The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) Poster

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Grand even as an edit
kurt_messick21 December 2005
This film is sometimes described as a comedy, and while it has humorous bits (a more sardonic and biting form of humour most of the time), it has never really felt at home being classified as a comedy, in my estimation. I do like the rapid-fire wit that Holmes seems to have here (a bit more in abundance than in the canonical Conan Doyle stories), but the Holmes presented here is a bit more dark and brooding, more akin to the extra-canonical 'Seven Percent Solution' Holmes in many ways.

Wilder was an extraordinary director and genius who sometimes gets carried away with his subject (in this regard, he is sometimes compared with Stanley Kubrick). His films are often of epic-proportions, even though they are not essentially 'epic' subjects. This film is reputed to have been nearly twice as long as the final cut version, but this may be apocryphal in that much of the raw footage never made it to final print and production. The restoration available on the disc currently available is, in fact, rather minimal - a few scenes and a few extras, but not much more than the original release of the film. This is disappointing to many fans, but in fact is more than most of us have had for a long time, as the somewhat choppy film was often mercilessly cut for television broadcast.

Holmes in this case is played by Robert Stephens, an unlikely Holmes in comparison to standards such as Rathbone, Brett, or Gillette, but still an interesting choice - quintessentially British, reserved but daring, brilliant yet flawed and faltering. Colin Blakely presents a stronger Watson than often portrayed before (this film, being made in 1970, presented this as a newer idea for Watson, one that has been picked up by many subsequent productions). Wilder has the actors play at various issues of Victorian sensibility and morality, including the implication (dismissed in the end) that Holmes might have a sexual identity issue. Christopher Lee, who himself plays Holmes in other productions, plays Holmes' smarter brother Mycroft here, to good effect.

The story line does have some inspiration from the canonical stories (the Bruce-Partington Plans, for one), and from Gillette's play (the strange case of Miss Faulkner, introducing an ending that allowed for a love interest for Holmes in the end), but for the most part takes the characters from Conan Doyle and runs far afield. Still, this is must-see film for any fan of Holmes, and any fan of Wilder, who saw this as one of his last great productions.
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Subtle and atmospheric
Moonwrack31 May 2005
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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DVD treasures
prospero-120 July 2003
This has always been one of my favorite movies. A good take on Holmes, a witty story, a bittersweet ending and music by Miklos Rozsa that sets the tone perfectly. When I saw it had become available on DVD I rushed out and bought it, without even checking to see the extras on the disc. The quality of the print is all right, but there are times it should have been better. The extras just kept getting better. Christopher Lee remembers his times playing Holmes in other films as well as Mycroft in this movie. Then there's the film editor who mentions parts of the movie I never heard of. Then the disc shows the deleted scenes in various forms and it's amazing what was cut. There is only one little bit I feel would have explained things in the movie better, but all the scenes are interesting. A must for people who love this film and want a wealth of information.
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Strange but enjoyable
preppy-35 September 2003
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Stephens) and Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely) get involved in a very weird case involving a mysterious French woman (Geneuieve Page), Sherlock's brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee), midgets, Scotland, the Queen and the Loch Ness Monster! Believe it or not they all come together. I originally saw this on TV back in the late 70s but it was so heavily edited (for instance, the entire first half hour was gone because it dealt with gay characters which was still a taboo on TV back then) that I couldn't follow it and gave up. Now it's back on uncut and I'm glad I'm finally able to see it.

A very strange movie but lots of fun. Some people think this is a spoof. It really isn't but there are some very funny moments--my favorite is at the beginning when Holmes blasts Watson for how he writes about his cases--"Watson, I've never said 'elementary my dear Watson' in my life!""Poetic license Holmes". There's also quite a few funny one liners mostly delivered with great relish by Stephens and it does deal with the sexual relations of Holmes and Watson (it was hinted that they were gay lovers). But it does involve a very serious case and the jokes stop towards the end.

Stephens is actually very good as Holmes--he won't make you forget Basil Rathbone but he's not bad. Colin Blakely isn't as big a buffoon as Nigel Bruce was but he tends to overact a little. Page is just terrible as the mystery woman--but then again, English is her second language. Lee, surprisingly, is kind of stiff as Mycroft. He's a very good actor--I'm surprised to see him so bad.

