"The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, Set 2" is the second instalment in a classic television series of British mysteries that was produced by Thames Television, and premiered on the ITV Network in the United Kingdom in 1973. It is released in a four volume boxed set, consisting of thirteen episodes, and runs approximately 659 minutes in total. It comes with bonus features on the rival detectives and their creators, and. thank you, Acorn Media Group, subtitles. The first series, also 13 episodes, aired in 1971, and won a BAFTA for best design: it has already been released in DVD format.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods, there was plenty of poverty, social unrest, and crime in the world, in Europe, and in England. There were also the riveting detective stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring Sherlock Holmes, and his sturdy assistant, Watson. And there was no shortage of would-be rivals to Doyle, including, and represented here, the female-oriented Hungarian Baroness Orczy, who would create the Scarlet Pimpernel. The rivals presented their own detectives, stationing them in the streets of London or English country houses, the royal apartments in Vienna, or a Copenhagen hotel, as they too, relying on their finely-tuned brains, solved crimes. These stories have been adapted in a highly-literate manner, and have been filmed, apparently no expense spared, by Thames. The location photography is excellent; costumes and vehicles are period-appropriate, and extras appear to have been hired in droves. The supporting actors are uniformly strong, the best the U.K. had to offer at the time, and the featured stars were icons of the period. They include Derek Jacobi (I Claudius - Complete BBC Series (5 Disc Box Set)  [DVD
]; Cadfael - Complete Collection [DVD] [1994
]); Judy Geeson (To Sir With Love [DVD] [1967
]); Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs: The Complete Series [DVD
]); Robin Ellis (POLDARK - Complete Series 1 (1975)
); John Thaw (Inspector Morse - The Complete Collection [DVD] [1987
]); Bernard Hepton (Mansfield Park - Parts 1 And 2 [VHS] [1983
]), and Michael Gough(The Fourth Protocol [DVD] [1987
]). The episodes are:
1. The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway. Baroness Orczy's story, starring Judy Geeson as Polly Burton, a plucky young would-be investigative reporter who puts her own life on the line to solve the mysterious murder of a young woman.
2. Five Hundred Carats. A huge DeBeers diamond creates turmoil and mayhem in the small mining town of Kimberly, South Africa. Insp. Lipinzki is on the case.
3. Cell 13. Prof. Van Dusen wagers he can escape from the new prison, "escape-proof" Grangemoor.
4. The Secret of the Magnifique. The mysterious Mr. Laxworthy (Bernard Hepton) hires two ex-cons to pull a job in the elegant surrounds of the French Riviera.
5. The Absent-Minded Coterie. Amateur French detective Eugene Valmont, played by Charles Gray (On The Game (DVD) (1974)
) begins by investigating a counterfeiting operation, and trips over another matter entirely. Lots of London fog in this one.
6. The Sensible Action of Lieutenant Holst. Set in Copenhagen, stars John Thaw as the lieutenant, struggling to make sense of a quarrel between Russian émigrés. Also stars esteemed Welsh actor Philip Madoc (A Mind To Kill - Series 1  [DVD
7. The Superfluous Finger. Prof. Van Dusen again; he's called in by a friend, a Harley Street surgeon, when a woman demands an unnecessary amputation. The case takes him to an English country house, home of a mad aristocrat.
8. Anonymous Letters. Recently married Habsburg countess hires dashing private detective Dagobert Trostler to investigate obscene letters she and her friend have been receiving.
9. The Moabite Cypher. Dr. John Thorndyke investigates an anarchist plot against a Russian grand duke visiting London. A key document is written in an ancient language.
10. The Secret Life of the Fox Hunter. William Drew of the Foreign Office (Derek Jacobi) plays spy in an English country house.
11. The Looting of the Specie Room. The theft of gold bullion on a luxury passenger ship setting sail from New York for a record-breaking transatlantic crossing requires some detective work from ship's purser Mr. Horrocks. Stars Jean Marsh.
12. The Mystery of the Amber Beads. The strangulation of a rich widow, the attempted pawning of her amber beads: a gypsy girl, Hagar, the pawnbroker, figures it out. Lots of East End scenery.
13. The Missing Q.C.'s. Two queen's counsels, one for prosecution, one for defense, disappear during a London murder trial at the famed Old Bailey. Junior defense barrister Charles Dallas's (Robin Ellis) search for them takes him to another country house.
At a very minimum, each episode offers insight into the period's popular culture, intellectual preoccupations, and social problems.