Tag Archives: detective stories

THE MOABITE CIPHER: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the very first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE

Jervis and ThorndykeEpisode: THE MOABITE CIPHER (March 26th 1973)

Detective: Doctor John Evelyn Thorndyke, created by R. Austin Freeman. The first Doctor Thorndyke story was published in 1907.

Comment: This will complete my look at this neglected television series. My reviews of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes began with the Season One episode featuring Doctor Thorndyke played by John Neville, so it’s kind of appropriate to end with a review of this Season Two episode starring Barrie Ingham as Thorndyke.

Review: At a public London procession in honor of a Russian Grand Duke a man suspected of being an anarchist is accidentally killed while running from police. Our medical man Doctor Thorndyke arrives on the scene with his sidekick Doctor Jervis (Peter Sallis) just as the authorities are cordoning off the area over fears of an anarchist bombing.

The dead man is found to have no bomb or other weapons, just a mysterious note in an ancient language which Thorndyke recognizes as Moabite. This raises the possibility that a larger anarchist plot is in the works, possibly even the assassination of the visiting Russian.

With press vultures sensationalizing the incident and with fears for the safety of the Grand Duke overwhelming Scotland Yard, our hero’s old friend Inspector Miller shows up to bring the good doctor deeper into the investigation.

A further demand is made upon Thorndyke’s time by Alfred Barton (Julian Glover), who is convinced his brother’s young bride is poisoning her husband’s meals with arsenic. Continue reading

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CHARLES DALLAS: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the very first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE

Charles DallasEpisode: THE MISSING Q.Cs. (April 9th, 1973)

Detective: Charles Dallas, created by John Oxenham (pen name of William Arthur Dunkerley). The first Charles Dallas story was published in 1898 in Harmsworth London Magazine.

Comment: John Oxenham’s crime novels and short stories deserve to be rediscovered and made available to a much wider audience. A Mystery of the Underground, his 1897 detective story about a serial killer committing seemingly impossible Phantom of the Opera-style murders on the London Underground was his best-known crime thriller. However, his mystery-solving lawyer Charles Dallas should also be remembered since he was basically a Victorian Age forerunner of Rumpole of the Bailey.

As an example of the impact of Oxenham’s writing consider this – it’s a historical footnote that while his subway killer tale was being serialized, Tuesday night use of the London Underground plummeted to record lows because the fictional murderer only struck on Tuesday evenings. You can look it up for yourself.

Synopsis: Handsome young lawyer Charles Dallas (Robin Ellis) is a Junior Defense Barrister for Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.) defense attorney Sir Revel Revell (seriously), played by John Barron. Like the Victorian Age’s fictional master thief A.J. Raffles, he’s also a top-notch Cricket player whose athletic accomplishments are often in the newspapers.

Milly Revell and Charles DallasCharles has been dating Sir Revel’s daughter Milly (Celia Bannerman), a practicing nurse who keeps pressuring her beau to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Between his law career, his Cricket games and his sleuthing he just can’t seem to find the right moment for it, which causes periodic tensions between the two lovebirds. Continue reading

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MISS HAGAR STANLEY: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the very first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE 

Amber BeadsEpisode: THE MYSTERY OF THE AMBER BEADS (April 23rd, 1973)

Detective: Miss Hagar Stanley, created by Fergus Hume. The first Hagar Stanley mystery was published in 1898.

Comment: She’s a Gypsy pawn shop manager who solves mysteries! Yes, despite her unlikely name, Miss Hagar Stanley was a Romany Gypsy. Fleeing a forced marriage to a male Gypsy whom she loathed and feared, Hagar sought shelter with her uncle, Jacob Dix, a shrewd pawn shop owner.

Hagar StanleyThe enterprising young Gypsy woman picked up the pawn business quickly, combining her already wily anti-establishment Romany ways with her uncle’s eye for value and hard-nosed negotiating skills. Naturally, at a pawnshop, Hagar often dealt with criminals, gamblers and wastrels. While managing the shop for her uncle, Miss Stanley also found herself solving assorted murders, thefts and other crimes.

Synopsis: Technically, the title of the short story adapted for this episode was The Second Customer and the Amber Beads. That reflected the titling format of the Hagar Stanley mysteries, with others being The Third Customer and the Jade Idol, The Sixth Customer and the Silver Teapot, and so on for all ten Hagar stories.  Continue reading

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CHIEF PURSER HORROCKS: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE 

Chief Purser HorrocksEpisode: THE LOOTING OF THE SPECIE ROOM (April 16th, 1973)

Detective: Chief Purser Eli Horrocks, created by C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne. The first Mr Horrocks story was published in the year 1900.

Comment: He’s a Chief Purser who solves mysteries! Instead of doing the thousandth screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, how about someone bringing to life Hyne’s seafaring sleuth Mr Horrocks? The Looting of the Specie Room has a lot of the “snooty British upper class prigs caught up in a crime” appeal that Christie’s later mysteries had.

