The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is unlike any Sherlock Holmes story I’ve ever seen, but I should expect nothing less from Billy Wilder. This incarnation of Holmes is about the Holmes we do not see, the Holmes Waston and the people he works the cases of see; this is Holmes complete with bumps, bruises, faux pas, brilliant moments and confounding mysteries.
This time Sherlock takes a case that appears to be rather mundane, an amnesiac woman washes onto his doorstep and once she regains her memory it appears that she is looking for her missing husband. Watson & Sherlock take the case and track it all the way to Scotland and the Loch Ness monster only to find out that the case is nothing that it seems.
What I love about Billy Wilder is that his films are vastly unique from anything else you’ll ever watch. I was hooked on this one from the opening titles; Wilder enjoys building subtext and meaning into everything that he does and this starts right in the titles. For the titles Watson’s bag is opened presumably after his death, and he has left a letter explaining a case that he never wrote about; as the letter is read the items in Watson’s case are examined and the wonderful thing that is done is that every object has a dual purpose, it appears to be one thing but is actually something else – until a syringe is pulled out. The double meaning of this item is actually what the rest of the film is about.
Wilder paints Holmes as a complex, tortured and brilliant man. A man who would rather shun society than deign to appear in the trivial goings on of day to day life. Honestly, he’s a bit of a prick, but somehow this makes him human.
I loved this version of Sherlock Holmes, but it only excites me for what’s coming this Christmas – the return of Holmes to the big screen in with Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie.
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Billy Wilder & IAL Diamond
Sherlock Holmes: Robert Stephens
Dr. Watson: Colin Blakely
Gabrielle: Genevieve Page
Mycroft Holmes: Christopher Lee
Holmes: Some of us are cursed with memories like flypaper. Stuck there is a staggering amount of miscellaneous data, most of it useless.