les grands detectivesLES GRANDS DETECTIVES (1975) – A few years back in Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category, I reviewed every episode of the British television and radio series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. That series presented mystery stories featuring fictional Victorian and Edwardian Age detectives in tales written during Holmes’ own time period.

Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, Dr. Thorndyke, Inspector Lipinzki, Miss Hagar Stanley and others were introduced to generations who had never heard of them. This French-West German co-production titled Les Grands Detectives presented mysteries being solved by similar detectives – including America’s Nick Carter, the one-time fictional giant who has since fallen down the memory hole. Each episode ran 52-55 minutes.

Les Grands Detectives episodes were as follows:

inspector wensTHE SIX DEAD MEN (April 21st, 1975)

The Detective: Inspector Wenceslas Woroboyioetschik, known as Inspector Wens for short. This detective was created by Belgian writer Stanislas-Andre Steeman. Wens was introduced in short stories during the 1920s and also appeared in novels beginning in the 1930s.

The Six Dead Men was the first Inspector Wens novel and was published in 1931. During World War One, six soldiers establish a short-term tontine: in ten years (five years in the novel) the survivors of the sextet – if any – will split the profits accrued in their venture. As the date of the cash-out draws near, some of the men start getting killed off, and Inspector Wens gets involved.

This particular mystery was adapted in the British film The Riverside Mystery in 1935 and the French movie The Last of the Six in 1941. For the television series, the inspector was portrayed by Roger Van Hool.

callaghanDATE AFTER DARK (April 28th, 1975)

The Detective: Private Investigator Slim Callaghan. This hard-boiled detective was created by British author Peter Cheyney, whose best-known creation was FBI Agent turned Private Detective Lemmy Caution. London-based Irishman Slim Callaghan first appeared in the novel The Urgent Hangman in 1938.   

Date After Dark was a short story published in 1946 but set during the Blitz in 1940 London. Callaghan meets a beautiful and refined lady during an Air Raid, and investigates when he learns she has been threatened by phone and is now being followed.

Frederic de Pasquale starred as Slim in this episode.

sherlock holmes episodeTHE SIGN OF FOUR (May 5th, 1975)

The Detective: Sherlock Holmes, of course. This consulting detective was created by Arthur Conan Doyle and first appeared in his 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet

The Sign of Four, Doyle’s 1890 novel, depicted Holmes and his sidekick Dr. John Watson investigating a mystery centering around the Great Agra Treasure, Miss Mary Morstan and a conspiracy among four individuals who had been in India during the Great Mutiny.

Rolf Becker starred as Sherlock Holmes, Roger Lumont played Watson and Gila von Weitershausen was Mary Morstan. 

lecoqMONSIEUR LECOQ (May 12th, 1975)

The Detective: Surete Detective Lecoq, created by French author Emile Gaboriau, a former secretary of THE Paul Feval, the famed writer. Lecoq’s first appearance came in the novel The Lerouge Affair, published in 1866.

Monsieur Lecoq, published in 1868, was a flashback novel depicting a younger Lecoq solving his first case as a French police officer. The mystery centered around a triple murder during a brawl at a seedy bar in Paris. False identities and romantic intrigues figured into this tale regarding feuding political families.

This novel had been adapted for the big screen in France during 1914 and America during 1915, with both movies using the novel’s original title. Gilles Segal portrayed Lecoq in this television episode, while Alain Mottet played de Sairmeuse.

nick carterSECRET MISSION (May 19th, 1975)

The Detective: Nick Carter, a private detective created by American writers John Russel Coryell and Ormond G. Smith. Carter first appeared in the serialized tale The Mysterious Crime of Madison Square, which ran from September to December of 1886.  

Secret Mission, adapted from the 1907 story Nick Carter’s Case for the President, featured the president of the United States calling on Nick to investigate when scholars around the country began dropping dead with no explanation.

Reiner Schone starred as Nick Carter. For my review of Robert Conrad as Nick Carter click HERE. For my review of the film Nick Carter in Prague click HERE

auguste dupinTHE PURLOINED LETTER (May 26th, 1975)

The Detective: C. Auguste Dupin, amateur French detective and member of the Legion of Honor. He was introduced in Edgar Allan Poe’s 1841 short story The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

The Purloined Letter was published in December 1844 as part of The Gift for 1845. Dupin is called in to investigate when a letter from the Queen’s lover is stolen and used to blackmail her. Poe’s three short stories about Dupin were often cited as inspirations by Emile Gaboriau, John Russel Coryell and Arthur Conan Doyle for their own fictional detectives.

This adaptation combined elements of both The Purloined Letter and The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842) in order to flesh out the story elements enough for the 55 minute run time. Laurent Terzieff played Dupin in the episode. 

masc graveyard smallerThe production values of Les Grands Detectives are more than reasonable for a 1970s European television production and are certainly far above those on The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. The performances are pretty good and as long as you don’t mind subtitles Les Grands Detectives makes for fun viewing.

If you enjoyed Jeremy Brett’s 1980s Sherlock Holmes series from Granada Television, then you would probably like these mysteries and their eccentric detectives. Just don’t expect as high a standard as the Brett series brought to the small screen.

The historical significance of the pre-Sherlock Holmes detectives like Auguste Dupin, Monsieur Lecoq and Nick Carter can’t help but make mystery fans happy to see their inclusion in this series. 



Filed under Forgotten Television


  1. Another interesting selection! Thank you for highlighting these! 🙂

  2. I’ll have to see if I can find it on YouTube, or Roku. Sounds pretty good.

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