THE SIGN OF FOUR

(1987)
With Jeremy Brett, Edward Hardwicke, Robin Hunter, Alf Joint, Ronald Lacey, John Thaw, Jenny Seagrove, Emrys James,  Kiran Shah
Directed by Peter Hammond
Reviewed by JB

    An outstanding and faithful adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most accessible Sherlock Holmes novel, THE SIGN OF FOUR was one of several episodes of the BBC's Sherlock Holmes television series extended to movie length.

     Although Jeremy Brett's interpretation of Holmes will always have its detractors, he comes closest of all the Sherlocks I have seen at capturing the great detective's complex psyche, and for many, myself included, he is the best Holmes ever.  Edward Hardwicke also captures the warmth, humanity and intelligence of Dr. John Watson in a way that others, such as Nigel Bruce, was never allowed to.  The rest of the cast adeptly brings Conan Doyle's classic characters to life, especially Ronald Lacey as both of the strange yet harmless Sholto Brothers, Emrys James as the amiably clueless law officer Altheney Jones and Jenny Seagrove as the lovely Mary Morstan, who would, in the books at least, go on to become Mrs. John Watson.

     The story has Holmes on the trail of a stolen treasure and features such well-remembered Conan Doyle inventions as Toby the Dog and the Baker Street Irregulars, the group of ruffian children sometimes called upon by Holmes to do secret surveillance around the streets of London.   It lacks the gothic atmosphere of Conan Doyles' most famous novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, but The Sign of Four has a stronger narrative and enough strange goings on to hook any mystery fan.

     With the fine production values of the series, perfect casting right down to the smallest parts, and Brett and Hardwicke's top-notch performances as Holmes and Watson, THE SIGN OF FOUR stands with the best Sherlock Holmes adaptations of any era. 4½ - JB

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