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The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Genders: Adventure, Crime, Comedy

Director: Billy Wilder

Writer: Arthur Conan Doyle (characters), Billy Wilder, I.A

Actors: Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Geneviève Page, Christopher Lee

Year: 1970
Run time: 125min
IMDB score: 7.3
Updated: one year ago

Movie infomation

Movie name: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Genders: Adventure, Crime, Comedy

Imdb Score: 7.3

Runtime: 125min

Released: 29 Oct 1970

Director: Billy Wilder

Writer: Arthur Conan Doyle (characters), Billy Wilder, I.A

Actors: Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Geneviève Page, Christopher Lee

Company: MGM

Imdb Link

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Trailer


Review

A surprisingly melancholy celebration of Conan Doyle's most famous creation

8/10 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.

one year ago

Subtle and atmospheric

10/10 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.

one year ago

DVD treasures

5/10 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.

one year ago

A marvelous, delightful, and must see look at the best know and most famous consulting detective.

10/10 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...". ???

one year ago

Strange but enjoyable

8/10 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.

one year ago