In India, 1857, during the siege of Agra, a courier for the Maharaja is intercepted and is killed. In his possession was a chest containing a treasure. Two other local men are killed as well. British soldiers, Major Alistair Ross (Edward Fox) and Captain Neville St. Claire (John Castle) make a blood oath, a crucifer, with Private Jonathan Small (Clive Wood) to share in the treasure.
Thirty years later Irene St. Claire (Susannah Harker) visits 221B Baker Street to see Sherlock Holmes (Charlton Heston) and Dr. Watson (Richard Johnson). She tells them that her father received in the mail part of a map. When he saw it he fainted. Since then her father has disappeared. Irene also tells Holmes that her father was an opium addict and whenever he needed money he would see his old Army buddy, Alistair Ross. Holmes determines that the markings on the back of the map were made from blood.
Holmes, Watson and Irene head for Ross’ estate in Maidenhead called Pondicherry Lodge. St. Claire gets there first and tells Ross that Small is still alive and is looking for the treasure. St. Claire wants Ross to give it to him. Ross refuses. Holmes, Watson and Irene arrive at Pondicherry Lodge. Small is lurking outside somewhere on the grounds. While looking for him Ross is killed, St. Claire goes missing and so does the treasure.
Holmes begins his search for St. Claire in the opium dens of the Limelight section of London. Holmes eventually finds out that Small ended up in a British prison on the Andaman Islands and made friends with a pygmy, Tonga (Kiran Shah), who was also imprisoned there. He also knows that Small was after the treasure. He had Tonga kill Ross and take it. Holmes finds St. Claire but he too ends up dead. Holmes begins his search for the last of the conspirators, Small. Holmes still has some questions about the blood oath and the curse behind it. His investigation is far from over.
“The Crucifer of Blood” was released in 1991 and was directed by Fraser C. Heston. It is the film version of a play by Paul Giovanni that was an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel “The Sign of the Four”. The movie stars Charlton Heston as Sherlock Holmes and Richard Johnson as Dr. Watson.
The movie unfolds very much like a play. There are some creative touches that are typical of stage performance art. It was an interesting way of presenting the story on film. The atmosphere was dark and foreboding and the performances of the actors were slightly exaggerated and on par with the stagey overall look of the film. They were also very good. I actually found it a delightfully different way to see a standard Doyle story.
Charlton Heston as Sherlock Holmes is something you would have to get used to. He is not as impressive as other actors in the part but for this style of film he was rather appropriately hammy. Heston actually played Holmes in the Los Angeles theatrical version of the play in 1980 and 1981 so he was familiar with the role when he was cast for the film version.
The director, Fraser C. Heston is Charlton Heston’s son.
Kiran Shah reprised his role of Tonga from the 1987 film “The Sign of Four”. Kiran has been in many science fiction and fantasy films. Some of his films were “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” 2001, “Return of the Jedi” 1983, “The Dark Crystal” 1982, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” 1981 and “The People That Time Forgot” 1977. He was also in “The Hobbit” 2012, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” 2015, “Game of Thrones” 2016, “Rogue One” 2016, “Dr. Who” 2014 and 2017, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” 2017, “Solo” 2018, and “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” 2019.