The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes

Underrated Billy Wilder movie revived at the NFT

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Opens December 6, Cert PG, 125 mins

The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970) was a box office dud for Wilder. Certainly, it’s flawed?there’s an embarrassingly ill-judged scene involving Queen Victoria, and the film takes a while to get going. But get going it does.

The opening sees Holmes (Robert Stephens) amusingly castigate Watson for embroidering him in his memoirs, to the extent that he has to wear a ridiculous deerstalker to pander to public expectations. Subsequently, Holmes pretends he’s in a homosexual relationship with Watson (Colin Blakely) to repel the propositions of a Russian ballerina. Aghast, Watson wonders whether Holmes is indeed gay. However, when a mysterious amnesiac Belgian female arrives on his doorstep, initiating an adventure which takes him from London to Loch Ness involving a submarine, a troupe of midgets and German espionage, Holmes’ indifference to women is tested. Moving symphonically from farcical to melancholic, peppered with tart, bittersweet dialogue and bolstered by fine performances, The Private Life… merits a more sympathetic viewing than it was initially granted.

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