The Suicide Club (Stevenson)

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The Suicide Club
Suicide Club
Cover of the 2000 Dover Thrift Edition
Author Robert Louis Stevenson
Country Scotland
Language English
Series Later-day Arabian Nights
Genre Detective fiction short story
Publisher London Magazine
Publication date
Jun-Oct 1878
Media type Print (Periodical)
ISBN N/A
Followed by The Rajah's Diamond

The Suicide Club is a collection of three 19th century detective fiction short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson that combine to form a single narrative. First published in the London Magazine in 1878, they were collected and republished in the first volume of the New Arabian Nights.

The trilogy introduces the characters of Prince Florizel of Bohemia and his sidekick Colonel Geraldine. In this cycle they infiltrate a secret society of people intent on losing their lives.

It has been described as: "The Prince’s investigation of the macabre club and its criminally inclined president makes for one of Stevenson’s most exciting and suspenseful tales."[1]

The cycle has been adapted for stage, film and television on a number of occasions.

Plot summary[edit]

The three short stories that form this cycle are as follows.

Story of the Young Man with the Cream Tarts[edit]

The first story in the cycle is set in the gas-lit streets of Victorian London where Prince Florizel of Bohemia and Colonel Geraldine roam in search of adventure.

The story begins with Prince Florizel and Colonel Geraldine dining incognito in a London oyster bar where they are surprised to be accosted by a young man distributing cream tarts for free. Intrigued by this idiosyncratic behaviour they invite him to dinner where he reveals the existence of the Suicide Club. Upon gaining entry to the club Florizel and Geraldine are appalled by what they find going on inside and vow to bring justice to the insidious president of the club. The first story ends with Florizel disbanding the club and dispatching the president abroad in the custody of Geraldine’s younger brother.

Story of the Physician and the Saratoga Trunk[edit]

The second story in the cycle is set in the Latin Quarter of Paris where an American tourist finds himself embroiled in a dastardly plot.

In the story, while lodging in Paris naïve young Silas Q. Scuddamore is lured away by a beautiful young lady who promises a secret assignation but fails to appear. Returning to his hotel dejected he is shocked to discover a dead man in his bed. Kindly neighbour Dr. Noel arranges for Scuddamore and the body (concealed in a Saratoga trunk) to be smuggled to London in the company of Prince Florizel. Once in London, Florizel discovers the plot and reveals the victim to be Geraldine’s younger brother who has been murdered by the President of the Suicide Club in his escape from custody.

The Adventure of the Hansom Cab[edit]

The third and final story in the cycle is set in the gas-lit of streets of Victorian era London where a retired British soldier looks for adventure.

In the story, former Lieutenant Brackenbury Rich is beckoned into the back of an elegantly appointed Hansom by a mysterious cabman who whisks him off to a party. There the host continuously assesses his various guests and asks them to depart until only a handful are left. The host then reveals himself to be Colonel Geraldine and invites Rich to join him on a secret mission. They travel to a discreet location where Prince Florizel, with the assistance of Dr. Noel, has finally ensnared the President of the Suicide Club. The Prince challenges the President to a duel to the death and emerges victorious.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Stevenson’s stories inspired the name of the Suicide Club, a secret society active in San Francisco, California from 1977 to 1983, whose members were far from being suicidal but instead had a predilection for light-hearted practical jokes.

Allusions and references[edit]

The main character in this cycle is Prince Florizel of Bohemia. A character of the same name appeared in The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare.

Adaptations[edit]

1909: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company acquired the film rights in 1908 and director D. W. Griffith used the concept of the suicide club as the basis of his 4-minute short The Suicide Club [2] but the plot bore little resemblance to Stevenson’s stories.

1913: A 40-minute German version Der Geheimnisvolle Klub [3]

1914: A British version The Suicide Club (1914)[4] starring Montagu Love as Prince Florizel.

1919: Richard Oswald directed another German movie version as the fourth segment of Unheimliche Geschichten (1919)[5] starring Anita Berber and Conrad Veidt as Club President.

1929: Canadian playwright and theatrical manager Hugh Abercrombie Anderson successfully adapted the work for the stage, receiving good reviews.

1932: Oswald remade his film of 1919 retaining the title Unheimliche Geschichten [6] but with a new cast led by Paul Wegener. Footage from this film was later edited into Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1943).[7]

1936: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adapted the story for Trouble for Two [8] starring Robert Montgomery as Prince Florizel, Frank Morgan as Colonel Geraldine, Reginald Owen as President of the Club and with the addition of a female love interest played by Rosalind Russell.

