The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Billy Wilder, 1970)

When a bored Holmes eagerly takes the case of Gabrielle Valladon after an attempt on her life, the search for her missing husband leads to Loch Ness and the legendary monster.

At sixty-two years old, Billy Wilder directed some of the best comedies (Some Like it Hot, The Apartment) of the 1950’s and some of the most inspiring Film Noir (Double Indemnity, Ace in the Hole) of its time. However, the coming of the 1960’s brought many New Waves from France and Czechoslovakia among others and young filmmakers. This new blood and fresh breath let less space and latitude for the directors of the old guard since the public was younger and more acquainted to watch films from their generation of directors. With that being said, Wilder had his touch in his comedies especially to infuse a personal – author approach in every one of his movies. Being on the 1000 Greatest Films list of TSPDT, this lesser known comedy is surely a Billy Wilder film and it portrays one of the most famous private detectives of all time: Sherlock Holmes.

The title character played by Robert Stephens and his long time acolyte Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely) are depicted like the Guy Ritchie pictures starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. It has a British sense of humour and a best buddy feeling to their relationship. We follow some moments of one of the most “racy” stories of Holmes’ investigations. However, just as Roger Ebert points it, the plot lacks in twists and mystery. The actual case is obviously elementary and the public kind of gets it way before its protagonist. 

Not being such a huge fan of the character, and not having read the stories either I entered into The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes with not so much expectations. The first half of the movie might be the strongest when compared to the conventional ending and the obvious denouement. The most interesting elements are Wilder’s comedy and the sexy and dangerous presence of Gabrielle Valladon (Geneviève Page).

In fact, the film itself isn’t a disaster but it falls into the lesser Wilder batch. While being a Wilder film it doesn’t have the fun giddiness of Some Like It Hot or the mastery and thrill of a Double Indemnity. An unequal movie lined with a wonderful foggy cinematography. Worth a look.

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