The Many Watsons – Richard Johnson

Okay, first let me say that there is no bigger Charlton Heston fan than me, myself and I. After all he was the hero of the third best movie ever made – 55 Days at Peking. (Casablanca being second and The Horse Soldiers being the number one of all time.) And who doesn’t love Moses and Ben Hur? But the Crucifer of Blood with Heston as Holmes and Richard Johnson as Watson, well, while Johnson is a fairly convincing Watson, Heston just doesn’t play well as the Great Detective.

The Crucifer of Blood was originally a stage play adaptation of The Sign of Four, so don’t expect it to be true to the original story line. It was then transferred to a made for TV movie. While most of the story plays out in the general line of the original, it does have a surprise ending. A peculiar twist which you’ll probably guess before the story is over but I won’t give away. As I said, Heston is just not convincing as Holmes, though he performed in the stage play on the left coast prior to making the film in order to perfect the part. The Broadway production of the play garnered 4 Tony Awards. The play also did well in London. It is really interesting to note that Jeremy Brett played Watson in the Los Angeles production opposite Heston just a few years before coming the Holmes.

Richard Johnson plays Watson well but the age difference between him and Irene St. Clair (the Mary Morstan character played by Susannah Harker) is so great that Watson comes off more as a foolish old man than a prospective lover. All in all Johnson does a commendable job as Watson and, except for the love interest, is quite believable. The film is worth watching at least once. One has to wonder what Brett and Burke could have done with it!

Richard Johnson is obviously a very talented and gifted actor. He was born in London in 1927 and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. His first professional stage performance was with John Gielgud’s company. He served in the British Navy in WWII and first performed in film in 1951 in the movie Never So Few. Prior to his appearance with Heston in Crucifer, the two stared in the 1966 Khartoum (another great flick and Johnson is tremendous!). Before Connery was chosen for James Bond the part was offered to Johnson, who turned it down. Johnson balanced films and theater for his entire career and has had an extensive TV career. He has worked as an actor, writer, and producer. Best of all he was another fine Watson.

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One Response to The Many Watsons – Richard Johnson

  1. rabidsamfan says:

    I saw the stage play when it went national, with Paxton Whitehead as Holmes, and it was excellent. The movie was a complete disappointment, though. (I’d have to find a very old journal to remember who was playing Watson, alas, but he was amazing. I never thought of him as anyone BUT Watson.)

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