Action/Adventure British Mystery/Noir

The Blue Carbuncle

Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer, fun for all, that children call, their favorite time of year!

Mine too, not least because there are so many enjoyable Christmas films to recommend, including an episode from Granada Television’s justly revered Sherlock Holmes series: The Blue Carbuncle.

Eccentric, unstable, dashing Jeremy Brett, whose acting (as Edward Hardwicke put it) contained “a whiff of the Edwardian” was an inspired choice to play Holmes in this handsomely produced series. David Burke makes a fine, gentle Dr. Watson in the early episodes, succeeded by an equally good Edward Hardwicke as a flintier sort of Watson in the latter part of the series. The Blue Carbuncle features Burke as Watson, and the byplay between the actors is a marvel, bringing out the warmth of their friendship yet also Holmes’ tendency to talk down to Watson, sometimes with marked asperity.

The plot: It’s Christmas time in London, though the scowling Countess of Morcar is unhappy (Rosalind Knight, putting just the right undercurrent of humour into an overtly Scroogish performance). She finds Christmas a chore in any event, but even moreso when her precious gem, the blue carbuncle, is stolen! Meanwhile, Commissionaire Peterson (Frank Mills) brings a goose to Holmes with a strange story of how he has seen a man lose his treasured Christmas dinner. Through an ingenious series of deductions, Holmes sees that the two mysteries may be connected, but he must race against time as an innocent man (Desmond McNamara) has been framed for the crime, leaving his struggling wife and children in agony as the holiday approaches.

As with the series as a whole, the original material is treated reverently, with many lines lifted straight from the text and the climactic scene nicely staged to match Sidney Paget’s drawing from the original Strand magazine publication of Doyle’s story. And the Christmas spirit is everywhere, in the incidental Victorian-style music, set decor and story elements. Not generally thought of as a Christmas movie, The Blue Carbuncle is a fine appetizer for your family by the fire, before you tuck into your own Yuletide bird.