“Hired by a young lady, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson investigate the strange recent deaths of her missing father’s friends from the army, as well as the whereabouts of the Great Mogul, the second-largest diamond in the world.”

Director: Desmond Davis
Writers: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Edward Pogue
Staring: Ian Richardson, David Healy, Thorley Walkers, Cherie Lunghi
Release Date: December 7, 1983

Call me a simple man, but I love a good mystery. Very rarely has Sherlock Holmes ever let me down in that regard. The BBC show with Benedict Cumberbatch is remarkable and one of my favorite series ever. The Guy Ritchie & Robert Downey Jr. movies are not the true essence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s version of the detective, but they are still remarkably entertaining. Turning the clocks back even more, Ian Richardson made a short living off playing the ultra observant sleuth. Richardson played Sherlock in a pair of short movies in 1983, The Hound Of Baskervilles and The Sign Of The Four.

It turns out I had watched The Hound Of Baskervilles at some point earlier in my life and I gave it a C+ and 3.0/5 stars. The Sign Of The Four is not on the same level, but it does live within the same ballpark. The story starts out strong before dwindling into a subpar finale that is capped off by a rather clumsy final tussle on a boat. The smarts of Sherlock are spotlighted aptly in the first half of the mystery, and his keen eye for detail is humorously contrasted with inadequacy with the police force.

The plot of Sign of The Four is fairly simple.

A young lady by the name of Mary Morstan (Cherie Lunghi) reaches out to Mr. Sherlock Holmes (Ian Richardson) and Dr. John Watson (David Healy) about the mysterious death of her father. Shortly after, there are questions about a diamond called the Great Mogul, the second largest diamond in the world. Holmes and Watson unveil secret pacts, backstabbing behaviors and heaps of trouble while on their quest for the truth. Can they find Mary the answers she wants? Do they learn what The Sign Of The Four is?

It is not worth going too in depth on all machinations of The Sign Of The Four. Have you seen a detective movie before? Then you know exactly how this play movie works. If you are a fan of the genre, then you will find entertainment in even the dullest or struggling moments.

The Sign Of The Four was meant to be the second episode of a series on British television, but this stretch of Holmes movies came to an abrupt end. I wish that there were more to tune into because Ian Richardson is really delightful in the lead role. He is able to embody the character with the same fun an enthusiasm that modern folk associate with Downey Jr.’s portrayal. Richardson has the subtleties down and says all the catch phrases that everyone knows.

The Sign Of The Four would be a perfect right-down-the-middle detective story if not for the uncomfortable ending. It is just not choreographed great.

OH! Before I go. Much of this movie takes place in and around a festival setting. The last movie I saw about that was Nightmare Alley (2021), and there is an impossible to ignore connection. Remember when Bradley Cooper’s character of Stanton Carlisle turned into The Geek? There is Geek in The Sign Of The Four as well. He is more werewolf like in the 1983 rendition with sharpened teeth, a peg leg and glowing eyes. It’s impossible to not see the connection; he behaves exactly like Clem Hoatley (Willem Dafoe) behaves.

This review is going to be niche, but who gives a damn. Check out The Sign Of The Four on Amazon Prime as background noise someday.

STANKO RATING: C- (2.5/5 Stars)


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