The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1970)
Article 2145 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-29-2007
Posting Date: 6-27-2007
Directed by Billy Wilder
Featuring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Genevieve Page

When an amnesiac and nearly drowned woman is brought to the apartment of Sherlock Holmes, he finds himself drawn into a hunt for the woman’s missing husband, a case which brings him to Scotland and to an encounter with the Loch Ness Monster.

Billy Wilder does such a fine job is this comic take on Sherlock Holmes that I wondered what it would be like it he did a serious take on the Doyle character. Still, that would be short-changing the movie a little; yes, it is a comedy, but Wilder’s comedies are never just comedies; the story, though a little far-fetched, works fine enough the way it is, and it does provide some truly mysterious and intriguing elements, such as the challenge of discovering the identity of an amnesiac woman who can’t even remember what country she’s from, the curious tale of the missing midgets, the warning from Mycroft Holmes (an excellent performance from Christopher Lee, perhaps the best known name in the cast) to not pursue the case, a parasol, some trappist monks, and the riddle of the green wedding ring and the three white canaries. The horror elements are obvious from the above description, but there is a strong touch of science fiction to add to the mix before it’s all over. The plot doesn’t really get going until about thirty minutes in; the first part of the movie deals with a separate episode designed to elucidate Holmes’s character somewhat by setting up an incident with a Russian ballerina that ends up resulting in extreme embarassment for Dr. Watson. The movie takes itself seriously enough when it needs to, especially in the heartbreaking and powerful final scene. And once again, I find it a little sad that I will be touching on so little of Wilder’s oeuvre whilst covering nearly half of the oeuvre of his less-talented brother.

 

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