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|Index||85 reviews in total|
Even with an hour hacked out by the studio, this film has it all: the last of the great Wilder/Diamond collaborations, terrific acting, beautiful location filming, and one of the most haunting movie soundtracks ever, featuring Miklos Rozsa's Violin Concerto. Not merely a nudge-nudge-wink-wink pastiche, this melancholy film pays homage to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle source material while taking it to even greater emotional depths. And if that rip-out-your-heart-and-tramp-on-it ending doesn't get to you, nothing ever will. This is one of the great forgotten films of the 1970's, a perfect mixture of mood, character, and wit. The DVD, replicating the old laser disc's extras, is an absolute joy for any serious cineaste.
Director Billy Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond fashioned a wild take on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle characters in 1970. Within the first half an hour, they tackle Holmes addiction to cocaine and his mysterious sexual ambiguity, as well as drop references to "Jamaican cigars" and give us a very funny "turn of events", if you will, with Dr. Watson dancing with several male ballet dancers. The rest of the film concentrates on a pretty good-but not very dangerous mystery. This is a very character driven film, so the casting is everything. They almost got it right! Robert Stephens is perhaps the best Holmes ever on screen (sorry Basil and Robert Downey!)A great British stage actor, this is one of his only starring roles on film, shame, he is darn good. Colin Blakely, usually a supporting character in films, enjoys second billing as Dr. Watson, and he is simply incredible. His Watson is funny, but never a buffoon, a mistake made by Nigel Bruce, Jude Law, and too many others. Everyone's favorite Christopher Lee proves here that Holmes brother Mycroft IS smarter, but suffers from a lack of compassion. The only weak link here is Genevieve Page. She never connects with Stephens-which is a major part of the story. Page is a good actress, but Britt Ekland or Elke Sommer at this time would have provided a little sexual twist to role of Gabrielle Valladon. There has never been a film in which the musical score is so perfect and so haunting--it is almost as if the music is a role itself, quite excellent--should have won an Oscar. This was Wilder's last great film, and you can tell it was a personal project for him, directed with skill and care (and a love of Holmes)--Sir Arthur would have loved it--and you will too.
Written in collaboration with I.A.L. Diamond -as usual- born Austrian Billy
Wilder demythologize Sir Arthur Conan Doyle superpopular character and got a
clever and enjoyable film. The Holmes described by Wilder is not very fan of
women and use to give him a cocaine jab when he has not any detective case
to work. Shot in British landscapes, particularly in the Scottish tourist
castles route (I like to see again picturesque Eilean Donan one in Loch
Duich), the film keeps suitable police ambient -you would can qualify it as
a police comedy-, discuss at ironical way about topics like Nessie Monster
and even makes a portrait of the Queen Victoria with ease of manner.
Brilliant, interesting and amusing.
The plot is not based on any Arthur Conan Doyle story but nevertheless
the plot used is one Doyle might have been proud of. It is for a change
intelligent, believable and leads to a satisfactory conclusion. The
settings, interpretations and dialogue are all top notch. Holmes almost
meets his match when he lets his guard down and allows emotion to creep
into his steely mind. Great stuff.
Also they don't cut out his drug habit as if we were all little children who might take up a 5% proof cocaine habit just because we see it on screen. It's an adult movie for Sherlock fans.
It's also very funny thanks to Colin Blakely's Dr Watson and supporting characters - the Russian ballet scene for example - superb mock-Russian voices and misinterpretations such as "Ees not your glass of tea?" Watson's energetic womanising character contrasts nicely with Robert Steven's sombre Holmes. We get to know why he stays away from women - as if we couldn't guess. Geneviève Page is excellent as the sexy spy.
The first half is is where most of the humour is and then the plot gets going for real in the second half. A very enjoyable experience that should satisfy Holmes fans - like me. There have been some very good Homes inventions such as Spielberg's Young Sherlock Holmes and this is one of the earlier interpretations not based on any story but which does not spoil the Holmes character.
