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Theatre / The Crucifer of Blood

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The Crucifer of Blood is a 1978 play by Paul Giovanni based off the Sherlock Holmes novel The Sign of the Four.

Long ago in India two British officers, Major Alistair Ross and Captain Neville St. Claire made a pact in blood with a common soldier — Jonathan Small in exchange for a share in untold riches. But they betrayed their comrade sending him to prison for murder, while they went to England with their ill-gotten gains. Ross living like a miser hoarding his gold, while St. Claire has become a pathetic drug addict ridden by guilt.

Many years later, St. Claire's daughter Irene comes to Mr. Sherlock Holmes concerned about her father. Meanwhile Small has escaped from his Indian prison and has made his way to England to seek his revenge on those who betrayed him ....

The play was adapted into a Made-for-TV Movie in 1991, starring Charlton Heston as Holmes. Heston had played the role previously in a Los Angeles production of the play, and a previous Holmes, Jeremy Brett, was his Watson.

Tropes in this work include:

  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Small's Indian cohorts go from being Mahomet Singh and Abdullah Khan to Durga Dass and Wali Dad.
    • Major Sholto and Captain Morstan become Major Alistair Ross and Captain Neville St. Claire.
    • Mary Morstan becomes Irene St. Clair.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The Sholto Brothers, Thaddeus and Bartholomew are nowhere to be seen.
    • Inspector Jones is left out and replaced by Lestrade.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Both British army officers are downright bastards, while St. Claire's book counterpart was the more honorable of the two.
    • Irene St. Clair does not end up as Watson's wife like her book counterpart.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Watson first enters carrying a starters pistol, which returns in the climax.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the book, Small's Indian cohorts end up in the Andaman Islands with him. Here, they are both killed by the British officers at Agra.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: St. Claire is murdered when the killer places a poison dart in the mouthpiece of his opium pipe. When he inhales, he sucks in the dart and stabs himself in the throat.
  • Jerkass: Lestrade, who's incredibly rude to Holmes, while accepting his help.
  • Latex Perfection: In the film version, Holmes wears a (non-period) latex mask to impersonate the Opium Den proprietor.
  • The Oath-Breaker: Both Ross and St. Claire, which is why Small hunts both of them down.
  • Opium Den: After Ross is murdered, St. Claire takes refuge in an opium den.
  • Red Herring: Jonathan Small is not the main villain. It's actually Irene.