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Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Director: Billy Wilder, Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Irene Handl

Cast: Billy Wilder, Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Irene Handl


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A complete version of Billy Wilder's The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970) is sort of the "Flying Dutchman" of modern movies, equivalent to a complete edition of Orson Welles's Magnificent Ambersons among 40's titles or a complete version of Von Stroheim's Greed in silent movies. There will likely never be one --we're "stuck" with the 125


A complete version of Billy Wilder's The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970) is sort of the "Flying Dutchman" of modern movies, equivalent to a complete edition of Orson Welles's Magnificent Ambersons among 40's titles or a complete version of Von Stroheim's Greed in silent movies. There will likely never be one --we're "stuck" with the 125 minute version -- despite the fact that a nearly four-hour version of the movie did exist at one point, and a separate "answer print" of one of the missing segments was specifically prepared for the production company that financed the movie. The DVD edition, however, is the next best thing -- the producers of the MGM disc have expanded on work done for the special laserdisc version issued in the early 1990's, which contained a reconstruction of the "lost" segment "The Dreadful Business of The Naked Honeymooners." All of the missing segments have been reconstructed here using surviving audio, script pages, stills, and fragmentary film sections, though before watching any of this material, it is recommended that one first view the two featurettes shot for this release. The first of the supplements, entitled "Christopher Lee: Mr. Holmes, Mr. Wilder," is centered on Christopher Lee, who played Mycroft Holmes in the movie and credits Billy Wilder as the greatest of all of the directors with whom he ever worked, and his experience on The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes with changing his life completely. Lee delves into his intellectual relationship with the Holmes character, and his portrayals of the characters of both Sherlock Holmes and Mycroft Holmes at various times, and his friendship with one of Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's sons. Lee's section of the supplement is absorbing on both a personal and an intellectual level, and he ranges freely across literature, film, and personal biography, and this reviewer is only sorry that "Christopher Lee: Mr. Holmes, Mr. Wilder" doesn't run longer. The rather longer interview with editor Ernest Walker tells us a lot more about the production proper, the relationship between Wilder and screenwriter/co-author I.A.L. Diamond on the set (which evidently was akin to the collaboration between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in this instance). And he tells of the lost sequences from the film and the how and why of what was lost when the movie was cut, after the initial assembly of the film. He also tells a fascinating tale of his first formal meeting with Walter Mirisch, on a movie that was never finished, which resulted in his getting to work with Wilder on this movie -- this, in turn, leads to his memories of the original, lost introductory segment of the film. The supplementary section allows the missing sequences to be played straight through or to be selected one at a time from an easy to manipulate menu. The original prologue is represented by on-screen script pages, intercut with surviving stills, that advance gradually like a film clip. "The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room" is handled in somewhat similar fashion, except that there are audio portions (complete with score by Miklos Rozsa) to go along with the script excerpts from the missing sequence and the occasional relevant film clips. "The Adventure Of The Dumbfounded Detective: Holmes Recounts An Affair Of The Past" is made up of stills and script pages, while "The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners" has a beautiful picture but no audio, and the dialogue appears instead as subtitles below the letterboxed image. The movie itself has been given a very good, generally sharp and bright transfer with a letterboxed aspect ratio of 2.35-to-1, capturing the original release's Panavision image in gorgeous detail and rich color. Curiously, the audio level on the movie is set at a slightly higher level than that on the supplements, though both give excellent play to Miklos Rozsa's music. The chaptering is as generous as the supplementary section which, by itself, makes this an essential title to own for anyone who's ever enjoyed Wilder's work. The main menu opens automatically on start-up and the supplements run several layers deep, all of it well labeled and easy to use -- English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available. The bonus materials will keep viewers busy at least as long as the movie will, and its a fascinating lesson in the way movies are conceived, devised, and completed, for better or worse.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Mellow and romantic, Billy Wilder's mutilated late masterwork is more an intimate portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle's famed coke-sniffing, violin-loving, super-rational detective than a straightforward mystery. Shooting elegantly in England, Wilder and longtime co-writer I.A.L. Diamond mine humor from Holmes's suspect sexuality and make plain his drug habit. As played by Robert Stephens, their Holmes is a figure of melancholy and regret. His impossible romance with a woman who is his intellectual match reveals the incompatibility between a life of reason and a life of feeling, yet the poignant end of their relationship renders emotionally palpable what Holmes has lost by being a great detective. Episodic in structure and originally intended to be over three hours long, Sherlock Holmes was drastically cut after a disastrous preview; most of the cut footage is presumed lost. One hour shorter, it was a failure in 1970, but its critical reputation has since flourished due to its visual beauty and fine performances from Stephens, Colin Blakely as Dr. Watson, and Genevieve Page as Holmes's love. The laser disc version contained 12 minutes of restored footage.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Mono]

Special Features

Closed Caption; "Christopher Lee: Mr. Holmes, Mr. Wilder" Featurette; Interview with editor Ernest Walter; Deleted sequences; Photo gallery; Original theatrical trailer; English: Mono; English, French & Spanish language subtitles

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Stephens Sherlock Holmes
Colin Blakely Dr. John H. Watson
Irene Handl Mrs. Hudson
Genevieve Page Gabrielle Valladon
Stanley Holloway 1st Gravedigger
Christopher Lee Mycroft Holmes
Tamara Toumanova Petrova
Clive Revill Rogozhin
George Benson Inspector Lestrade
Catherine Lacey Old Lady
Mollie Maureen Queen Victoria
Peter Madden Von Tirpitz
Robert Cawdron Hotel Manager
Michael Elwyn Cassidy
Michael Balfour Cabby
Frank Thornton Porter
Kenneth Benda Minister
Graham Armitage Wiggins
John Garrie First Carter
Godfrey James 2d Carter
Philip Anthony Lieutenant Commander
Anne Blake Madame
Penny Brahms Actor
Martin Carroll Actor
James Copeland Guide
Eric Francis 2nd Gravedigger
John Gatrell Equerry
Paul Hansard Monk
Ina DeLa Haye Petrova's Maid
Annette Kerr Secretary
Wendy Lingham Actor
Alex McCrindle Baggageman
Kynaston Reeves Old Man
Philip Ross McKellar
John Scott Scientist
Paul Stassino Actor

Technical Credits
Billy Wilder Director,Producer,Screenwriter
David Blair Choreography
Christopher G. Challis Cinematographer
Harry Cordwell Set Decoration/Design
I.A.L. Diamond Screenwriter
Ernest Gasser Makeup
Julie Harris Costumes/Costume Designer
Tony Inglis Art Director
Cliff John Richardson Special Effects
Miklós Rózsa Score Composer
Alexandre Trauner Production Designer
Wally Veevers Special Effects
Ernest Walter Editor
Arthur Conan Doyle Source Author

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Title/Boredom [8:22]
2. A Night at the Ballet [8:35]
3. Interesting Proposition [8:31]
4. Women and Men [7:54]
5. One Beautiful Amnesiac [8:50]
6. Jonah Ltd. [9:53]
7. 32 Ashdown Street [8:02]
8. A Brother's Warning [8:00]
9. Three Boxes [7:52]
10. Four Midgets [8:03]
11. The Right Castle? [6:58]
12. A Dip in the Loch [7:21]
13. The Red Runner [5:03]
14. "We Are Not Amused" [7:42]
15. Eternal Silence [6:33]
16. Ease the Pain/End Credits [7:27]

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