The Case Of The Eiffel Tower (1954)

Director: Steve Previn
Starring: Ronald Howard, H. Marion Crawford, Archie Duncan, Martine Alexis, Sacha Pitoeff
Music: Paul Durand

The Case Of The Eiffel Tower is an episode of Sheldon Reynolds Sherlock Holmes TV series from the 1950’s but the plot for this one is heavily espionage based, so I thought I drop it in here on Permission To Kill. The show opens with a dead body lying on the cobbled streets of London. Two ‘Bobbies’ are looking over the body. On his person they find one hundred pounds, an unusual French coin, and a cryptic note. It all points to some clandestine espionage goings-on. So thinks Inspector Lestrade (Archie Duncan), who is quickly on his way to Baker Street to consult with Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes (Ronald Howard) realises the coin is in fact hollow, and secreted inside is some valuable information. Then he deciphers the note, and decides to impersonate the dead courier. The next morning he approaches an organ grinder and flashes the French coin. He is told to go to Westminster Bridge and collect a cane from another operative waiting there. Holmes collects the cane. Hidden inside the handle is another message. It makes reference to the ‘highest tower of all’. Holmes deduces this is the Eiffel Tower.

Holmes, Watson (H. Marion Crawford) and Lestrade rush to catch the next boat to France, then make there way to Paris by carriage. At the tower, Holmes and Watson go up to meet the next link in the spy chain, while Lestrade waits down below. On the observation platform, Holmes is approached by two members of the spy ring. They are aware that their courier in England is dead. At gunpoint they demand the coin. Instead Holmes throws it off the tower. It lands near Lestrade who doesn’t notice. A young lady strolling by, sees the coin and picks it up. She asks Lestrade if it is his. He answers in the negative. She keeps the coin and strolls off.

Meanwhile, the two spies, Holmes and Watson are racing down the tower in an attempt to be the first to locate the coin. At the bottom, Holmes enlists Lestrade’s help in finding the coin. Lestrade suggests that it is in the possession of the lady who found it on the ground. She, of course, has since vanished.

Holmes identifies the lady as an actress and tracks her to a scaled down Moulin Rouge style nightclub in Montmarte. Holmes, Watson and Lestrade head to the nightclub with a cadre of spies on their trail.

As this is a TV series and each episode runs under 30 minutes, there isn’t too much time for character development. You know that the bad guys are bad, because of the way they look – shaved heads with black twisted moustaches. And even Holmes and Watson are presented in stereotypical fashion. It almost a visual shorthand, presuming that most people are aware of Sherlock Holmes and are aware of his abilities and technique for solving a crime. If this was your first viewing of a Holmes adventure, it may be hard to know what is going on and why. But for most people this will not be an issue.

A quick bit of trivia: H. Marion Crawford who plays Watson in this series, seemed to make a career out of playing second banana Doctor side-kicks to great detectives. He also played Dr. Petrie, Nayland Smith’s friend and confidant in Harry Alan Towers, 1960’s Fu Manchu movies.

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