The Sign of Four (1983 film)

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The Sign of Four
The Sign of Four (1983 film).jpg
Based onThe Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
Screenplay byCharles Edward Pogue
Directed byDesmond Davis
StarringIan Richardson
David Healy
Thorley Walters
Cherie Lunghi
Music byHarry Rabinowitz
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Production
Executive producer(s)Sy Weintraub
Producer(s)Otto Plaschkes
CinematographyDennis C. Lewiston
Editor(s)Timothy Gee
Running time103 minutes
Production company(s)Mapleton Films
Release
Original networkHBO
Original release
  • 7 December 1983 (1983-12-07)

The Sign of Four (a.k.a. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four[1]) is a 1983 British made-for-television mystery film directed by Desmond Davis and starring Ian Richardson and David Healy. The film is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name, the second novel to feature Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

Production[edit]

In 1982, American producer Sy Weintraub partnered with English producer Otto Plaschkes to make six television films of Sherlock Holmes stories.[2] Charles Edward Pogue was enlisted to pen the screenplays[2] but only The Sign of the Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles were ultimately filmed as Granada Television's Sherlock Holmes series premiered in 1984.[2]

In an interview with Scarlet Street, Ian Richardson explained:

"That was the fly in our ointment. Initially, an unseen fly. You see, when Sy Weintraub was planning the films, he was unaware that the copyright on the Holmes stories was about to expire in England and he had to go through a great deal of legal negotiations with the Conan Doyle estate in order to gain permission to use them. However, he was totally ignorant of Granada's plans to film a series with Jeremy Brett...Weintraub was furious, because he'd paid a lot of money to get permission from the estate and here was Granada saying, 'Thank you - but we're going to do it.' So Weintraub took them to court. He had a very good case, apparently; but eventually there was an out of court settlement for an extraordinary sum of money - something like two million pounds - which was enough for Weintraub to cover his costs on both The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles, and make a profit, too. And so he wrapped the project up."[2]

The Sign of Four was shot simultaneously with The Hound of the Baskervilles[3] but the schedule precluded having David Healy portray Watson in both films so Donald Churchill was enlisted to play the role in The Hound of the Baskervilles.[3] Two previous Watsons appear in the film: Terence Rigby who played Watson to Tom Baker's Holmes in 1982s The Hound of the Baskervilles and Thorley Walters who played Watson three times previously; with Christopher Lee as Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, with Douglas Wilmer as Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother and with Christopher Plummer as Holmes in Silver Blaze.[1]

Cast[edit]

Differences from novel[edit]

  • The plot includes the recovery of the Agra treasure, which here was hidden in Small's wooden leg as he attempts to claim he disposed of it in the Thames.[1] After Holmes realises what has happened due to the wooden leg's suspicious weight in the water, the treasure is claimed by the police (although its most precious piece, a large diamond called the Great Mogul, is given to Mary by Holmes).[4]
  • Unlike the source novel, the movie features the murder of Thaddeus Sholto, where Small returns to the house to try and intimidate him into revealing the location of the treasure, beating Sholto to death in a rage when Sholto claims that it was given away long ago.[4]
  • While Watson expresses a strong attraction for Miss Morstan, a romantic development between the two characters is not implicitly implied in the movie, being displayed only in slight "romantic touches".[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. pp. 259–261. ISBN 9780857687760.
  2. ^ a b c d Sherlock Holmes Society of London Archived 29 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. p. 256. ISBN 9780857687760.
  4. ^ a b c The Sign of Four (1983)

External links[edit]