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>
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.
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