The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

1 Apr

This movie, written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond, and produced and directed by Billy Wilder, is one of my all time favourite films.  It’s also a favourite of Sherlock creators Mark Gatiss and Steve Moffat.  Which shows when you watch it on dvd two days after watching “A Scandal in Belgravia”.  I kept finding small points of correlation between the two.  I won’t bring them up.  I’ll let you watch the dvd and discover them for yourselves.  More fun that way.

The cast was pretty impressive.  Robert Stephens played Sherlock Holmes.  His Holmes is damaged, cold, and borderline misogynistic.  Though he denies it.  Holmes: I don’t dislike women, I merely distrust them.  The twinkle in the eye and the arsenic in the soup.

Colin Blakely’s John Watson is less successful.  Whilst not written as a buffoon, that is, unfortunately how Colin played him.  A womaniser, and obviously less intelligent than Holmes.  I had a hard time believing this Watson had ever been an army officer or qualified as a doctor!  Thankfully, the portrayal does not greatly detract from the movie.  But don’t watch it expecting the warm relationship that is apparent in Sherlock.  This Holmes appears at times to almost despise his Watson.  Holmes uses Watson to get out of an awkward situation by intimating that they are a gay couple, without caring how much it would hurt Watson.  An angry, upset Watson tries to work out ways to still any forthcoming gossip.  Watson: Maybe if we got married.  Holmes: Then they’d really talk!

The real comic relief was supplied by the great Irene Handl as Mrs Hudson.  Her relationship with Holmes is almost adversarial.  He enjoys annoying her and baiting her.  Watson: Maybe Mrs Hudson’s entertaining?  Holmes: I’ve never found her so.

The plot is convoluted and intricate, and at times appears to be disconnected.  Involving as it does, Swan Lake, the Loch Ness Monster, and six missing midgets.  Trust me, it all works out in the end.

Of course, there is a Woman.  Not Irene Adler, but Gabrielle Valladon played by Genevieve Page.  Naturally, she isn’t what she is supposed to be.  There are a couple of scenes involving the character that I felt jarred.  Her running naked into Holmes’ arms didn’t worry me, but Watson’s reaction to finding her naked in Holmes’ bed was way off beam.  They are supposed to be friends, but Watson immediately thinks the worst of Holmes! And Holmes sneeringly lets him!  Holmes: If you must know, I found her body quite rewarding. Watson: You cad! Holmes: Especially the palm of her right hand!

First couple of times I watched the movie I completely missed that double entendre!

One of the high points of the film is Christopher Lee as Mycroft Holmes.  He is absolutely perfect (though Mark Gatiss’ Mycroft is my favourite).  The chemistry between Robert Stephens and Christopher Lee just sparks.

Mycroft is coldly condescending to his brother.  He also makes Watson as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  Mycroft eventually gets his comeuppance at the hands of Queen Victoria.  Holmes: Well Mycroft, it seems like we’ve both been undone by a woman.

If you are Sherlockian, I think you will love the movie.  There is just so much to love about “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”.   I know a lot of people didn’t like it when it was released, but really, in my opinion, the good outweighs the bad.

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