The movie is very lavish (probably because Billy Wilder was involved)...a lot of money and attention was given to sets and costumes, and they actually went on location to shoot the end in Scotland. The cinematography is just beautiful and the movie was never dull. It doesn't always mix the comedy with the drama successfully but it works more often than it misses. As most people know this was HEAVILY edited before it was released and the uncut version doesn't seem to exist anymore. That's too bad but what remains is not bad. Worth catching...a must see for Holmes fans.
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A surprisingly melancholy celebration of Conan Doyle's most famous creation
Rogue-419 February 1999
Billy Wilder's excellent 1970 film handles the whole subject of Sherlock Holmes from a refreshingly different angle. As the title suggests, the film is rather more concerned with characterisation than plot, which although entertaining and original, is hardly an adequate stage to show off Holmes' exceptional talents.

Instead, Wilder and Diamond start with the premise that "Watson's" stories for Strand Magazine were a little more lurid than the "reality" and use it to develop a more subtle characterisation than the "thinking machine" of the literary Holmes. Admittedly, the film probably concentrates on Holmes' celebrated cocaine habit more than it should, but all references are lifted straight from the book and in any case, Stephens does not dwell on it.

Stephens himself is quite simply excellent, giving Holmes' a depth of character not seen again until Jeremy Brett on the small screen. Stephens' performance leaves us with a slightly melancholy Holmes', a man who perhaps regrets that, unlike Watson, he has dedicated his life to pure reason and while the screenplay hints at Holmes' sexuality, Stephens deflects it masterfully, remaining ambivalent and gentile where a less accomplished actor would have been simply camp, and so uses the suggestion to wrap another layer of ambiguity about the character.

All in all, Wilder and Stephens combine to make a refreshingly accessible Holmes and the entertainment comes from the interplay of characters rather than pace of plot.
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Thoroughly civilised, delightful entertainment
R. J.30 March 2003
Billy Wilder's take on the world's most famous detective is both painstakingly faithful and sardonically subversive to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's idiossyncratic creation. Presented as a case that loyal companion John Watson duly recorded but requested remain secret until long after his death, in which Holmes aids a Belgian woman find her missing husband, a mining engineer hired by an apparently non-existant English company, it makes clever use of the rulebook Conan Doyle set down while at the same time undermining it from within. The title and the plot may seem misleading at first - the first half hour especially seems at odds with what comes afterwards - but in fact if you're a Holmes fan you'll quickly realise that this is as close to romance as the detective would ever allow, and Wilder tells it through a masterful accumulation of small touches that only someone as meticulous as the man himself would notice. Script-wise, it's a cracking mystery in the best Doyle tradition, with all the time-honoured twists and turns present and correct. The acting is also up to Wilder's usual standards; Stephens and Blakely are an engaging duo as a bored Holmes and a bumbling Watson, and there's a hysterically funny supporting turn by the always underrated Revill as a Russian ballet impresario. Wilder's trademark pointed cynicism fits the English witticism particularly well, even if at times it all seems a bit too modern for the peaceful Victorian surroundings, but it is quite ironic to see him chiding Britain's stiff-upper-lip, old-fashioned morality when the film seems to be an "old timers' movie" entirely out of sync with its own time. Still, it's hard to find fault in such a thoroughly civilised and delightful entertainment.
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Particular adaptation based on the classic characters about famed sleuth and his helper
ma-cortes12 June 2012
When a bored Holmes (Robert Stephens who also played Holmes on the stage and in TV series 'The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes') eagerly takes the case of Gabrielle Valladon (Genevieve Page) after an attempt on her life , the search for her missing husband leads to Sherlock and Watson (Colin Blakely) towards Loch Ness and the legendary monster. This affectionate story reveals the secret allegedly hidden by Holmes and Watson .

