From the Back Cover
For years, a blackmailer has been preying on the weaknesses of others throughout London. When Holmes hears of the utter miesery this mystery man is creating, he adopts a campaign to thwart his evil scheming. The campaign astonishes Dr. Watson by its strangeness and finds Holmes falling in love.
Not a mystery, a drama (and a good one), June 1, 2003 Reviewer: Ahyicodae from Ithaca, NY If you go into this movie expecting to see Holmes fall in love, or to see a deep and profound mystery slowly unravel, you will be disappointed. If, however, you watch with an open mind something that strays far from the usual clues-deduction-resolution-story, you might find that you enjoy this immensely -- as I did. What it does offer in terms of plot is a coherent, wholly believable story that smacks of reality much more strongly than Holmes' usual, more flamboyant exploits. There are ethical issues that arise, centering not only around a flawed and hypocritical society, but around the actions of Holmes himself. He commits several illegal acts and at least one immoral one; it is interesting to see him struggle with his choices, trying to justify them and, in the end, failing (at least in his own eyes, as guilt prompts him to censor Watson's writing). Milverton is played superbly -- he is a wonderful character to hate. Watson's role is minimal, but his verbal echoing of Holmes' conscience is important. As for Holmes -- people have mixed feelings about his seduction of the maid. Personally, I think this episode offers wonderful insight into his character. He does not fall in love; what he does do is confront the immorality of his own actions and the innocence of the girl whose naive affection for him is something he simply is not prepared to deal with. Holmes is a cold man; the implication in this film is that his childhood was equally cold and lacking human affection (listen to the conversation he shares with Watson outside Milverton's house). There is a reason the maid affects him so much. And a good part of it is his conscience -- which becomes evident if you listen closely to what prompts his emotional reaction to her ("Are you a burglar?" Yes, you are Holmes. Yes, you're using her for information. And she just offered to marry you. Don't you feel like a bastard?) I would not recommend this as a starting point for viewers new to the series. While it is a good movie in its own right, it depends on characters that have been developed over many hours in other episodes; Holmes' and Watson's behavior have more meaning when viewed with prior knowledge of their characters. Absent from the end is a humorous scene with Lestrade -- a pity, because Holmes-Lestrade interactions are always entertaining. By the end, however, the film has set such a dramatic and melancholy tone that humor seems not to fit, so perhaps it is for the best. If you enjoyed other Holmes episodes with Brett, you will probably enjoy this one. It is the best of the feature films, and one of my favorite episodes. --This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.