that the TV format does not provide the time nor the script to tie up the loose ends in the manner in which Holmes, in his usual inimitable way, is able to put together the pieces of the puzzle so that everything is plausible and conceivable.  Henrietta was found.  The man who picked up her bouquet at the church was her young husband, Frank Moulton, whom she had believed dead until that day.  The chain of events proceeded in such a way that Henrietta became the mistress of the St. Simon Castle, where she and her husband, Frank, went to live and to plan for their future.

                                           

Arthur Conan Doyle

                                                         Arthur Conan Doyle - Wikimedia

Author Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, may not have approved of the ragtag manner in which Holmes solved this particular case.  Doyle was inspired by Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Guy de Maupassant, in such a way that Holmes and Watson redefined the detective genre for the literary world.  Doyle's medical training and practical experience are the foundation for Holmes's methods of deductive reasoning.  Holmes, in one of Doyle’s stories, speaks the author’s thoughts aloud when he says “It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” 

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The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Knickerbocker Classics)
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Bibliography

  1. "Arthur Conan Doyle." The Literature Network. 16/01/2016. 16/01/2016 <Web >

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