The Sign of Four was the second novel to feature Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and has been adapted to the screen a few times. I recently watched the version that first premiered in 1983 and starred Ian Richardson as Holmes with David Healy taking on the role of Dr. Watson. Desmond Davis directed this version in which the screenplay was written by Charles Edward Pogue. Cheri Lungh, Thorley Walters, Richard Heffer, and Clive Merrison are included in the cast.
A young woman arrives on the doorstep of 221 B Baker Street and explains that she is about the learn the fate of her long lost father. She explains that for many years, a valuable pearl would appear from an unknown benefactor. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are asked to accompany her to this unusual meeting. They soon learn of a lost treasure, and it seems they have murderous competition in their search for answers. Holmes has to rely on a dog and the Baker Street Irregulars to find the scent that will lead him to his most unusual adversaries.
This is one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, but this is not my favorite adaptation. Richardson does fairly well as Holmes, but there was nothing especially notable in his presentation. I found the viewing experience to be rather bland. Healy’s version of Watson is about as equally forgettable. Richardson did look close to how Holmes was often described in the original works. I suppose that’s something.
No one was notably wretched in their performance, but there was not anyone who stood out. It’s hard to overshadow a character like Sherlock Holmes, but Richardson should have stood out more. This version was a basic letdown and not worthy of much more comment.