7.0/10
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67 user 31 critic

Without a Clue (1988)

A drunken Sherlock Holmes is really just a cover for the real detective - Dr Watson.

Director:

Thom Eberhardt
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On Disc

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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Caine ... Reginald Kincaid / Sherlock Holmes
Ben Kingsley ... Dr. Watson
Jeffrey Jones ... Inspector Lestrade
Lysette Anthony ... Leslie Giles
Paul Freeman ... Prof. James Moriarty
Nigel Davenport ... Lord Smithwick
Pat Keen Pat Keen ... Mrs. Hudson
Peter Cook ... Greenhough
Tim Killick Tim Killick ... Sebastian
Matthew Savage Matthew Savage ... Wiggins
John Warner John Warner ... Peter Giles
Matthew Sim ... Real Lesley
Harold Innocent ... Mayor Johnson
George Sweeney George Sweeney ... John Clay
Murray Ewan Murray Ewan ... Archie
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Storyline

This is a Sherlock Holmes story with a difference. Here Dr Watson is the ace detective and has been using an actor to play the part Holmes. Holmes is a drunken actor and gets on Watson's nerves. When Watson tries to go it alone, he doesn't have much success, so he is forced to let Holmes take all the credit once more. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

"Without a Clue" is a joyful, rip-roaring, hilarious role-reversal adventure. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Mystery

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 October 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sherlock and Me See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,246,772, 23 October 1988, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$8,539,181
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Actors Michael Caine and Nigel Davenport had both previously appeared in both the earlier feature films 'Play Dirty' (1969) and 'The Last Valley' (1971) as well as a couple of shows for television. See more »

Goofs

They mention the mambo as "a festive Caribbean dance" when in fact the mambo wasn't invented until well into the 20th century ( probably as late as the 1930s) . See more »

Quotes

Watson: Miss Leslie Giles?
Leslie: Yes.
Watson: Dr. John Watson at your service. And this is Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
Leslie: Sherlock Holmes? But what do you want with me?
Holmes: The government suspects that your father has stolen the printing plates for the five-pound note.
Leslie: What?
Holmes: They also believe that he is at the bottom of Lake Windermere, drowned like a rat.
Leslie: Oh...
[She faints]
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Crazy Credits

The opening credits are superimposed over still images of Victorian London. The final shot of Holmes and Watson form the backdrop for the end credits. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Knots Landing: Without a Clue (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Where Did You Get that Hat?
(uncredited)
Written by Joseph J. Sullivan
Performed by Sarah Parr-Byrne
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User Reviews

 
Elementary, My Dear Holmes
26 May 2005 | by Bill SlocumSee all my reviews

"Without A Clue" might be called "Without A Trace," as it sunk upon its 1988 release much like a set of five-pound-note engravings at the bottom of Lake Windemere. Hopefully the new DVD release, albeit pan-and-scan, will give people another chance to catch this terrific send-up of fiction's most celebrated detective.

This is the film that dares reveal Sherlock Holmes is a fraud, an out-of-work actor named Reginald Kincaid (Michael Caine) pulled out of the gutter by a desperate crime-solving doctor named Watson (Ben Kingsley) who needed to produce someone to play the part of this invention of his. Dr. Watson, you see, didn't want the initial notoriety of his sleuthing successes. He desired admission to a medical college that would frown on such things. Now he wishes he wasn't so successful in playing Kincaid off as Holmes; Kincaid's a drunken womanizing blaggard grown too big for his britches, whining that Watson doesn't treat him at all times with the respect his borrowed robes command.

"I am the one the public really cares about," Kincaid/Holmes sniffs.

"Are we talking of the same man who once declared the late Colonel Howard had been bludgeoned to death by a blunt EXCREMENT?"

"Is it my fault if you have such poor handwriting?"

The lines aren't all polished gems, but they complement a pair of nice comic performances by Caine and Kingsley that keep spirits merry as the game goes afoot.

Also well-done is the understated late Victorian period detail and some strategic nods to the Holmes canon like the presence of Mrs. Hudson the housekeeper and the Baker Street Irregulars, all of whom are in on the Kincaid/Holmes secret. There's choice digs at Holmes' notoriety throughout, like a fellow who gives some meaningless eyewitness testimony to Holmes before a rapt hometown crowd who break into applause when Holmes tells Watson: "Make a note of it." Watson's slow burns here and elsewhere reward repeat viewings.

With Henry Mancini doing the score and director Thom Eberhardt effectively working in a light Ealing tone, this film plays like some great lost Peter Sellers comedy, except Sellers would never share the screen so easily with another as Caine and Kingsley do here. Eberhardt also did good work in another film that went past too many people, "Year Of The Comet;" it's a shame we didn't see more of him.

This would be a classic if the mystery at the heart of the story was more developed, and there are a pair of unnecessary killings that distract momentarily from the light tone. I'm not wild about all the supporting performances, but Jeffrey Jones is a very funny Lestrade as he chases Holmes around an abandoned house on his hands and knees, Watson having told his partner first to do his usual sleuthing routine so Watson himself can root around unobserved. Lysette Anthony is sexy and effective as the potential romantic interest, inspiring Holmes to try and solve the case without Watson, as well as look in keyholes when he's not supposed to.

He's less successful attempting elementary deduction when he spies a man he takes for a reporter just back from the subcontinent.

"I'm a barrister and I've never been to India in my life," the man answers.

"But you do read the Times."

"Of course."

"Aha!"

You don't need to be an Arthur Conan Doyle fan to enjoy "Without A Clue," though it helps. This is the best kind of parody, no less riotous and cutting from being a work of true love.


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