Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Disappeared was a made for TV short (about 26 minutes) which was a pilot for a weekly show. It, like others, was a one-time event. The story is a variation on The Man with the Twisted Lip. For some reason that particular story seems to hold a fascination for film makers, I don’t know why, for there are better stories to choose from. At any rate, the production quality of the show is very typical of that time in early television. When you watch the film (available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIlAQWPv4is) you will understand that this is indeed a 1951 television production. Hint: if you watch the action you won’t notice the trucks passing in the background over the bridge in 1895.
As the story unfolds Mrs. St. Clair comes to Watson to have Holmes find her husband. Of course he is found in an opium den near Tower Bridge and while Holmes makes for the upper floors, where he has seen Neville St. Clair, he leaves poor Watson to fight off a half dozen men. Watson loses but acquits himself well in this and a second fight at the end of the story.
The biggest change in the tale is that St. Clair disguises himself as a beggar not to make money by donations but to sell dope for the underworld boss Luzatto in who’s grip he finds himself. St. Clair believes himself guilty of a murder that Luzatto has actually committed. Luzatto is the classic Moriarty character and really is well done by an actor named Walter Gotell. Holmes is played by John Longdon who does an adequate job as Holmes but is a little too stiff with the part.
Our hero, Watson, is played by Campbell Singer, a long time character actor who does a workmanlike job and might have been a very good Watson had the show been picked up for a series. At least he could hold his own in a fight!
The show is not bad if you keep in mind the time frame it was done in and the fact that it was a low budget pilot to sell a concept. As I understand it, the film never made it to TV but was used as a “short” filler in the movie houses.
Campbell Singer was born Jacob Kobel Singer on 16 March 1909 in London, England and died in the same city in March of 1976. Singer was both a character actor and a playwright. Two of his plays: Guilty Party and Difference of Opinion both received critical acclaim. He also wrote for television both in the UK and Germany. However, he is best known as a character actor in movies and TV with 107 credits. His first appearance in film was in 1947 as a police sergeant in the movie Take My Life. This seemed to become a recurring role for Singer as he was often cast as the local police officer, playing Inspectors, Constables and Detectives. From 1955 onward most of his work was in television where he appeared in such shows as The Avengers, The Saint, Doctor Who, and Dad’s Army. His final TV appearance was in 1975 on the TV series Some Mothers Do ‘Ave “Em.
It would have been interesting to see what Singer could have done with the role of Watson had the pilot been picked up.