1946: A Chilean movie entitled La Dama de la muerte[9] directed by Carlos Hugo Christensen and starring Guillermo Battaglia and Carlos Cores. Footage from this film was later edited into Curse of the Stone Hand (1964).[10]

1947: Radio Program Murder at Midnight on January 6, 1947. Adaptation entitled The Ace of Death.

1947: CBS radio Escape on November 12, 1947. Adapted only "The Young Man With the Cream Tarts" portion.

1950: CBS Television series Suspense season 2, episode 24, on 14 February 1950;[11]

1956: ABC Radio ABC Mystery Time on June 7, 1956. The Suicide Club Adapted only "The Young Man With the Cream Tarts" portion.

1956: NBC TV series Lilli Palmer Theatre episode 12, directed by Dennis Vance on 12 December 1956;[12]

1960: NBC TV series The Chevy Mystery Show episode 17, starring Cesar Romero and Everett Sloane on 18 September 1960;[13]

1963: Ziv Television Programs TV series Ripcord episode 72, The Suicide Club, starring Larry Pennell and Ken Curtis;[14]

1970: Thames Television series Mystery and Imagination season 5, episode 1, starring Bernard Archard as President of the Club on 9 February 1970.[15]

1970: A Mexican adaptation entitled El Club de los suicidas [16] starring Enrique Guzmán.

1974: CBS Radio Mystery Theatre The Suicide Club.” Episode #87, broadcast May 7, starring Barry Nelson, Marian Seldes, John Baragrey, Dan Ocko, Lloyd Batista. Adapted by George Lowthar.[17]

1979: A Soviet adaptation entitled Priklyucheniya printsa Florizelya [18] starring Oleg Dal as Prince Florizel and Donatas Banionis as Chairman of the Club.

1988: An independent film version: The Suicide Club [19] starring Mariel Hemingway updated the story to modern times.

2000: The Suicide Club [20] starring Jonathan Pryce chose a more traditional setting but abandoned much of the original story.

2003: A Czech TV movie entitled Bankrotáři was broadcast by Česká televize on 26 December 2003.[21]

2007: Roberto Santiago directed a Spanish adaptation entitled El Club de los suicidas [22] starring Fernando Tejero and Lucía Jiménez.

2011: Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher adapted elements of the stories but changed the heroes to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club.

Publication history[edit]

  • 1878, UK, London Magazine, Pub date Jun-Oct 1878, Periodical
  • 1882, UK, Chatto & Windus, Pub date 1882, Hardback
  • 1985, UK, Puffin ISBN 0-14-036764-0, Pub date Aug 1997, Paperback
  • 1991, USA, Carroll & Graf ISBN 0-88184-741-0, Pub date Sep 1991, Hardback
  • 2000, USA, Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-486-41416-7, Pub date 2000, Paperback

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rattiner, Susan L. (2000). "Notes". In Robert Louis Stevenson. The Suicide Club (Dover Thrift Editions ed.). Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. pp. vii–iii. 
  2. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (1909)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  3. ^ "IMDB.com Der Geheimnisvolle Klub (1913)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  4. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (1914)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  5. ^ "IMDB.com Unheimliche Geschichten (1919)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  6. ^ "IMDB.com Unheimliche Geschichten (1932)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  7. ^ "IMDB.com Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1943)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  8. ^ "IMDB.com Trouble for Two (1936)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  9. ^ "IMDB.com La Dama de la muerte (1946)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  10. ^ "IMDB.com Curse of the Stone Hand (1964)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  11. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (1950)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  12. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (1956)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  13. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (1960)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  14. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (1963)". Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  15. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (1970)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  16. ^ "IMDB.com El Club de los suicidas (1970)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  17. ^ http://www.nettally.com/keith.flowers/biblio/0087.htm
  18. ^ "IMDB.com Priklyucheniya printsa Florizelya (1979)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  19. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (1988)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  20. ^ "IMDB.com The Suicide Club (2000)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  21. ^ "IMDB.com Bankrotári (2003)". Retrieved July 20, 2007. 
  22. ^ "IMDB.com Club de los suicidas, El (2007)". Retrieved March 30, 2009. 

External links[edit]