Private Life of Sherlock Holmes [1970]

This 1970 Billy Wilder comedy-drama about a major defeat in the career of Sherlock Holmes may have little to do with the legacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but in its uncut form it happens to be one of the finest films of the decade. Robert Stephens makes a perfectly splendid Holmes, brilliant, sophisticated, and deeply flawed, while Colin Blakely plays Dr. Watson as a drinker and ladies' man with more personality and intelligence than is often granted him by filmmakers. The case (which has some echoes of Doyle's story "The Bruce-Partington Plans") begins with Holmes aiding the distressed Madame Valladon (Geneviève Page), who is searching for her missing husband. The inquiry shifts to Scotland, and despite a stern warning from the hero's brother, Mycroft Holmes (Christopher Lee), Sherlock pursues events that reveal a top-secret government plan. Lush, energetic, funny, gorgeous to look at, and ultimately tragic, the film is layered with Wilder's familiar collision of cynicism and yearning, hope and betrayal, grace and isolation. --Tom Keogh

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