Atypical Holmes movie , resulting to be a extremely personal pastiche of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories and takes a melancholic point of sight at famous eye private . It is packed with intrigue , thrills , emotion , taste , wit , and of course ,intrigue . In the flick appears the usual of the Arthur Conan Doyle's novels : Mycroft (Sherlock's brother , well played by Christopher Lee) , Mistress Hudson (Irene Handl) , and as always Doctor Watson (Colin Blakely). Furthermore , a notorious secondary cast as Clive Revill , Stanley Holloway as an undertaker , Catherine Lacey in her last cinema film and the classic dancer Tamara Toumanova . The film has an enjoyable atmosphere , it's in wonderful color that originates a glamorous setting created by the magnificent cameraman Chistopher Challis , and filmed at Pinewood Studios , Buckinghamshire, and Inverness , Highland , Scotland . Production design by the expert Alexandre Trauner is of first rate , the movie is very atmospheric , 221 Baker Street home , the streets of London , castles are very well designed .

Robert Stephens's interpretation is magnificent, he's one of the best Sherlock Holmes in the cinema , likeness to Peter Cushing and Jeremy Brett in television. Robert Stephens as Holmes plays in a clever , broody and impetuous manner . Colin Blakely plays as Watson with humor, goofy and joy , he's the perfect counterpoint to Holmes . However , initially Peter O'Toole was going to play Sherlock Holmes with Peter Sellers playing Dr. Watson, but Billy Wilder decided to go with lesser known stars instead . Originally, the scenes featuring the Loch Ness Monster were intended to be filmed in the actual Loch , a life-size prop was built which had several Nessie-like humps used to disguise flotation devices , the humps were removed, however, at Billy Wilder's request. Unfortunately, during a test run in Loch Ness, the Monster-prop sank and was never recovered ; a second prop was built, but was only filmed inside a studio tank . At the request of director Billy Wilder, composer Miklós Rózsa adapted music from his own Violin Concerto , opus 24 , as the basis for the film score, supplementing this with further original music.

This special Billy Wilder movie takes melancholy look at Holmes . Apparently, he had been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for many years prior to making this picture. Wilder said of this flick in the book 'Conversations with Wilder' by 'Cameron Crowe' : " when I came back from Paris, it was an absolute disaster, the way it was cut. The whole prologue was cut, a half-sequence was cut , in fact it was intended as a 3 and half hour film . I had tears in my eyes as I looked at the thing. It was the most elegant picture I've ever shot ¨ . The motion picture was panned by the critics whose reputation should soar in future years , being recently a 12 minutes restored . Rating : Better than average , 7/10 . Well worth watching .
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A marvelous, delightful, and must see look at the best know and most famous consulting detective.
ronaldlaporte19 May 2002
Of the films on Sherlock Holmes which have been made, this Billy Wilder version is a masterful blend of drama and comedy. It also has excellent score to match this marvelous film and its main character.

Robert Stephens has captured the mind set of Holmes with a bit of humor added. However, his performance seems slightly detracted with a touch of femininity, but works well within the framework of the film. Holmes, one of the best minds in England, also has a dark side.

Colin Blakely is a fun and delightful bumbling Dr. John Watson, as one might expect in a comic and light hearted film of this nature.

Who else to play Mycroft, but the very talented and marvelous actor, Christopher Lee, who is always a treat to watch.

Genevieve Page is an absolute beautiful and charming woman, making the perfect mystery woman, until her true identity is revealed. We discover a bit of Sherlock's past plans to have wed. But Ms. Page has become the only other woman that has managed to steel the affections of Sherlock's heart.

Over all, an excellent film and a must for any one who enjoys Sherlock Holmes. There is some silly and fun parts to this film, but it only adds to the color and favor of the film and characters. Keep in mind that this is not the PBS series in which you have an entirely different style of Holmes and Watson.

