GenreMystery Story byArthur Conan Doyle CountryUnited Kingdom
Release date1983 Based onThe Sign of the Four
by Arthur Conan Doyle WriterArthur Conan Doyle (novel), Charles Edward Pogue (screenplay) CastIan Richardson (Sherlock Holmes), David Healy (Dr. John Watson), Thorley Walters (Major John Sholto), Michael O'Hagan (Mordecai Smith), Cherie Lunghi (Mary Morstan), Joe Melia (Jonathan Small) Similar moviesArthur Conan Doyle wrote the story for The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Sign of Four is a 1983 British made-for-television mystery film directed by Desmond Davis and starring Ian Richardson and David Healy. The film is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name, the second novel to feature Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.
In 1982, American producer Sy Weintraub partnered with English producer Otto Plaschkes to make six television films of Sherlock Holmes stories. Charles Edward Pogue was enlisted to pen the screenplays but only The Sign of the Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles were ultimately filmed as Granada Television's Sherlock Holmes series premiered in 1984.
In an interview with Scarlet Street, Ian Richardson explained:
"That was the fly in our ointment. Initially, an unseen fly. You see, when Sy Weintraub was planning the films, he was unaware that the copyright on the Holmes stories was about to expire in England and he had to go through a great deal of legal negotiations with the Conan Doyle estate in order to gain permission to use them. However, he was totally ignorant of Granada's plans to film a series with Jeremy Brett...Weintraub was furious, because he'd paid a lot of money to get permission from the estate and here was Granada saying, 'Thank you - but we're going to do it.' So Weintraub took them to court. He had a very good case, apparently; but eventually there was an out of court settlement for an extraordinary sum of money - something like two million pounds - which was enough for Weintraub to cover his costs on both The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles, and make a profit, too. And so he wrapped the project up."
Differences from novel
Unlike the source novel, the movie features the murder of Thaddeus Sholto, when Small returns to the house to try and intimidate him into revealing the location of the treasure, beating Sholto to death in a rage when Sholto claims that it was given away long ago to try and protect Mary. It also includes the recovery of the Agra treasure, which here was hidden in Small's wooden leg as he attempts to claim he disposed of it in the Thames. After Holmes realises what has happened due to the wooden leg's suspicious weight in the water, the treasure is claimed by the police (although its most precious piece, a large diamond called the Great Mogul, is given to Mary by Holmes).
While Watson expresses a strong attraction for Miss Morstan, a romantic development between these two characters is not discussed in the movie.