Friday, 11 April 2014

"The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" (1970) From the Video Vault

Billy Wilder's flawed masterpiece (United Artists insisted it was cut from 3+ hours down to 125 minutes) is rarely seen. It has impeccable credentials. Co-written by longtime Wilder collaborator, I.A.L. Diamond), sumptuous sets (check out the London club and the street scenes), beautiful Scottish scenery; classy Maurice Binder titles; sublime, melancholy Miklos Rozsa score; perfect English cast (Irene Handl as Mrs Hudson is priceless), Christopher Lee (who at the same time was king of Hammer Horror) as older, smarter bro Mycroft.
Critics were lukewarm when it was released in 1970, making a lot of fuss about the homosexual element (Russian ballet, first story). Now, nearly 45 years later, this film (even though only 2 or the 4 tales remain) compares favourably to recent Holmes remakes: Guy Richie's overkill and BBC's "Sherlock". The 7% solution (cocaine) reference pre-dates the 1976 film of the same name.
The witty, ingenious script has Holmes regretting his biographer's efforts in "The Strand Magazine", grumbling about having to keep up with his image, coming off second best with superspy Mycroft (compare with BBC's "Sherlock"), encountering Queen Victoria, dead dwarfs, gravedigger Stanley Holloway and going all steam punk in Loch Ness.
What about the missing sections? A flashback to Sherlock's university days, 2 more mysteries (one concerning a corpse in an upside-down room, which remains in the Laser Disc edition) and a present day scene. Tantalising, but tragically lost.
From a deleted scene, Sherlock in a fez...delicious fun

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