The acting, photography and score are tops (Leonard Maltin) in this lively satirical homage from seven-time Academy AwardÂ(r) winner* Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard) and his long-time writing partner I.A.L. Diamond (The ... more »Apartment). When a beautiful woman claims that her dear husband has disappeared, the investigation takes Sherlock Holmes (Robert Stephens) and Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely) to Scotland, whereto their surprisethey uncover a plot involving clandestine society, Her Majesty's Secret Service and the Loch Ness Monster! But before he can deduce matters to the elementary, Holmes makes an error that may jeopardize the national safety of Britain and ruin his reputation! *1960: The Apartment (Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay (with I.A.L.Diamond)); 1950: Sunset Boulevard (Original Screenplay (with Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman, Jr.)); 1945: The Lost Weekend (Director, Adapted Screenplay (with Charles Brackett)); 1987: Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award« less
"This film is a cult classic and well deserving of that status. It's one of my favourite films and for YEARS we were promised the excised footage would be replaced and we could finally see this marvellous film in the form Billy Wilder meant it to be. Well, I am sure like all fans of the film, we waited with hope that NOW they would include all these scenes. And while the film transfer is great and I was sad to see there is NO footage to speak of to be added. There are snippets of film of other adventures, stills flashed over a poor soundtrack, but according to MGM there is no extra scenes, they have been lost.WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT!The film is still a must for Billy Wilder, Robert Stephens, Chris Lee or Sherlock Holmes Fans. But just do not expect all the lost footage to be restored.It is a very very funny look at Holmes, a more human look perhaps. This is a mirthful look at the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, lovingly portrayed with a twinkle in his eye by the late great Sir Robert Stephens. The adventures are fun (the ones we see) but mainly centre around a woman's missing husband. Toss in several hundred canaries, the Loch Ness Monster, missing midgets - the Tumbling Pickaloes to be precise - the mysterious red runner, Queen Victoria, some Trappist monks, an ageing ballerina that does not 'look 39' - that is because she is 49!! -who wants Holmes to father her child and an amnesiac damsel in distress that temps Holmes, all done with the best British wit and droll sense of humour...and you have a mix that cannot miss.Incisive writing and direction, this fill pay homage to Holmes and Watson, with tongue firmly planted in cheek...Even so, the currently version is a true gem, and so overlooked,
all we have left of Billy Wilder genius vision."
70's Masterpiece finally available on DVD
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 09/21/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's a sad commentary on the films featuring Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, that two of my favorites have nothing to do with Doyle at all. The first is They Might Be Giants (with Joanne Woodard a woman named Watson and George C. Scott as a man who believes he is Sherlock Holmes) and Billy Wilder's late period masterpiece. Stuffed with Wilder's characteristic cynical wit, sophisticated dialog and outstanding performances The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes has been out of circulation for too long.MGM's terrific reissue features a number of extras that make this edition worth waiting for. While it doesn't have the cut scenes reintegrated into the film, it does feature a deleted scenes gallery that suggests how the film might have been had it not been butchered prior to general release. Sadly, there's much missing from this "lost" footage and, as a result, we don't get a restoration as much as a "recreation" with bits and pieces and script segments.While this isn't the best transfer I've seen, the overall look is still pretty good. Yes, the look of the film is a bit washed out (not sure if that's due to the transfer or film stock but, knowing about the instability of film stock and less than pristine storage conditions many of these films were kept in, I'd vote for negative deterioation)but it is presented in its original aspect ratio. The overall presentation is quite good considering what MGM had to work with and, barring a restoration by someone like Robert Harris, this is probably the best version we'll ever see.Christopher Lee shines during his brief screen time as Holmes brother. Lee did eventually get to play Holmes as well so it's rather funny to see him playing Holmes brother (after also playing Baskerville in Terry Fisher's Hound of the Baskervilles). Robert Stephens IS Holmes in this film. He lives and breathes the character in ways that Rathbone and others never quite did. I've seen some criticism of Colin Blakely's Watson here but find it to be little more than critcial bluster. Blakely's take on Watson manages to both tip the hat to Nigel Bruce and satirize the way the character was emasculated in most of the film adaptions of Doyle's work.Oh, I'd like to add The Seven Percent Solution to my list of great Holmes adventures not written by Doyle but, sadly, it isn't available in widescreen(at least I haven't been able to find it) on DVD."