Rounding up an all-star cast and filming this first-rate mystery as it unfolds amid cushy 1900 trans-Atlantic ship travel might make for a surprise hit. Compared to other Chief Purser Horrocks mysteries like The Derelict THIS little honey would probably work best as a movie. The detective work would just be part of the charm, with the period detail providing the rest.  

Horrocks, the Inspector and the CaptainSynopsis: The RMS Oceanic is hoping to pull off a double-coup – hauling a record-setting TWO HUNDRED FIFTY-THOUSAND dollars in gold bullion (in 1900 money) from New York City to Southampton AND setting a new speed record for a trans-Atlantic voyage. Lord Altington, the owner of the shipping line, is aboard to oversee this venture and keep the pressure on the crewmembers.

Also aboard for this bit of hoped-for history are assorted sleazy reporters and a mix of Upper Class Twits whose pomposity and snobbery rival Lord Altington’s. When half the gold disappears on the way to Great Britain, the spectacular theft could mean the end for Chief Purser Horrocks (Ronald Fraser), whose position makes him ultimately responsible for all valuables on board.

With Lord Altington looking for a scapegoat, with the crew pointing fingers at each other, with Inspector Trent bungling the investigation and with an entire shipload of suspects ready to scatter to the winds upon arrival in Southampton, Horrocks takes it upon himself to play detective in order to save his own skin. Continue reading

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DAGOBERT TROSTLER: RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1973)

rivals of sherlockFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE   

Anonymous LettersEpisode: ANONYMOUS LETTERS (March 19th, 1973)

Detective: Dagobert Trostler, created by Austrian writer Balduin Groller (pen name for Adalbert Goldscheider). The first Dagobert Trostler mystery was published in 1895.

Synopsis: Ronald Lewis portrays amateur detective Dagobert Trostler, an Austrian bon vivant and man about town during the twilight time of the Habsburgs. Given the various scandals and potential public humiliations that can befall pretentious aristocrats of any time period, Dagobert offers his detective skills to the well-connected and the wealthy.

Dagobert and NadjaTrostler doesn’t expect any pay and usually goes without any public credit, because if he has resolved the case properly no one will ever know he or his clients played any role in certain events.

Dagobert isn’t above fisticuffs or gunplay or even breaking & entering as he indulges in his favorite sport of solving mysteries. His manservant Berthold (Denis Thorne) is skilled at disguise and at casing a joint for his boss when needed. Continue reading

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INSPECTOR LIPINZKI (1973): RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes otherFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE   

Five Hundred CaratsEpisode: FIVE HUNDRED CARATS (February 5th, 1973)

Detective: Inspector Leo Lipinzki of Kimberley, South Africa, a figure created by George Griffith. The first Inspector Lipinzki story was published in 1893.

Synopsis: We are now in the second and final season of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. In addition to his many “ancient” science fiction stories – reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog – George Griffith also wrote the eight Inspector Lipinzki stories, which were later collected in the book Knaves of Diamonds in 1899.

Inspector Lipinzki leftFor the first time in this series we have a story set outside Great Britain, which I found to be a welcome change of pace. Leo Lipinzki (Barry Keegan) works as a Detective Inspector for the Cape Police, but technically the already wealthy and powerful De Beers Diamond Corporation is who he really answers to.

Virtually all the murders, thefts and other crimes that Lipinzki investigates stem from IDB – Illicit Diamond Buying – amid the busy diamond mines and other establishments of South Africa. (And if you read the Inspector Lipinzki stories you’ll see that the acronym “IDB” is used ad nauseum.)

The episode Five Hundred Carats opens up with a murder that we eventually learn ties into the brilliant, seemingly impossible theft of the Great De Beers Diamond. Though in the original story George Griffith presented it as if the Inspector himself was relating the case to him, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes substitutes the fictional “Mr Cornelius” (Alan Tilvern), an American diamond buyer, for Griffith. Continue reading

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CASE OF THE MIRROR OF PORTUGAL (1971) – RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes bestFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about London by Gaslight detectives from both the Victorian and Edwardian Ages you can simply click HERE   

mirror of portugalEpisode: THE CASE OF THE MIRROR OF PORTUGAL (October 25th, 1971)

Detective: Horace Dorrington, created by Arthur Morrison. The first Dorrington story was published in 1897.

Review: This is the second of two Dorrington episodes from Season One of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Peter Vaughan reprises his role as the unscrupulous yet charming private investigator. Kenneth Colley and Petronella Barker are also back as Farrish and Miss Parrot, Dorrington’s lovebird aides who often do the legwork for their demanding boss.

DorringtonThe story begins with Horace in the middle of one of his typical scams. He’s been hired by an insurance company to recover a stolen painting after his Scotland Yard rival Inspector Brent (Lloyd Lamble) failed to do so.

Dorrington tracked down the art thief and recovered the painting but is now auctioning it off on the underground market to the highest bidder since they’ll pay more than the insurance company. Meanwhile he keeps the painting concealed under a mundane drawing of a dog. 