A tid bit for the true movie and Holmes' buffs who enjoy this film. The movie runs over 2 hours, but rumors exists that @50 minutes of the film were cut out before it was released. How marvelous it would be if the 50 minutes were found and added back to the film so we could see the full vision of what Billy Wilder wanted us to see. This leaves us with a real mystery as to what was left on a cutting room floor to be swept out. Or was it swept out? Perhaps as the film begins, the words of Dr. Watson are correct, "Somewhere in the vaults in a bank in London is a tin dispatch box with my name on it...". ???
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"I don't dislike women, I merely distrust them. The twinkle in the eye and the arsenic in the soup..."
ackstasis28 December 2007
Sherlock Holmes is certainly one of literature's all-time most famous characters, the subject of countless novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle between 1887 and 1927. Since then, he has become possibly the most portrayed movie character in cinema history {according to the Guinness Book of Records, over 70 actors have played the coveted part in more than 200 films}. So rich was Conan Doyle's description of Holmes that many readers have come to think of him as a historical figure, and derive enjoyment from speculating on the finer detail's of the private detective's life. Likewise, many authors and filmmakers have decided to expand on the stories of Sherlock Holmes, creating new mysteries that perhaps Dr. John Watson forgot to publish. 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)' is such a tale, directed by master filmmaker Billy Wilder, who also produced and co-wrote {with long-time collaborator I.A.L. Diamond} the film.

'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes' was originally written and filmed as a three-hour roadshow picture, an episodic compilation of Sherlock Holmes' most difficult mysteries. Unfortunately, the studio's unwillingness to take a risk with such a format meant that entire sequences, including a prologue with Watson's grandson in London, and a flashback to Holmes' university years, were inharmoniously cut from the film. Though I was initially unaware of this studio intervention, I met these findings with anger and frustration; while the surviving picture is merely a good film, Billy Wilder's original vision would certainly have been something special. I hear that at least one episode has been restored into later DVD editions of the film, but most of the missing footage remains, devastatingly, permanently absent. The story, as we now find it, is comprised of two unequal portions: the first concerns Holmes' interactions with a glamorous ballet dancer (Tamara Toumanova), casting doubt on the famous detective's sexuality, while the second mystery demonstrates the efforts of Holmes and Watson to locate the husband of an beautiful woman (Geneviève Page) suffering from amnesia.

When little-known British actor Robert Stephens first appeared on screen as Det. Sherlock Holmes, I wasn't certain that he was the suitable man for the job {Wilder had initially considered Peter O'Toole as Holmes, and Peter Sellers as Watson, before deciding to cast unknowns}. However, despite initially appearing too flamboyant to play Conan Doyle's brilliant investigator, I'm happy to say that, by the end of the film, he had well-and-truly grown on me. While Stephens didn't quite match the stories' depiction of Holmes, this is only because Dr. Watson's dramatisations often tend to embellish the truth and misrepresent facts about the detective's personality and demeanour – a point that is alluded to early in the film itself. Colin Blakely, though given very little to do, is a lot of fun as Holmes' companion and biographer, playing the role a lot less serious than I've seen it done in the past. Christopher Lee also appears as Holmes' intellectually-equal brother Mycroft, whose associations with the British government may prove crucial to the case being investigated.
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My brief review of the film
sol-26 September 2005
One of fiction literature's most fascinating pairs of characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are depicted well here in this gem from Billy Wilder, which has a biting, clever and witty script, as well as superb production values. It was intended to be a plus three hours production however, and this intention can be seen in the sort of poor structure of the film. There are only two different segments that can be easily separated, and the two do not mesh all that well together, creating a film with one quarter laugh-out-loud comedy and three quarters gripping, but not all that funny, mystery. Still, it is an enjoyable ride as always from Wilder, and when it is amusing, it is highly entertaining. The music choices are great, the acting is good and other than the final 25 minutes or so, which are rather a drag, it all come across well even with a somewhat disjointed structure.
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Sherlock Holmes the Man Vs Sherlock Holmes the Legend.
Spikeopath9 February 2011
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is directed by Billy Wilder who co-writes the screenplay and story with I. A. L. Diamond. Based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle, it stars Robert Stephens, Geneviève Page, Colin Blakely, Christopher Lee & Irene Handl. Miklós Rózsa scores the music and cinematography is by Christopher Challis.

There were cases that Sherlock Holmes worked on that were deemed of a "scandalous nature" and not for public knowledge. But Dr. Watson made journals, and as Watson's private deposit box is opened some 50 years later, one such journal now sheds light on one particular tricky case, and one that also delved deep into the private life of the greatest of sleuths.

