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C. O. DeRiemer
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Cassette vidéo
The year is 1926 and the place is a sitting room in London. An elderly gentleman is preparing to dictate a story to a young stenographer, a story which had until recently been kept a top secret by the British government. It concerned a situation which could have led to the excruciating deaths during The Great War of untold thousands of Londoners. Sitting nearby, smoking his pipe and reading the London Times, is the irascible old man who is the subject of the story. The gentleman getting ready to dictate (arthritis makes it difficult to write nowadays) is, of course, Dr. John Watson. His subject is the man he has known and assisted for nearly half a century, Sherlock Holmes.
In 1913 Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) had been long retired. He had spent some time tending his bees in Sussex but eventually returned to 221B Baker Street. There he resumed sharing quarters with his old friend and Boswell, the long-widowed Watson (John Mills). Unexpectedly, he is asked by Scotland Yard Inspector Alan MacDonald (Gordon Jackson) for unofficial assistance on a puzzling case which has stumped the police. A body has been found in the Thames with an excruciating grimace frozen on its face. There is no sign of foul play. Holmes is intrigued and he and Watson go to the morgue to examine the unfortunate man. Before long, another body turns up, another grimace frozen on its face, and this time its throat has been slit. The man was a derelict Holmes had spoken to only hours after he and Watson had left the morgue. Then an even stranger case develops. The Home Secretary himself (Ray Milland) visits 221B Baker Street along with a mysterious foreigner, who almost instantly Holmes identifies as the Graf Udo von Felseck (Anton Differing). von Felseck had been visiting England, along with a young man of high German birth on a secret mission. Now, the young man has been kidnaped from von Felseck's English estate. The Home Secretary pleads with Holmes as a matter of state importance to drop everything and locate the kidnapped victim.
The game is now afoot. In the next few days the elderly Holmes with Watson by his side will don disguises, encounter threats, escape attempts on his life and, completely unexpectedly, meet once more Irene Adler (Anne Baxter). She is one of only four people who ever bested Holmes, and the only woman to do so. He holds her in suspicious respect. At one time, it might even have been something more. Of crucial importance, Holmes uncovers a fiendish plot to cripple Britain should war come.
This TV movie is nostalgic on many levels. It has its faults -- the plot is a bit too complicated, a major character simply disappears with a smile over the shoulder at us, the production at times seems to lumber along. But, if you're fond of Sherlock Holmes and of a good pastiche, if you enjoy Peter Cushing, if you appreciate other aging but skilled actors, you might like The Masks of Death. I did.
Most of us know now that Holmes was born on January 6, 1854 of Siger Holmes and Violet Rutherford. He was 72 when we meet him in 1926 and 59 at the time of this case. The actor who plays him, Peter Cushing, was 69 when this story was finally filmed. John Mills was 76. Cushing looks his age. He is as lean as a stick, with sunken cheeks, thin lips and not an ounce of fat on him. He gives us a Holmes who has aged physically, who uses a walking stick and not just carries it, who becomes impatient quickly and shows it. He still has a brilliant mind and a memory which has not dimmed. Mills gives us a Watson who is spry and brave, who may nearly always be a deduction or two behind his friend and who remains loyal and steadfast. When Holmes turns to Watson after a momentary brusqueness and says, quite sincerely, "You are my only friend, Watson," you know Holmes means it...and that it is true. For another look at how good Cushing can be playing Holmes, check out 1959's The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Will there be any more stories of Holmes in retirement? Probably not unless they are fiction. John Watson in 1887 approached a London literary agent to assist in getting the first account published of his friend's unique methods to uncover malefactors. That agent, a man named Conan Doyle, subsequently saw to it that all of Watson's other accounts were published. But Conan Doyle died in 1930. However, for those who enjoy fiction rather than true cases, much still is available.
The VHS tape looks good and the story has solid production values. As yet there is no DVD edition.