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The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

PG-13 Released Dec 3, 1970 2h 5m Adventure Comedy Crime Drama LGBTQ+ List
89% Tomatometer 28 Reviews 73% Audience Score 2,500+ Ratings
A bored Sherlock Holmes (Robert Stephens) meets Madame Petrova (Tamara Toumanova), a famed ballerina, who tries to seduce him, hoping that their child will have her body and his brains. He manages to extract himself from her grasp, using Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely) as a decoy. Then he and the doctor head for Loch Ness in search of the missing husband of Gabrielle Valladon (Genevieve Page). While there, they meet Sherlock's brother, Mycroft (Christopher Lee), who aids them in solving the mystery. Read More Read Less
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Critics Reviews

View All (28) Critics Reviews
Stefan Kanfer TIME Magazine The entire effort may, I think, be ascribed to an insufficiency of imagination. Feb 8, 2018 Full Review Noel Murray The Dissolve The plotting is weak, and ill-served by the movie's generally lackadaisical approach; but the dialogue is witty, and Wilder and Diamond get a lot of mileage out of the idea that Sherlock Holmes is as fragile as he is brilliant. Rated: 3.5/5 Jul 22, 2014 Full Review Guardian Billy Wilder's endearingly romantic The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is...worth seeing just for Alexandre Trauner's sets, especially a magical Baker Street. Aug 14, 2007 Full Review David Nusair Reel Film Reviews ...an entirely misguided and misbegotten misfire that surely marks the nadir of Wilder's filmography. Rated: 1/4 Jun 18, 2021 Full Review John Higgins Starburst The film is still enjoyable enough, with good support from Christopher Lee as Holmes' brother Mycroft and a criminally brief appearance by Irene Handl as Mrs. Hudson and it is the performances throughout that maintain the interest. Rated: 7/10 Dec 14, 2017 Full Review Brian Orndorf Blu-ray.com Holmes is an extremely amusing and engaging picture, taking care of all the expected detective work as it offers a few surprises of its own. Rated: A- Sep 27, 2014 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (183) audience reviews
Jens B Why have I ever doubted that Sherlock Holmes + Wilder/Diamond = a very good time? It's a nice comfort watch, and who would have thought that Sherlock finally comes out of the closet? Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/07/24 Full Review Alec B An enjoyable examination of Holmes that's just melancholy enough to have the necessary stakes. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/26/24 Full Review Lanfranco C An unconventional spy story with a deep meaning. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 12/13/23 Full Review Brian S Many will miss the point but this is Wilder at his finest, showing the great detective at his lowest! Here we get Sherlock Holmes the flailing human. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 10/29/23 Full Review Matthew B Sometimes a movie succeeds in spite of all the flaws that should have sunk it, and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is one of those. The director Billy Wilder was reduced to tears when he saw how badly United Artists had butchered his most elegant and expensive film before its release. Yet somehow I prefer The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes to most of Wilder's more tightly constructed films. The story is also a travesty of the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle, and yet it is my favourite Sherlock Holmes movie. Wilder had intended the movie to last for a whopping three hours and twenty minutes. However after a series of recent flops, United Artists cut many scenes, and the final result is two hours long. There have been some attempts to restore lost scenes, but much appears to be sadly lost, and so we will probably never see a director's cut that restores the film back into the form in which it was originally intended to be seen. Nigel Bruce, the most famous of all Dr Watsons, is often criticised for his bumbling portrayal of the good doctor, but Colin Blakeley turns bumbling into buffoonish. Tripping over suitcases, dancing with gay ballet stars and begging Mrs Hudson to put her knee into his back to straighten his spine, his Watson is a figure of fun, and it is hard to imagine him having the intellect to write the stories for Strand magazine. Robert Stephens is a more convincing Holmes. He has the correct ironic and detached manner, though Stephens does bring a faintly camp manner. This is a Holmes who is funnier than the character in Conan Doyle's stories. The original Holmes is not humourless, but he is not as ready with a one-liner as this Holmes. A humorous and fey Holmes is not a problem. More worrying is the fact that this Holmes makes surprisingly few deductions. He solves the mystery surrounding the death of Monsieur Valladon, but there are few of the lightning deductions that we associate with the great detective. Indeed there are occasions where the viewer is ahead of Holmes, observing things that he missed. If this was a spoof on Sherlock Holmes, this might not have mattered, but the film is intended to be more than a comedy. In defence of the film, we can point out that this is the private life of Sherlock Holmes, the incidents that Watson would not have wished the general public to learn about during their lifetime. Perhaps then it is acceptable for Watson to reveal himself to be more inept than he admitted during his lifetime, and for Holmes to occasionally fail to shine. There are other reasons for Holmes' misjudgements, as we shall see later. Indeed there is a satisfaction in seeing both Sherlock and his equally smug brother Mycroft having their egos punctured. For anyone who wishes to put aside the fact that this is not the Holmes and Watson of the original stories, there is much fun to be had from the banter between the two men. There are a number of other incidental pleasures. The photography of the film is beautiful and the landscape of Scotland is put to good use. The sets are detailed and colourful, often surprisingly so – Baker Street is covered in snow or visited by street cleaning devices for shots that last for less than a minute. The film also has a moving music score that hints at the underlying tinge of sadness behind the comedy. If Wilder is irreverent in his portrayal of Holmes and Watson, he shows a love and detailed knowledge of the original tales, some of which are mentioned. Admirers of the Conan Doyle stories will find many comforting elements in here. These include the narration by Watson, Holmes' violin playing and studies of tobacco ash, Mrs Hudson, 221B Baker Street, and Holmes' brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee). The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is not a particularly profound film. Even its pleasing melancholic tinge conceals no hidden depths. However Sherlock Holmes movies are not usually noted for their serious content. What we have instead is a movie that is enormous fun, and which blows life into the familiar Sherlock Holmes clichés. I just wish we had the original uncut film to compare with this butchered but still brilliant production. I wrote a longer appreciation of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes on my blog page if you would like to read more: https://themoviescreenscene.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/the-private-life-of-sherlock-holmes-1970/ Rated 5 out of 5 stars 09/05/23 Full Review Jelisije J The most underrated unique film that studies the character Sherlock Holmes in a very honest unique way. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis A bored Sherlock Holmes (Robert Stephens) meets Madame Petrova (Tamara Toumanova), a famed ballerina, who tries to seduce him, hoping that their child will have her body and his brains. He manages to extract himself from her grasp, using Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely) as a decoy. Then he and the doctor head for Loch Ness in search of the missing husband of Gabrielle Valladon (Genevieve Page). While there, they meet Sherlock's brother, Mycroft (Christopher Lee), who aids them in solving the mystery.
Director
Billy Wilder
Producer
Billy Wilder
Screenwriter
I.A.L. Diamond, Arthur Conan Doyle, Billy Wilder
Distributor
United Artists, Nothing's New Vintage Media
Production Co
The Mirisch Corporation [us], Compton Films, Phalanx Productions, Sir Nigel Films
Rating
PG-13
Genre
Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Drama, LGBTQ+
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Dec 3, 1970, Wide
Release Date (Streaming)
Sep 16, 2008
Runtime
2h 5m
Sound Mix
Mono
Aspect Ratio
Scope (2.35:1)
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