Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

"Arguably the Best Sherlock Holmes Film Ever Made"

Eureka continues its releasing of Billy Wilder films on UK Blu-ray (hooray!) with his marvellous Sherlock Holmes picture from 1970 starring Robert Stephens as Holmes and Colin Blakely as Watson.

A locked strongbox at a London solicitors contains the Holmes adventures Dr Watson wrote about, but never submitted for publication on account of their delicate nature. First off is the attempts of famous Russian ballerina Madame Petrova (a fairly terrifying Tamara Toumanova) to get Holmes to be the father of her child. Less a 'case' and more an excuse for Clive Revill (as Madame Petrova's manager) to do some entertaining mugging as he and Stephens engage in some of Wilder and I A L Diamond's crackling dialogue, it's perhaps understandable that audience of the period were befuddled as to what the mystery of this story was intended to be (of course, there isn't any).

The second, much lengthier, tale takes the Conan Doyle story A Scandal in Bohemia as its jumping off point, but again things aren't straightforward as Holmes and Watson investigate submarine skullduggery off the coast of Scotland. There should have been other tales but the movie was cut down from its original run time of 200 minutes to the 125 minute print we have now.

A flop on its initial release, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES  is far less about Holmes solving cases and far more about Holmes and Watson the men. As such the lead performances are marvellous. Robert Stephens plays Holmes as brilliant but almost constantly exasperated, with the suggestion of deep emotional scars being to blame, while Blakely plays Watson as a marvellous, down to earth and good-natured rugger bugger of a doctor.

Eureka's Blu-ray transfer is in 1080p. The print looks sparking in places but rather faded, worn and speckled with dots in others. One presumes a restoration of this is not on the cards any time soon. Extras include a new 20 minute interview with Neil Sinyard, plus stuff ported over from previous Region 1 MGM and Kino releases. These include 50 minutes of The Missing Cases - a mixture of audio, script pages, stills and surviving footage, an interview with Christopher Lee (who plays Sherlock's brother Mycroft), an interview with editor Ernest Walter, audio of the deleted epilogue and a trailer. You also get a booklet with new writing on the film from Philip Kemp. 

Billy Wilder's THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is out on UK Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 22nd January

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