This is fun. It wouldn't be if it had strayed too far from the Holmes
persona or if it were not a good movie. Holmes is a favorite from
childhood, and odd take-offs on him are generally not appreciated. I
have settled on the Jeremy Brett series as the definitive version, but
enjoy others that are well done. To me, with remakes and other
versions, if the piece is well done, it is not only acceptable but
enjoyable. With remakes, I don't know what's worse - it being a general
flop as a movie or their changing it all around and calling it the same
thing. Sometimes, both happen. Usually, if you like the subject matter,
you will probably like a good adaptation, if a bit more inventive that
the source material. The Seven Percent Solution movie was well done and
I haven't seen a lot of Robert Stephens, but have appreciated what I have. I looked him up and found that this was pretty light fare for his experience. This is a quality portrayal by him, and the others do a good job as well. The overall production is pleasing. The Dr. Watson portrayal mystifies a bit, that here and in other things, they make him sort of ditsy. That doesn't fit the original stories, nor what Holmes' temperament would seem to tolerate as a companion or assistant with his careful work. Maybe it came from the early Rathbone series with Nigel Bruce. Whether intentional or not, he nearly always had a bumbler quality to his portrayal.
This is a worthy production in all aspects, which I would think garnered some critical approval at its time of release. I can see why it would take the public a while to adjust to seeing Sherlock Holmes as presented here. But, it speaks of the film's overall quality that it has aged well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Billy Wilder's 'The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes' ( 1970 ) is
without doubt my favourite film about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Baker
Street sleuth. Though a box office flop in its day, its popularity has
increased down the years. Advertised for a B.B.C.-1 showing back in the
'70's, 'Radio Times' film critic Philip Jenkinson claimed - rather
oddly in my view - that it was 'a muddled attempt to send up Holmes'.
While there is indeed humour in the picture ( the first thirty minutes
are taken up with a self-contained story in which a Russian ballerina
is so keen to produce a baby genius she tries to get Holmes to become
the father. He gets out of the task by pretending that both he and
Watson are gay! ), the overall tone is melancholic, not what you would
reasonably expect in a laugh-a-minute spoof. The story proper begins
when a beautiful young woman ( Genevieve Page ) is pulled out of the
Thames, having failed in her suicide bid. Holmes establishes her
identity as Gabrielle Valladon, the wife of a missing engineer. Holmes
takes on the case, which leads him to Inverness and Loch Ness. At the
heart of the mystery is a scandal so great and far reaching Dr.Watson (
the brilliant Colin Blakely ) decides he cannot let the world know of
it until well after his - and Holmes' - death.
Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond were keen to make a picture in which Holmes was depicted as emotionally vulnerable. The late Robert Stephens makes a suitably foppish Holmes, a crime-solving genius whose only flaw is his fondness for the occasional seven per cent solution of cocaine. When he and Gabrielle pose as a married couple it looks for a while as though he has found his perfect mate, but of course, she lets him down badly. Your heart will break for Holmes as he retreats to his study to lose himself in the world of drugs once more. Blakely has often been called miscast as 'Watson' but I personally like him in the role, and regret that neither he nor Stephens ever played their characters again. Irene Handl works a treat as the Cockney housekeeper 'Mrs.Hudson', with Christopher Lee ( an one-time Homes himself ) as Sherlock's brother 'Mycroft'.
In his book 'Sherlock Holmes: A Celebration', Allan Eyles claims the story ought not to be considered canonical as there is no way that 'Gabrielle Valladon' and 'Irene Adler' could have possibly been 'the woman'. Fair comment. Even so this is a marvellously entertaining production, with a witty script, fine production values, a top notch cast, and magnificent music by Miklos Rosza. Its lack of success at the time can be attributed to the fact that audiences were tired of big budget movies and wanted smaller, more intimate films such as 'Easy Rider'.
