Walter Matthau plays a professional killer going by the name of Trabucco, who is on his way to rub out gangster Rudy "Disco" Gambola, set to testify against the mob. As Trabucco heads off ... See full summary »
Director Billy Wilder adds a new and intriguing twist to the personality of intrepid detective Sherlock Holmes. One thing hasn't changed however: Holmes' crime-solving talents. Holmes and Dr. Watson take on the case of a beautiful woman whose husband has vanished. The investigation proves strange indeed, involving six missing midgets, villainous monks, a Scottish castle, the Loch Ness monster, and covert naval experiments. Can the sleuths make sense of all this and solve the mystery? Written by
Joel Preuninger <Jhpreunin@aol.com>
With a 260-page script and a budget of $10 million, this was set to be a 165-minute Road Show picture with an intermission for comfort. It was to be the "Big One" for Billy Wilder. The shooting schedule ran for six months and resulted in a rough-cut that came in at three hours and 20 minutes. The film was originally structured as a series of very specifically structured linked episodes, each with a particular title and theme. The opening sequence was to feature Watson's grandson in London claiming his inherited dispatch box from Cox & Co. and there was also a flashback to Holmes' Oxford days to explain his distrust of women. All were shot, but deleted from the final print. So what happened? Well, it appears that United Artists suffered a number of major film flops in 1969 that pretty much scuppered the road show format for Wilder's massive project. Studio execs ordered the film to be cut to fill a regular theatrical running time, whittling it down to a 125-minute version. The episodic format made the pruning process relatively simple, so cut were the opening sequence, the Oxford flashback and two full episodes entitled "The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners" at 15 minutes and "The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room" at 30 minutes. We can only hope that the full footage can one day be restored, although a full print is not currently thought to exist. See more »
The film's prologue depicts two contemporary men opening Dr. Watson's case and handling the various contents archived inside. We see one close-up shot of a man handling a single pair of old handcuffs and putting them down on the table. A short time later, the filmmakers repeat the very same footage of the man handling the handcuffs and putting them down on the table. See more »
[after he learns Madame Petrova wants him to impregnate her]
This is all very flattering, but surely there are other men, better men.
To tell truth, you were not the first choice. We considered Russian writer, Tolstoy.
Oh, that's more like it. The man's a genius.
Too old. Then we considered philosopher, Nietzsche.
Well, absolutely first-rate mind.
Uh-uh. Too German. Then we considered Tchaikovsky.
Oh, you couldn't go wrong with Tchaikovsky.
We could, and we did. It was catastrophe.
See more »
As a Conan Doyle purist, I had not intended to watch this film when it first appeared on UK TV some years ago. Curiosity overcame me and I switched on at the sequence with Stephens and Genevieve Page on their bicycle. I was immediately fascinated, particularly by the music, which appears to have been specially written for this scene. Elsewhere, in the film, the music is taken from Rozsa's 1956 violin concerto which, unusually, was not written as film music but which partly inspired Wilder to produce the film.
The acting is excellent, particularly by Stephens, slightly less so by Blakely although Watson is probably the most difficult Doylesian character to play. Clive Revill has also been praised for his part. Christopher Lee gives an early display of his impeccable technique. Genevieve Page is perfect in her role and the subtle nuances of her acting are a joy to behold. She also has a beautiful voice, with a wide vocal range.
There is also some brilliant casting. Stanley Holloway as a gravedigger is a witty reference to his playing of that part in Olivier's Hamlet, although his Scottish accent is not the most convincing. Irene Handl made an excellent Mrs Hudson. Frank Thornton was also a fine choice for the tiny part of receptionist at the Diogenes Club. Britons of a certain generation, had they been able to see the missing episodes, would have recognised Noel Johnson as the sea captain in the Naked Honeymooners episode. Johnson had a distinctive and powerful voice and became famous in 1948 as the BBC fictional radio detective Dick Barton.
It is, of course, sad that significant parts of the film have been lost. Nevertheless, In its shortened form, it works well for cinema presentation. Now that domestic DVD players are common, a full-length version would be perfectly acceptable, since viewers would have control over which parts, if any, they might want to skip through. Meanwhile, the German Spy episode in particular stands beautifully on its own. Wilder creates a wonderful feeling of the atmosphere of 1888. The outdoor scenes in Scotland also provide a nostalgic feeling for the year in which filming took place there; presumably 1969 for the 1970 release.
41 of 45 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?