Thursday, April 19, 2012

TV Review: Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes – "The Master Blackmailer" (1980)

Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin as Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in The Master Blackmailer
Holmes and Watson do a Green Hornet and Kato impression

This episode is based on The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.

Holmes and Watson are returning to London after solving a case. The case in question is suggested as Silver Blaze.  Silver Blaze is my all-time personal favorite short story in the Canon and a reference to this story marks one of the many high points of this episode.

Holmes has received a communication from Mycroft Holmes with reference to a case. What follows is the inevitable visit to the Diogenes Club and the first appearance of Mycroft in this series. Fans will no doubt instantly recognize these scenes as belonging to the short story The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter. The script writers have deftly handled the transition between the two stories.

Boris Klyuev as Mycroft Holmes
Mycroft Holmes makes his first appearance

At Mycroft’s request, Sherlock takes up the case of Lady Eva Brackwell, who is being blackmailed by Charles Augustus Milverton. Milverton has got hold of some of the letters written by Lady Eva long time ago and is threatening to spoil her upcoming engagement, by sending them to her fiancé. Sherlock arranges a meeting with Milverton at 221 B Baker Street.

The villainous Milverton is immune to Holmes’s reasoning and is hell-bent on extracting money from his prey. Holmes and Watson decide to break into Milverton’s house in order to retrieve the letters and save the lady’s honor. This entails Holmes adopting a disguise to know the layout of Milverton’s house to facilitate the break-in.

While the rest of the episode follows the canonical story closely, the reference to Professor Moriarty at the end is another masterstroke on the part of the director. In the canon, Moriarty makes his appearance only in The Valley of Fear and The Final Problem.

Boris Ryzhukhin as Charles Augustus Milverton
Boris Ryzhukhin as Charles Augustus Milverton

Vasily Livanov is one of my favorite actors to play Holmes and Vitaly Solomin is the definitive Watson. Both of them continue their stellar work in this episode as well.

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The supporting cast of this episode as top-notch as usual. Boris Klyuev is a classy Mycroft. Though a tad on the leaner side, he makes a convincing Mycroft, the superior version of Sherlock in powers of observation and deduction. Boris Ryzhukhin makes his Augustus Milverton a truly despicable character, who will stop at nothing to attain his ends.

Professor Moriarty makes his actual appearance in the next episode “The Mortal Fight”. He does communicate with Holmes by the end of this episode, indicating his displeasure at Holmes’s meddling in his affairs.

Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes
Professor Moriarty expresses his intentions to Holmes

The Russian series is not the only one to make the decision to refer to Moriarty in an earlier episode before The Final Problem. The Granada series too had Moriarty orchestrating the scam behind The Red-Headed League, before the episode of The Final Problem. 

Click here to read all my posts about the Russian adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. 

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Image Source: Lenfilm Films Studio 

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