The one thing that prevents this from being a masterpiece is the fact the studio ordered it cut down from three hours to two hours and five minutes. Furthermore, the missing footage seems to have been lost or destroyed. It is a tragedy as this is the kind of movie you want to see more of not less. Funnily enough, a short time before its release another film put a famous British hero in a more human light - the Bond movie 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'. Both are among the very best of their kind.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watson,of course,was referring to Irene Adler,but in Billy Wilder's marvellous "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" the possibility is introduced that in fact there might have been two women of significance in the life of the world's greatest consulting detective. Mr Robert Stephens gives Holmes a humanity too often lacking in movie interpretations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation.There is a vulnerability about this Holmes beneath the facade of omnipotence and detachment. Three stories are woven together quite seamlessly considering it has become apparent since 1970 that a much grander movie was originally made but subsequently butchered by the studio fearful after a series of Big Movie flops had resounded around Hollywood. Mr Colin Blakeley's Watson,although still in awe of his boss's gifts,remains his own man to a larger extent than has previously been the case.Not quite serious but not a buffoon either. Holmes's career stretched from Victorian to Edwardian England,the height of Empire to the dawn of the nightmare of the first World War. As the gaslight and Hansoms of Baker Street fade further into the past, we are still drawn to the comfortable vision of Mrs Hudson bringing up a tray of tea and crumpets as Holmes awaits the knock on the door that will surely lead to him sweeping down the stairs in his Ulster shouting happily to Watson "The game's afoot". In the "Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" the game involved missing engineers,a submarine in Loch Ness crewed by circus midgets and a Russian ballerina with a request of a rather personal nature. For all that it isn't a Conan Doyle story,neither is it a pastiche. It isn't insulting to Sherlockians but it does offer a fresh take on their hero that all but the most orthodox will enjoy.
It remains unclear to me why legendary director of black comedies Billy
Wilder wanted to make a four hour comedy about Sherlock Holmes. Having
seen the excised material on the DVD, I can only say, this is one time
when studio intervention saved the director from his own excesses.
At any rate, the film we have left is a little loose but holds together in its plot fairly well. The comedy is dry, which allows us to enjoy the mystery elements without much embarrassment. The score is moving, photography is quite good, and the acting marvelous throughout - the final moment has real emotional impact. I feel a special attachment to this version of Holmes - I first saw this when I was rather young, and was impressed that Wilder treats his audience as if they are informed adults, this isn't just another B-movie run-through.
May disappoint hardcore Holmes fans, and not as good as it could have been, but as it is, and on its own terms, very entertaining
I am both a fan of the REAL Sherlock Holmes from the original books of
my childhood, and the REAL Billy Wilder of the witty, intelligent,
satisfying movies with an original comic vision that I have grown to
appreciate as an adult. 'The Apartment', 'Stalag 17'...
I have never before seen a Holmes movie that I didn't hate for the way those cherished characters of Holmes and Watson have been distorted... or more commonly... ridiculed. But I came to this movie willing to trust Billy Wilder until he showed that my trust was misplaced.
I was not disappointed in that regard. Robert Stevens is a good Holmes, and embodies both the intelligence and action of the original character. Colin Blakely as Watson takes the responsibility of keeping the mood light, with solid support from Irene Handel, who milks her time on screen to good effect.
The other players play their parts competently, but without drawing too much attention from Holmes and Watson. The only other star of this movie is the music, which is near perfect and creates great atmosphere.
It is important to appreciate the changes that happened to this film from conception to release. The project was conceived and filmed to be an epic movie, showing different facets of Sherlock Holmes in a respectful way, using humour. Four separate but associated stories would comprise over three hours on screen.
Unfortunately, at this stage of his career Billy Wilder's authority was on the wane, and he was overruled by studio heads. Enough evidence exists to show that the truncated movie that was released and remains available has lost virtually all of his creative objective. The film that we know still has great merit, but it appears that we will never get to see the whole Sherlock Holmes story that Billy Wilder actually wrote and filmed.
Many moments of great power remain. However, the overall feeling is that I'm left with disappointment in terms of seeing a fully-fledged and full powered Billy Wilder conception, but the satisfaction of seeing Sherlock Holmes treated with such care and affection... and as I've said before... respect.
Billy Wilder's version of the the real Sherlock Holmes is as interesting as Dr. Watson's, and Watson's version, after all, must satisfy the demands of the Strand magazine, and the popular fiction audience. As the story unfolds, we are treated to Sherlock's wit, as well as his mistakes, which, as he says, Dr. Watson does not write about. We also see him unraveling a couple of mysteries, one more serious than the first mystery of the Russian prima ballerina's plot. His interest in the mystery woman who is delivered to his door unfolds gradually and that interest is underplayed, so pay attention. That point brings us the acting--all excellent, all underplayed, especially Robert Stephens. I don't find the plot hokey, as some 21rst century viewers seem to do--in fact. knowing what we do of the Victorian era, the political machinations before WWI, it seems as possible--if not likely--as many things that happen today. And Wilder being European adds spice to the reality of the fantasy of imagining a real Holmes.
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