Sunday, February 3, 2019

"The Sting of Death" watchalong

The watchalong and I have never really gotten along. 

Once upon a time, I attempted to follow that well-meaning commentary that accompanied the first episode of BBC Sherlock way back when, but the show was too good and any chatter from even an illustrious peanut gallery just seemed like unwanted static. 

Later watchalongs, based on Granada episodes didn't seem to do it either . . . either the tale was too familiar, or it just wasn't the right commentary crowd the nights I took it in. But tonight, in Super-Bowl-avoidance mode when Chris Redmond suggested the 1955 Boris Karloff TV adaptation of H.F. Heard's A Taste for Honey, well, having never seem it before, it seemed like a good time to give it another try.

This old TV episode from The Elgin Hour,  called "The Sting of Death," is quite a lively little thing, turning a serious mystery novel into a bit of a comedy murder mystery, when the murderer is never really in doubt from early on. And it's main character,  Karloff's "Mr. Mycroft" is a retired fellow who keeps bees, can make observations about the mud on a fellow's shoes, and can fall down in fake illness when he needs to check something out. In other words, this guy is Sherlock Holmes under an assumed name.

Mr. Silchester, who serves as both client, Watson, and victim, in this tight little four-actor play, is almost comically fond of honey. His housekeeper Alice is the queen of exposition, announcing characters dying off-screen when needed (and I think her -- Hermione Gingold's -- voice was behind the off-camera Mrs. Hargrove as well). The obvious villain, Mr. Hargrove is so Moriarty-ish in his look that there is hardly a moment of doubt who is behind it all. And Boris Karloff is about the creepiest version of Sherlock Holmes (despite the brother's name) ever, with some of his lines sounding more ominous than anything by Rathbone, Brett, or Cumberbatch.

"A Sting of Death" is a talky show, so full of verbal spillage as to make it impossible for a spoken Mystery Science Theater 3000, but a written one, as Twitter supplies, fits it perfectly. The show is goofy enough on its own to do with some accompanying commentary, especially when the 1950s language starts sounding full of double-entendres. 

But, basically, a watchalong is about community, and sharing in a Sherlock Holmes related bit of video that was new to most of us, yet of a sort that didn't want "full immersion" to be enjoyed, was the perfect choice for such an event. Chris suggested doing future watchalongs with some of the odder corners of Sherlockian video, and tonight's "Sting" was a good test of that. 

It's going to be a bit before Holmes and Watson hits DVD, or Elementary's final season airs, so why not?

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