Billy Wilder film's rarely need an introduction, with a CV that contains Stalag 17, The Apartment, Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, his output, it's safe to say, is mostly remembered and quite rightly is often praised. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is not forgotten by Wilder fans, but it most certainly is his most underrated. Originally made as a three hour movie, the film was taken from Wilder and snipped to a two hour picture. So where once there was a four story narrative, weaved together as an episodic humanisation of the "consultant detective", now sits a two story movie. That's it's still a fabulous movie is a towering credit to Wilder and his long time associate, I. A. L. Diamond. With Wilder declaring his displeasure at the final cut of the film, it promptly bombed at the box office. Further lending weight to its reputation as something of a stinker. But time has been kind to it, where the advent of various home format releases and internet discussion forums has seen its stock rise considerably. And rightly so.

Wilder deals an irreverent take on Sherlock Holmes, but one that is not disrespectful to the world created by Arthur Conan Doyle. It's a loving recreation that simply portrays the man as a flawed, yet still genius like, human being: one with his own hang ups and insecurities. Once this has been established in the first third of the movie, and hopefully accepted by the audience, Wilder and co then take us into familiar "case to be solved" territory. Once a bedraggled Geneviève Page turns up at 221B, suffering from amnesia and clearly in need of help, we are whisked along with our intrepid duo on a journey involving canaries, midgets, Trappist monks, Queen Victoria and the Loch Ness Monster. With Sherlock's mysterious brother, Mycroft (Lee), front, centre and very involved too. It may not be a mystery to appease purists of the Holmes literature, but it's real good fun and contains one or two twists and revelations along the way.

Robert Stephens plays Holmes as fey yet articulate, intelligent yet complex, but always with a nod and a wink that surely pleased his knowing director. Colin Blakely is pure effervescence as Watson, excitable and exuberant and perfect comic foil for his more mannered partner. Lee is utterly splendid as the straight laced Mycroft, Page adds a simmering sexuality to the proceedings and Handl is joyously sarcastic as Housekeeper Mrs.. Hudson. Look out, too, for celebrated stage and screen actor Stanley Holloway as a gravedigger. Rózsa's score is very upbeat, even for the more reflective moments, further evidence of Wilder having tongue nicely nestled in cheek, and the score sits snugly with Challis' pleasing photography around the Scottish Highlands. Major bonus here is the marvellous sets by Alexandre Trauner, particularly the recreation of Baker Street, for here be a sometimes forgotten cinema art at its grandest.

A crisp script is crisply executed by all involved, this film deserves the credit that is now finally coming its way. 8.5/10
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tribute and satire on Holmes, wry and clever, with some real intrigue too
MisterWhiplash29 January 2010
Billy Wilder wasn't interested in making any old Sherlock Holmes movie, and this film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, reflect that if only in the sum of the parts that were finally kept in. He meant it to be a "personal" story on Holmes, or rather chronicling the stories from Holmes that weren't included as 'official' stories in the Baker Street files by Dr. Watson. At the same time it was also fashioned as an epic, three-hour "road-show" presentation, but sadly as the 1970's dawned (and crap like Hello Dolly tanked) the road-show slinked away from existence, as did Wilder's preferred cut. And yet, for the concessions Wilder had to make- he intended it as a 'four-part suite' with a prologue and two segments not kept in the film (one or two of these is mostly complete on the deleted segments section of the DVD)- what remains, like Welles with The Magnificent Ambersons, shows more than enough artistic merit and invention of film-making and entertainment to suffice.

In what remains of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes are two stories, pretty much complimentary to one another and almost making Holmes into a 'Pulp Fiction' kind of story arc. At first it looks to be about a mysterious invitation that Holmes and Watson (the former bored out of his gourd without a good case) to the ballet, and there Holmes discovers that he's really been tapped to knock up a primadonna ballerina, to which one of the funniest homosexual jokes unfolds. Then, as Watson questions in the narration about what has really been Holmes' love life, we see the story of a woman from Brussels who has come upon Baker street without any memory of how she got there, though the clues eventually lead Holmes and Watson and the woman to Loch Ness, and a mystery surrounding her husband's death... and, hey, is that really Nessie in there?