Billy Wilder is a wonderful director, after all . . .
Matthew Patton | 05/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why a mess like IRMA LA DOUCE makes a profit and a lovely film like this sinks without a trace is a mystery bigger than anything on display in this "lost" case of Sherlock Holmes, which involves the Truth About The Loch Ness Monster, some very sinister monks, and a lovely woman (Genvieve Page) who drags Holmes into the middle of it all (Well, she does show up on his doorstep stark naked in the middle of night. What's a gentleman, even one who's a bit of a misogynist, supposed to do?). Robert Stephens brings wit, melancholy, and anger to the role, keeping all of these elements of Holmes' personality at play simultaneously, and he is matched splendidly by Colin Blakely's Dr. Watson, who's smarter than Nigel Bruce's Watson and more fun than Conan Doyle's. Page is poised, charming, and ambiguous as the heroine, just the sort of girl to hold Holme's interest. There's also a wonderful supporting performance by Christopher Lee as Holmes' brother Mycroft, a sputtering mixture of affection and aggravation for his impetuous younger brother. And all of this is played against the backround of a splendid score by Miklos Rosza, adapted from his Second Violin Concerto (even if you don't like the movie, try and get a recording of the music). Just when movies like KISS ME, STUPID and THE FORTUNE COOKIE make you wonder if Wilder ever knew what he was doing, along comes a film like this, which reminds you that yes, he knew EXACTLY what he was doing--some of the time, at any rate . . ."
Very entertaining film
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 01/20/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Boasting an excellent cast (including Christopher Lee of former Dracula and current Lord of the Rings fame), this 1970 film directed by none other than Billy Wilder engages the redoubtable Sherlock Holmes (well played by Robert Stephens) in a complex tale involving midgets, canaries, Trappist monks, the Loch Ness monster, a beautiful widow, a top secret government project, and a very stuffy Queen Victoria--among other items. Also included are a haughty Russian ballerina, a Stradivarius violin, Sherlock's supercilious but wickedly intelligent brother Mycroft, hints of sexual deviance, and a drunken Dr. Watson. Oh yes, and let's not forget a woman in a wheelchair, a signalling parasol, and a Scottish castle under construction.Put these all together and you get a devilishly entertaining film shot through with Holmes' mordant wit (for which Watson is the perfect foil), and, as well, with his keen intelligence. The only (minor) flaw I found was how it was that Holmes was not able to decipher the real identity of a critical personage in the tale; that person's real identity was supplied by someone other than Sherlock, which was very surprising. Nevertheless, this is a great film that never bores. Laughter, thrills, and puzzles abound.Colin Blakely is Dr. Watson--to a T. The remaining supporting cast is equally fine. A shame this is not yet on DVD. Perhaps someday....Highly recommended."
A truly great movie even in its present form
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 12/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A long-time dream project for Billy Wilder, beginning life as a musical, going through several years of rewrites and casting proposals - at one point even a vehicle for Peter O'Toole and Peter Sellers until the director found both impossible to make a deal with - before going into production as a hugely expensive $10m budgeted three-hour plus roadshow picture only to be cut down to little over two hours when exhibitors refused to book the uncut version, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is something of a legend in itself. The whereabouts of all the elements for a full restoration has long defied the finest minds in film restoration, adding a layer of mystique and what-if? to the film's reputation.
The best way to watch The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is to forget what could have been and marvel at what is left. For all its problems, even in the heavily cut version that was eventually released, this is one of Billy Wilder's greatest and certainly most heartfelt achievements - and a pretty good yarn as well, throwing missing dwarves, dead canaries, Trappist monks, Swan Lake, Sherlock's mysterious brother Mycroft, Queen Victoria and the Loch Ness Monster into the mix, as well as an amnesiac woman who rouses more than Holmes' professional curiosity, to tragic results.