While pursuing that shady undertaking the ruthless detective gets hired by restaurateur Leon Bouvier (Oscar Quitak) to recover a precious item that was just taken from him in an alleyway during an armed robbery. Continue reading

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MARTIN HEWITT (1971) RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes bestFor Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about non-Holmes detectives of the Victorian and Edwardian Ages click HERE   

*** This review will cover the three Martin Hewitt mysteries that were dramatized in the first season of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.

Martin HewittEpisode: THE AFFAIR OF THE TORTOISE (November 22nd, 1971)

Detective: Martin Hewitt, created by Arthur Morrison. The first Martin Hewitt story was published in 1894.

Review: Martin Hewitt was created by the same author who created Horace Dorrington, covered in a previous review of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Unlike Dorrington, Hewitt is honest and looks out for his clients’ interests more than his own. Unfortunately, as portrayed by Peter Barkworth, he’s also more than a little bland.

Well, “bland” might be uncharitable. “Professional” may be more fitting. Barkworth’s Hewitt is serene and reassuring, putting his clients at ease no matter what crisis they’re going through. 

Martin Hewitt with InspectorIn The Affair of the Tortoise Martin Hewitt is hired by Miss Chapman (Cyd Hayman), a former governess that he has just located so she could receive an inheritance from a distant relative. Miss Chapman wants Hewitt to clear one of her neighbors, Goujon (Timothy Bateson), of murder charges. 

Goujon is suspected of killing Rameau (Stefan Kalifa), a rowdy, hard-partying Haitian official residing in London. The drunken Rameau often played practical jokes on Goujon and recently went too far, causing the death of the Frenchman’s pet tortoise. Continue reading

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CARNACKI (1971) RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about non-Holmes detectives of the Victorian and Edwardian Ages click HERE   

Horse of the InvisibleEpisode: THE HORSE OF THE INVISIBLE (October 18th, 1971)

Detective: Thomas Carnacki, created by William Hope Hodgson. The first Carnacki story was published in 1910.

Review: Thomas Carnacki was an Edwardian detective who investigated the paranormal in 9 stories written by William Hope Hodgson, famous for the horror tale The House on the Borderlands. The fun of the Carnacki mysteries came from the way that sometimes the supernatural elements were being faked by human malefactors. The hero would solve the case either way.

In a fortuitous bit of casting which helps make this episode timeless, Donald Pleasence starred as Thomas Carnacki. Pleasence’s role of Doctor Loomis in the Halloween series of slasher films makes him a familiar face even to viewers unfamiliar with his loooong body of work.

CarnackiGiven that this program is titled The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes the best way to describe The Ghost of the Invisible would be as a hybrid of The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Speckled Band crossed with the John Silence series of occult mysteries.

Renowned “Ghost Detective” Thomas Carnacki is hired by the patriarch of the Hisgins family to safeguard his soon-to-be-wed daughter Mary from a spectre which has haunted the family for centuries. That spectre is the titular horse, a ghostly mare which has murdered the first-born child of each successive lord of Hisgins Hall … when that first-born child has been female. Continue reading

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MADAME SARA (1971) RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes bestFrom 1971 to 1973 The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was a British television series which dramatized non-Holmes mystery stories by Victorian and Edwardian authors. For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode click HERE   

Madame SaraEpisode: MADAME SARA (November 1st, 1971)

Detective: Dixon Druce, created by L.T. Meade (Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) and Robert Eustace.

Villainess: Madame Sara, by the same creators. The first story featuring Dixon Druce and Madame Sara was published in 1902.

Madame Sara picReview: Years before the insidious Doctor Fu Manchu and his dogged adversary Sir Denis Nayland-Smith came this detective and the female criminal genius he clashed with. In the case of Dixon Druce and Madame Sara, there was always an air of attraction and sexual tension between them.

The pair’s duels of wits sprinkled with flirtation are enjoyable and, combined with the fact that a woman co-created the characters and co-wrote their six mysteries, I’m genuinely puzzled why they aren’t more well known and more widely dramatized.

Madame Sara was the story which introduced Dixon Druce (John Fraser), investigative manager for the Werner’s Solvency Inquiry Agency. That firm can be hired by potential investors to probe the financial and legal bona fides of domestic or international businesses.  

Dixon DruceAs the episode opens, Druce is in his laboratory engaging in a game of forensic one-upmanship with his Scotland Yard friend Inspector Vandeleur (George Murcell). Their verbal fencing over poisons is interrupted by Dixon’s old school friend Jack Selby (William Corderoy).

Selby has recently married the well-to-do and beautiful Beatrice Dallas (Jasmina Hilton), whom he met while at a government post in Brazil. Jack is seeking Druce’s help in unravelling certain complications left over from the will of his wife’s late parents.

Delgado as SilvaTheir fortune of 2 million Pounds will be left to whichever of their children is ultimately left alive among Beatrice, her unmarried sister Edith (Caroline John of Doctor Who fame) and their elusive, enigmatic half-brother Henry Joachim Silva (THE Roger Delgado for another Doctor Who connection).    Continue reading

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