Robert Stephens as Max Carrados in The Missing Witness Sensation by Ernest Bramah
Adapted by Philip Mackie. Directed by Jonathan Alwyn
Dennis Rank (Dave Carter) has been committed to trial, accused of attacking Lizzie Baxter at the Ayr Street post office. The case intrigues Max Carrados (Robert Stephens) who sees it as more than just a simple robbery gone wrong. His friend Inspector Beedel (George A. Cooper) agrees and is able to fill in some of the blanks. Rank is a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and although Beedel isn’t sure exactly what he was up to, he’s convinced that they’ve got the right man.
The defence’s case is strengthened by a convincing character witness called Thaxted (John Wentworth). Thaxted claims that at the time of the robbery he encountered Rank at Richmond Park. However, Carrados knows that Thaxted is lying since he met him at Richmond Park at exactly the same time Thaxted claims to have met Rank.
Carrados is happy to appear for the prosecution, but Beedel’s one concern is whether the jury will believe him (since Carrados is blind). But whilst he may lack vision, he makes up for it with his other senses and he’s able to provide a very good portrait of Thaxted. “The man I sat and walked with is an ardent Carnation grower, smokes Algerian cigars, bites his fingernails, has varicose veins in his left leg and wears an elastic stocking”.
As the Inspector says “you see more with no eyesight than most people with”. Carrados is in danger though, as he’s kidnapped by members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood who plan to keep him out of circulation until the trial is over. And since there’s no guarantee that he’ll get out alive afterwards, Carrados will have to use all of his wits to extricate himself from this dangerous situation.
Max Carrados was created by Ernest Bramah and appeared in a series of stories originally published in The Strand Magazine. This made him a direct contemporary of Sherlock Holmes and his adventures were as popular, if not more so, than Holmes at the time – although like many of the detectives featured in The Rivals, he quickly faded from the public consciousness. The original short story can be read here.
Robert Stephens is delightful as the rather fey detective genius who has managed to overcome the handicap of his blindness by developing his other senses to an impressive degree, as he demonstrates to one of his captors. “Did you know that each man’s footstep is individual and unmistakable?”. This example gives something of an insight into how Carrados is able to make his series of amazing pronouncements.
I recently enjoyed Stephens’ performance in The Box of Delights and Carrados is an equally good turn, although a totally different character. He’s something of a dandy but also shows his steel when facing down the Irish Nationalists. Elsewhere in the cast, George A. Cooper is a suitably bluff policeman whilst Christopher Cazenove is a member of Irish Republican Brotherhood who’s afflicted with a conscience.
Thanks to Robert Stephens, The Missing Witness Sensation is an entertaining fifty minutes and it’s a shame that it was Stephens’ only outing as Carrados.
Next Episode – The Affair of the Avalanche Bicycle & Tyre Co. Ltd