While one wonders how the entire epic would have fit together and made the most out of Holmes' 'private' files, one of the joys of the work presented here is how much Wilder is faithful to Doyle without missing out on his voice. This is a rather cynical and sardonic film, and the laughs are the kind, much like in other Wilder films, that sneak up on you five seconds after the line or quip has been laid. It has that intelligence to really work as good dialog, but also allow the actors- underrated Robert Stevens as Holmes and Colin Blakely as Watson, a really fantastic 'buddy' pairing of personality and wit- room to work their stuff. Wilder also has the good mind to cast supporting players well, such as a near unrecognizable Christopher Lee (unlike his Hammer film "Big Dog" of the Baskervilles) as Mycroft, and Genevieve Page as the confused and sad and mysterious woman that leads Holmes and Watson on their story.

If there are any bones to pick they're minor: the look of the picture has a kind of odd fog or shade to it, as if the director of photography was coming up with a technique that would suit Zigmond on McCabe & Mrs. Miller much better (either that or my DVD had a bad print). It's not a terrible choice, but in some scenes it just seemed ancillary to the story being told- only in those foggy scenes on the water of Loch Ness are they effective. But in general this is a handsomely made, self-reflexive film, knowing of what Doyle's world is so meaningful but also questioning what makes its characters tick. It works for both Wilder fans and Holmes aficionados. Whether or not Stevens is the 'best' Holmes I still can't say (some put Rathbone at the top, while I can't wait to see more of Robert Downey Jr), but he does lead a film that is well-paced, comic-tragic in equally satisfying measure, and a few real honest-to-goodness plot twists!
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superb lost neglected masterpiece
Tony Rome8 November 2000
This film is Billy Wilder's lost masterpiece. The film is presented in a two hour and five minute version. If was originally intended to run over three hours, giving the viewer a larger look into the character of Sherlock Holmes. Even suffering a massive cut, Billy Wilders artistry shines in this film. Stephens is superb as Holmes, He portrays a man of brilliance, and wit who is deeply troubled. Watson is played quite well by Colin Blakely. I would one day like to see this film in its original 3 hr version. Maybe some studio has the lost footage. If this is so, the film could be reconstructed for an even better viewing experience.
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The Private Life of the Only Fictional Character Ever Given Honorary "Reality"
theowinthrop16 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The wonderful thing about Sherlock Holmes is that Arthur Conan Doyle's abilities gave us so much information (and lack of information) about him that we can invent details all the time. For example, in 1886 Doyle wrote a manuscript which became A STUDY IN SCARLET, and initially was entitled "A TANGLED SKEIN". He named Watson, his narrator, Orrin Sacker, and named Holmes "Sherrinford". He thought better of both (fortunately). However, in the 1970s Gene Wilder made the movie SHERLOCK HOLMES'S SMARTER BROTHER, and in it he made the younger brother (third after the "Canonical" Mycroft and Sherlock) Sherrinford, and he is assisted by a Scotland Yard Sergeant named Orrin Sacker!

Holmes is the only character in modern (post 1700) fiction that generated so much interest as to make a cottage industry of books, magazines, clubs, and continuations on his (and Watson's, and Moriarty's, and Irene Adler's, and Lestrade's) adventures. Nicholas Meyer did two fictional continuations, one (THE SEVEN-PERCENT SOLUTION) being turned into another successful film with Nicol Williamson, Robert Duval, Alan Arkin - as Sigmund Freud, and Vanessa Redgrave. He is also the only fictional character that many people insist was real - not simply based on Doyle's teacher Dr. Joseph Bell (the subject of a series of "Bell - Doyle" television adventures with Ian Richardson as Bell), but a real "Sherlock Holmes". That is real immortality folks. When was the last time someone suggested there was a real Prince of Denmark named Hamlet?

This Billy Wilder film was unfortunately re-cut for economic reasons that Wilder could not control, but enough remains to enjoy it. Although Robert Stephen and Colin Blakeney are not as powerful box office draws as Peter O'Toole and Peter Sellers would have been, both were highly respectable performers. Stephen played the art teacher lover of Maggie Smith in THE PRIDE OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, and Blakeney was the treacherous servant of Sir Thomas More in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (and later one of the train traveling suspects in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS). They are convincing in their parts here.

