The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, Set 1, Disc 2 (1971) – reviewed by George

Disc 2 contains three dramatizations of stories, with two new detectives and an unfortunate repeat.

5.  Donald Pleasence as (Thomas) Carnacki in “The Horse of the Invisible” by William Hope Hodgson, dramatized by Philip Mackie, and directed by Alan Cooke.
An occult detective who solves supernatural mysteries, almost always featuring ghosts of one sort or another. The case involves a father, Captain Hisgins (Tony Steedman), who is desperate to protect his daughter Mary (Michele Dotrice) from the family curse: that an invisible horse will appear whenever a first-born girl is about to be married and will cause her death. Pleasence is very good at projecting confidence in his ability to straighten things out, which is refreshing since he so often played indecisive characters. The group protecting Mary at the country home of the Hisginses includes her fioance Charles Beaumont (Michael Johnson), his good friend Harry Parsket (Geoffrey Whitehead), and of course, Carnacki. The horse is manifested as sounds and the blow of an invisible hoof. The basic story has been told so many times since its publication about 110 years ago, that I have no doubt that you will solve it right along with Carnacki.
William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918) was aa author and body builder who died at 40 fighting in the First World War. The DVD notes say that “The Voice in the Night” (1907) is probably his most famous story, since it has been filmed twice, but I could find no evidence on imdb.com that the film titles they show as a match have any connection to the story as outlined on amazon.com.

6.  Peter Vaughan as Horace Dorrington in “The Case of the Mirror of Portugal” by Arthur Morrison, dramatized by Julian Bond, and directed by Mike Vardy.
Vaughan has developed the character of Dorrington since his first outing on Disc 1. Horace, the unscrupulous detective, is now even more openly greedy, with gleaming eyes and a wolfish smile. He is after a diamond whose ownership is in dispute between two cousins. The diamond is called… wait for it… The Mirror of Portugal. I disliked Dorrington even more than last time. It’s very easy to see why he did not find a huge following. Sample quote (to his servants: the faithful Parrot and Farrish), “I’ll be back! You stay!” That’s what I say to my dog, except that I reverse the 2 phrases, and I don’t use exclamation points.

7.  John Fraser as Dixon Druce in “Madame Sara” by L.T. Meade & Robert Eustace, dramatized by Philip Mackie, and directed by George Murcell and Marianne Benet.
Dixon Druce is a talented young man, not properly a private detective, but a man who runs Werner’s, a private enquiry agency which focuses on business matters. Fraser is a good actor with a familiar face: see Note below. All the performances are strong, though the piano score is a bit heavy-handed. In the case Druce reconnects with an old friend from school, Jack Selby (William Corderoy), who has been in Brazil for several years and has gotten married to Beatrice Selby, nee Dallas (Jasmina Hilton) while there. The couple has returned to England with her sister Edith Dallas (Caroline John), and now needs Druce’s help.  The complicated will left by their father includes a half-brother, and basically states that the last one of the three standing will get all the money, about 200,000 pounds sterling. Then Edith is poisoned.
The Madame Sara of the title is a rather incredible woman, a beautician who makes all her own cosmetics, a licensed doctor AND dentist, and quickly the object of Druce’s strong attraction. Druce has another good friend, Inspect Vandeleur of Scotland Yard, played by George Murcell. And as Madame Sara is played by Marianne Benet, we see why two directors were needed – they are both playing large roles in the program.
L.T. Meade was the pseudonym of the Irish writer Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith (1854-1914). Mainly known for girls’ books, tales about girls in school, she started writing at 17 and produced over 300 books in her lifetime. The writer Robert Eustace  co-authored her mystery novels and stories. Many of the stories featured Madame Sara or Dixon Druce, and appeared first in the Strand magazine.

Note: I couldn’t figure out why Fraser looked familiar, so I looked him up on imdb.com. His credits (73 of them) contain some titles known to me, but unseen. He played Dixon Druce when he was around 40; BUT at about 30 he played David Lawford on Disney’s Wonderful World of Color two-parter “The Horsemasters” (1961), which starred Annette Funicello, Tommy Kirk, Janet Munro, Tony Britton, John Fraser, and Donald Pleasence(!). And I remember that, though not very well. Netflix, here I come.

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