The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: Shoscombe Old Place (1991)
More by an accident of arcane knowledge than any superior kind of deductive reasoning power, I knew who had committed the crime within the first ten minutes. I claim no credit. It simply represents a sometimes misspent youth during which I seem to have picked up a vast array of information only useful when teaming up in a pub quiz, or solving crosswords and television crime cases. Alternatively, my Alzheimer’s is kicking in and, even though I’m often not entirely sure what day of the week it is, I’m suddenly able to remember stories that I read more than fifty years ago. That said, the adaptation of Shoscombe Old Place by Gary Hopkins is crisp and to the point (The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, Season 1, episode 3). There’s only a little padding and the 50 minutes plus ads passed quite satisfactorily until I was able to pop the champagne along with Mrs Hudson (Rosalie Williams). We’d both used inside information to back the right horse.
So what’s the story? Well, here’s Sir Robert Norberton (Robert Ellis), a trainer with a stable full of potentially great horses at Shoscombe Old Place except, despite all the fertiliser in the stables, not all is roses in the garden. The trainer is up to his eyes in debt and being harassed by his creditors. He needs a win win to avoid financial disaster. If there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that he’s not the owner of the rather fine hall, the stables or the horses. His sister, Lady Beatrice Falder (Elizabeth Weaver) has a life interest in the all the property with the title then passing over to another relative. To some extent, a personal bankruptcy would not unduly damage his family’s position. Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) gets involved because John Mason (Frank Grimes), a concerned head of stable, hears that Samuel Brewer (James Coyle), one key creditor, has gone missing. When allied to other information, there’s clear evidence suggesting that Sir Robert may have killed Brewer. Apart from this speculation, life at Shoscombe proceeds more or less as normal except for the dismissal of one of the servants, allegedly for stealing, and the banishment of the dog. Lady Beatrice and her maid, Carrie Evans (Denise Black) are routinely seen by the indoor staff and on their daily carriage ride around the estate. We should also note an early screen appearance for Jude Law as Joe Barnes, a wannabe jockey.
So what we have is Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke displaced out of London to Dunham Massey Hall near Altrincham disguised as Shoscombe. Having installed themselves at a local pub, they acquire the banished dog and enjoy scenic walks around the countryside. There are tendencies to the Gothic as a ruined Church is given a “reputation” by the superstitious locals (reinforced by Patrick Lau, the director insisting on candid shots of gargoyles and muffled fiendish laughter from stage left). All of which means Shoscombe Old Place is reasonably entertaining once you look past the showiness of some of the direction.
For reviews of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes series, see:
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: The Boscombe Valley Mystery (1991)
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1991)
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: The Illustrious Client (1991)
The Problem of Thor Bridge (1991)