Throughout, Wilder presents a much less self-assured vision of the great detective than had been seen before. In the opening scene he castigates Watson for the expectations the Doctor's stories in Strand Magazine have instilled in the public, and the film proceeds to ultimately explore that painful gap between expectations and reality with no mercy to the character's feelings but much compassion.
Where to Watson's spirit of adventure, all things are possible, to Holmes all things can be disassembled and found wanting. There's real pain, loneliness and despair behind his façade of dry wit. Robert Stephens' Holmes is a genuinely tragic figure, a victim of his own intellect whose descent into becoming a thinking machine is more an act of self-defence at his poor judgement in matters romantic. The final shots of him reaching for a shot of cocaine to hide a broken heart are one of the most haunting images of its era.
Colin Blakely's Watson too is a great creation. He is never mere comic relief or the all-too-familiar buffoonish stereotype but a fully realised figure pained by his inability to deal with his friend's drug use (and discomfort with being his unwitting supplier). There's a humanity, familiarity and genuine emotional interdependence to their partnership that most other screen pairings have missed, aided immensely by some remarkable writing. If there's such a thing as a script so sharp you could cut yourself on it, then parts of this could cause fatal injury. To quote every good line would mean typing out half of the script, and certainly the entire Bolshoi Ballet where Clive Revill's impresario makes an unusual business proposal to Holmes. But it's not all highbrow. Example: "Who's that at this hour?" "Maybe Mrs Hudson is entertaining?" "Really? I've never found her so."
But more than amusing dialogue, this is a film which has been clearly thought through in every detail - at one point, Holmes' is even glimpsed through a haze of smoke as boredom clogs his mind. Even though Wilder's visual imagination is limited, the film is sumptuous to look at, particularly in its proper widescreen ratio, but for many, the major impetus for buying this DVD will be the location of the soundtrack (but not the picture) for the original opening half-hour of the picture (including The Case of the Upside Down Room) and the picture (but not the sound) for The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners.
The weight of expectation that comes with what has thus far been located of the missing footage is, in truth, more than two of the episodes can bear. The real gem is The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room, less for the case itself but for what it tells us about the relationship between Holmes and Watson, precipitating a crisis that is only resolved by deceit on Holmes' part (Holmes' admission to Watson is very affecting). It's also the only deleted section that seems to serve a real purpose in the film's design. Neither the original opening scene in the train, more of a skit than anything of significance, or The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners advance the plot or illuminate the characters, being little more than overextended, very mildly amusing sketches.
The supplementary section is also mildly disappointing, not because of the effort put in by the producers of the original laserdisc who collated many of them: again, it's a case of decades of expectation working against it. The laserdisc included an early draft script which was intriguing - apparently almost everything was filmed - but also contained some crudely misplaced elements. Mycroft's line about the last doctor who warned him about his gout falling on an orange peel and breaking his neck originally replaced the fruit with a very unconvincing use of the word 'turd,' while the original addenda to the ending, with Lestrade asking Watson if Holmes will help solve the Jack the Ripper case, seems particularly lame. However, for this DVD release only script and stills montages for the deleted scenes are included.
The stills archive is good, although it is a shame that it limits itself to purely colour shots. However, there is far too little of the pressbook for those who want to know more about the film. For some reason a panned-and-scanned version of the quite brilliant but spoiler-heavy trailer has been used, and a well-worn one at that (note to newcomers to the film: avoid it until you've seen it, as it gives away two major plot twists). A lengthy on-camera interview with editor Ernest Walter is also included, although be warned that he gets one detail wrong (it is indeed Jenny Hanley who played Holmes' university `sweetheart' in a lost flashback sequence), while, exclusive to the DVD, there's also a 15-minute interview with Christopher Lee. The isolated music track of Miklos Rozsa's superb score that was on the laserdisc is NOT included on the DVD (the track was problematic: with the masters long lost, a dubbing mix track was used with the volume varying wildly).
Picture quality is somewhat disappointing, especially compared to the laserdisc - a bit soft and definitely in need of a remastering."