The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
|The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes|
1970 film poster by Robert McGinnis
|Directed by||Billy Wilder|
|Produced by||I. A. L. Diamond
|Written by||I. A. L. Diamond
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Editing by||Ernest Walter|
The Mirisch Corporation
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release dates||29 October 1970 (US)
3 December 1970 (UK)
|Running time||125 minutes|
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a 1970 film directed and produced by Billy Wilder; he also shared writing credit with his longtime collaborator I. A. L. Diamond. It starred Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes and Colin Blakely as Dr. Watson. The film offers an affectionate, slightly parodic look at the man behind the public façade, and draws a distinction between the "real" Holmes and the character portrayed by Watson in his stories for The Strand magazine.
The film was originally intended as a roadshow attraction, touring major cities only on its initial run. However, it was heavily edited on its original release, and significant sections of the film are now missing.
The film is divided into two separate, unequal stories. In the shorter of the two, Holmes is approached by a famous Russian ballerina, Madame Petrova (Tamara Toumanova), who proposes that they conceive a child together, one who she hopes will inherit her physique and his intellect. Holmes manages to extricate himself by claiming that Watson is his lover, much to the doctor's embarrassment. (In the canonical stories, Holmes is not known to have had any relations with women, whereas Watson has, having been married.) This part of the story was clearly inspired by the meeting between playwright George Bernard Shaw and the dancer Isadora Duncan. She is reported to have said, "You are the greatest brain in the world and I have the most beautiful body, so we ought to produce the most perfect child.", to which he replied, "What if the child inherits my beauty and your brains?"
In the main plot, Belgian Gabrielle Valladon (Geneviève Page) is fished out of the River Thames and brought to Baker Street. She begs Holmes to find her missing engineer husband. The resulting investigation leads to a castle in Scotland. Along the way, they encounter a group of monks and some midgets, and Watson apparently sights the Loch Ness monster.
It turns out that Sherlock's brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee) is involved in building a pre-World War I submarine for the British Navy, with the assistance of Monsieur Valladon. (This aspect of the plot is similar to the Holmes story "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans".) When taken out for testing, it was disguised as a sea monster. The midgets were recruited as crewmen because they took up less space and needed less air. When they meet, Mycroft informs Sherlock that his client is actually a top German spy, Ilse von Hoffmanstal, sent to steal the submersible. The "monks" are German sailors.
Queen Victoria (Mollie Maureen) arrives for an inspection of the new weapon, but objects to its unsportsmanlike nature. She orders the exasperated Mycroft to destroy it, so he conveniently leaves it unguarded for the monks to take (rigging it to sink when it is submerged). Fräulein von Hoffmanstal is arrested, to be exchanged for her British counterpart.
In the final scene some months later, Sherlock receives a message from his brother, telling him that von Hoffmanstal had been arrested as a spy in Japan and subsequently, executed by firing squad. Saddened, the detective retreats to his room to seek solace in drugs and his violin.
The film originally contained another two separate stories, and a further flashback sequence showing Holmes in his university days. These were all filmed, but later cut from the final release print. One sequence, in which Holmes investigates the seemingly impossible case of a corpse found in an upside down room, has been recovered and restored to the film's laser disc release. The Region 1 DVD release restored portions of these segments and several others. They are made up of soundtrack and a series of stills. Another scene features Colin Blakely as a descendant of Watson receiving the tin dispatch box from solicitors.
- Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes
- Colin Blakely as Dr. John H. Watson
- Geneviève Page as Gabrielle Valladon
- Christopher Lee as Mycroft Holmes
- Irene Handl as Mrs. Hudson
- Clive Revill as Rogozhin
- Tamara Toumanova as Madame Petrova
- Stanley Holloway as 1st Gravedigger
- Mollie Maureen as Queen Victoria
- Catherine Lacey as Old Woman
- James Copeland as the guide
- Jenny Hanley as a prostitute
The film was not a major box office success and has received mixed reviews. While 21 critics give it a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (a number considered insufficient for a consensus), the 3800 audience raters give it a somewhat lower 68% rating. Kim Newman, reviewing it in Empire magazine, described it as the "best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made" and "sorely underrated in the Wilder canon". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, reviewing the film in 2002, wrote: "Billy Wilder's distinctive, irreverent slant on the world's greatest 'consulting detective' holds up reasonably well 32 years on; you wouldn't expect anything directed by Wilder and scripted by his long-time associate I. A. L. Diamond to be anything less than funny and watchable, and this is both." Roger Ebert was more critical, giving the film two and a half stars out of four. He wrote that it is "disappointingly lacking in bite and sophistication", that it "begins promisingly enough" but that "before the movie is 20 minutes old, Wilder has settled for simply telling a Sherlock Holmes adventure."
- A Movie A Day: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1970)
- DVD Savant review
- The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
- Empire Reviews Central – Review of The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes
- The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes | Culture | The Guardian
- The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews
- The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes at the Internet Movie Database
- The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes at the TCM Movie Database
- The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes at allmovie