Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes; crime comedy, UK, 1970; D: Billy Wilder, S: Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Genevieve Page, Christopher Lee, Tamara Toumanova, Clive Revill, Irene Handl

50 years after the death of Dr. Watson, the police opens his suitcase and discovers new documents about the life of famous detective Sherlock Holmes: in the 19th Century, the detective got the offer to be the father of the child of a Russian ballet dancer, but refused. He soon got a new, real assignment from the a woman who introduced herself as Gabrielle and persuaded him to search for her missing husband Emile. Holmes, Gabrielle and Watson follow the trace up to Scotland where they discover the monster of Loch Ness is actually a disguised submarine in which Emile died while Gabrielle is actually a German spy. She gets returned to her homeland, but dies somewhere on Japan's territory, much to the pity of Holmes.

After the 60s, it seems the critics and the public ignored virtually every new film Billy Wilder made, even his very personal achievement, humorous crime drama "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes". Today that unusual movie is slightly rehabilitated and attracts with its endless charm and elegantly crafted, smooth structure, turning easily as one of the better—though not among the best—film contributions about the famous fictional detective. Even though Wilder wrote the script with his collaborator I. A. L. Diamond, the story still lacks humor which the duo later corrected in their excellent comedy "Avanti!" The best parts of this cult film are the ones that are rich with observational humor (at the beginning, Sherlock Holmes criticises Watson for constantly idealising and exaggerating his appearance in the newspaper: he described him as a 6'4 tall man even though he is barely 6'1, while the massive acclaim of his violin playing skills caused that he cannot save himself from offers playing at the concerts!), while the sole story about the disappearance of a husband and involves dwarfs, the monster of Loch Ness and spies is absurd enough. Not to mention that one joke is simply gold: after Holmes lied to the countess that he is in gay relationship with Watson, he leaves the party. But Watson, who doesn't know anything about that, stays enthusiastically dancing with the girls—but, alas, as the rumor spreads, the girls all get slowly replaced by a bunch of all gay male ballet dancers, much to the Watson's wonderment. It still remains an enormous sin that the producers cut the film from three to two hours, thus forever losing the missing footage—with such an interesting concept, even those three hours would be fascinating and would have probably added more virtue to the picture.


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