The Sign of Four (1983)
The Lorindy Company. Mapleton Films
  Writer: Charles Pogue
  Producer: Otto Plaschkes
  Director: Desmond Davis

Ian Richardson - Sherlock Holmes
  David Healy - Dr. John H. Watson
  Thorley Walters - Major John Sholto
  Joe Melia - Jonathan Small
  Cherie Lunghi - Mary Morstan
  Terence Rigby - Inspector Layton
  Clive Merrison - Bartholomew Sholto
  Richard Heffren - Thaddeus Sholto
  John Pedric - Tonga

100 minutes. Colour. Available on video and DVD
DVD Cover
After many years of waiting, I finally managed to lay my hands on this intriguing program. Ian Richardson proved, what I've always thought, that he would be a very capable Holmes. In appearance he is much like Rathbone although Richardson presents a slightly more good-natured version of the great detective. David Healy as Watson ably assists him in creating a rather warm chemistry. This production also features the current BBC radio Holmes, Clive Merrison as the ubiquitous brother Bartholomew Sholto, while Major Sholto, his father, is played by ex-Watson Thorley Walters. To add yet another familiar face we have ex-Watson Terence Rigby as the police inspector Layton. Cherie Lunghi gives an adequate turn as Mary Morstan.

SIGN is my favorite Holmes story, I was quite prepared for serious disappointment, which was not the case! Though not entirely faithful to the original story, although much of the dialogue is, this was a very enjoyable romp through familiar territory. Small does not engender the sympathy that the character should generally elicit, and Tonga has been made into a rather fearsome sideshow feature that enjoys tearing through still warm human flesh. The killing of Thaddeus Sholto is unnecessary and is clearly added to up the excitement ante. The small touches of romance between Watson and Mary Morstan are well handled and add to the overall charm of this production. While elements of rather broad humour have been put into the Toby chase sequence, they are not offensive. The ending is not quite canonical, but is still very satisfying.

Considering that this film was made at the same time as the Granada series began, it is quite surprising how often Richardson and Brett hit on similar interpretations of particular scenes. Both actors breathe a certain humour into their portrayals. Although this was an enjoyable version of 
The Sign of Four, the Brett version still manages to be the very best screen adaptation of any Holmes story.

Reviewed by Charles Prepolec
Back to Reviews and Articles