Wilder's story is about a woman (Geraldine Page) who is fished from the Thames with Holmes' address on her person. She is trying to find her husband, and Holmes agrees to help. The plot, involving the Loch Ness Monster and national security problems (enter Holmes' brother Mycroft - Christopher Lee in a rare comic performance) is suitably complex, and leads to Holmes stumbling a bit as he falls for the woman in the case. The conclusion is sweet in it's way, but melancholy too.

Wilder being Wilder he could not fail to bring in a sharp joke or two at the expense of his central figures. The Holmes - Watson friendship has been the subject of some speculation over the years: just how close was the friendship? In the scene with the Russian ballet and their impresario (Clive Revill) we see Wilder making a thrust at this particular rumor. Also, unfortunately in a cut scene, Lestrade comes to a preoccupied Holmes with the news of another of those unsolved Ripper murders - they need him on the case. Holmes says he is too busy and can't get involved. Now we know why Jack got away with it!
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Garbled and Commercialized
zolaaar22 October 2005
The difficulties in producing 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes' are denoting for an aging director who refused to accept a change in the film industry. Originally, this film was more than three hours long and an anthology of Holmes' most tricky cases. Today's version is not that complex and emotionally flatter. It was shortened at the instigation of United Artists because other films with over-length of that time (like 'Star' (1968) by Robert Wise) flopped.

But, Wilder's film is still a little masterpiece, mainly due to the brilliant camera work of Christopher Challis with wonderful shots full of tender sensation and a certain wistfulness. Sadly without big success at the cash boxes which would have been more than deserved.
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the mystery of the missing film
1sadbastard16 September 2003
I only found out recently that the film was heavily cut. Two whole missing sections - The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room and The Case of The Naked Honeymooners never made it to the theatrical release, as well as a couple of other small sections. Where the hell are they? In these days of extended editions, DVD extras, etc, this would be a perfect chance to show Billy's film as he had intended. Touch of Evil was re-cut to Welles original specification recently, so it is possible - providing you still have access to the material. Even if it is too long - a reported 3 hours and twenty minutes - I'd like the chance to make my own mind up.

The film itself is still of interest. Performances are good, it is atmospheric, both visually and musically and the humour not too out of place. The homosexual/misogyny angle is of particular interest and one of the main reasons why Billy set out to try and make a Sherlock Holmes picture in the first place. Many of Billy's films carry these themes, of course, but Holmes mysterious quality leant itself to this interpretation. And so what? He may be in the closet, but he still falls for Gabrielle Valadon. And the end...very touching, beautifully handled.
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a must see for everyone interested in true cinema
grumpy-34 December 2000
This was Wilder's last great work, his tribute and homage to Ernst Lubitch his mentor. A film of rare majestic, beauty and though not obvious,true romance. Definitely the best Holmes film ever. From the sparkling and witty script to the faultless performances from all concerned, the great scope photography, and Miklos Rozsa elegant score, the film is the culmination of one of cinema's great masters. As usual the critics and public did not take to it at it's time of release and UA cut a whole section from it, but yet again time has made people wonder what this film is.
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A great mix of mystery and comedy!
vertigofan-324 November 2002

Seen this other day! What an homage to Sherlock Holmes! It's a must to any fan of the books dying to see a faithful and 100% victorian version. It features Colin Stephens as the famous detective, in a acccurate, mysoginist personification and Colin Blakely as an amusing Watson. The cast also has Christopher Lee (one of my fave actors) as the snob Mycroft Holmes and Stanley Holloway in a small part. There's a french actress that is the Holmes only passion in life and she actually has a naked little scene! I guess the 70's permitted that-- Anyway, Billy Wilder couldn't resist putting his comic flair here, and it works surprisingly well, each scene with Stephens and Blakely is delicious. This don't get the 9 rating cause of my preference of Poirot adaptations. Yet to all Holmes fans- RENT IT NOW!
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One of the best Sherlock and Watson ever!
JamesSaintRave27 August 2013
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.
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Excellent adaptation
kjruk25 February 2013
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.
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"To Sherlock Holmes she was always THE woman"................
ianlouisiana25 February 2010
Warning: 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.
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a complete and a brilliant film
powell231726 December 2005
This film is my all time favourite and always will be. The first time i watched it I knew from it's wonderful opening credits that i was going to love it. It's never even mattered to me that the movie takes liberties with the basics of the Holmes stories, depicting Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes as rivals. For me the film's perfection lies in the brilliance of all it's elements - i.e. script, cast, score. Robert Stephens is a superb Holmes, melancholy, witty, dry & delightful. Editing of the film prior to its original release & the subsequence loss of the edited footage (to a certain degree, since some survives and can be found on the US DVD release) is frequently used by fans to criticise the film as it stands, however without the lost footage the film stands as a complete and a brilliant film.
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Ballerinas ,Victoria,and the Loch Ness monster.
dbdumonteil8 July 2001
They are all here in Wilder's most underrated movie.On the site,people complain about the editing,but you cannot put the blame on the director:his three-hour work was boiled down to a two-hour digest.What remains is splendid indeed:magnificence of the film sets -Trauner's work,he who elaborated those of Carné's "les enfants du paradis "(children of paradise)-,intelligence of the screenplay (not adapted from Conan Doyle,achieving the feat of paying a tribute to the great writer while kindly laughing at his hero:Sherlock is manipulated,cheated,sometimes it seems that he's no more in control of what's happening .His deductions are elephantine:at the opera,they use paper swans ,therefore (sic) the lake monster is a fake.It could be a fake lake too,mind you.Genevieve Page provides the love interest and her sunshade is a good stroke of inspiration.Sherlock certainly did love her,because ,when he reads about her tragic demise,he solaces himself with music and fairly disreputable methods.Let's hope ,that some day,we will be allowed to see the whole movie as Wilder had originally conceived it:a great director like him more than deserves it!
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Most underrated Holmes movie
Christopher Smith13 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
There have been many strange productions featuring the character of Sherlock Holmes. There's been "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century", a cartoon that re-imagined Sherlock Holmes in the future with a robot Watson. There's been the amazing Young Sherlock Holmes that features a sequence where Watson suffers from a hallucination in which he is chased by a giant cupcake. There's been the Asylum production of Sherlock Holmes featuring dinosaurs. All of these have been so out there that they have been entertaining regardless of how blasphemous they may seem to Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts. To me, no Sherlock Holmes production can match the insanity, strangeness, and odd entertainment value of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Directed by the great Billy Wilder, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes can be described in one simple sentence: Sherlock Holmes hunts the Loch Ness monster. It is an absurd premise for sure, and one with a twist ending almost too bizarre for words, but I can't help but love this movie. It's both stupid and brilliant at the same time. Christopher Lee as Mycroft is inspired casting, and the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is way more touching and sympathetic than one would expect from a movie that features the Loch Ness monster as a main storyline.

Much has been made about the fact that the studio made Billy Wilder cut the movie down from its original version. I have no doubt that Wilder's original version was even better than what made it to screen, but I still love the final version. It's such a unique, strange, and all around different interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes mythos that it's near impossible to hate this movie. A movie this offbeat would never be made by a studio today. It's an oddity for sure, though one that is definitely worth checking out for Sherlock Holmes fans.

If there's a downside to The Private Lives of Sherlock Holmes, it's that it's evident at times that the movie has been cut down from a longer version. It doesn't destroy the movie by any means, but there are times when the flow of the film seems mildly choppy. The episodic nature of the whole production is inevitable since the film itself is divided into individual segments, but every so often it's clear there was post-production trouble.

Even though it's probably viewed as one of Billy Wilder's lesser films, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is well worth watching for Sherlock Holmes fans. It's a forgotten gem that one day will hopefully get the director's cut it deserves. I can't say it's perfect, though it is, at the very least, a fascinating watch. Recommended. 8/10
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Not Really Messing With Holmes
misctidsandbits10 October 2011
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 enjoyable.

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.
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