The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) – Billy Wilder

The next title in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book is a bit of a red herring, which is kind of appropriate as it is kind of a mystery. Despite being nestled in the chapter on dragons and dinosaurs, the dinosaur, or monster in this one is apparent, from it’s first appearance that it is not what it appears to be.

Written in part, as well as produced and directed by Billy Wilder, the iconic director takes on Arthur Conan Doyle’s greatest creation, Sherlock Holmes. As Watson (Colin Blakely) points out not all of Holmes’ (Robert Stephens) cases were successes, and could have caused the world’s only consulting detective some serious embarrassment should they come to light.

This is one of those cases.

When an amnesiac young woman, Gabrielle (Genevieve Page) shows up at 221B Baker Street, Holmes and Watson find themselves involved in a case featuring international intrigue, Holmes’ brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee) and the Loch Ness Monster.

The film features some great location work, though not as beautifully featured as it could have been, and a surprisingly fun story where the humour comes from the dialogue and the character interactions as opposed to silly situations (he says despite the fact that Nessie is a plot point in the film).

The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes

All the clues are laid out for the  viewer to attempt to put together, and from the opening titles the game is afoot. Both Blakely and Lee are at ease in the worlds created by Doyle, and seem to be wonderfully cast, Stephens’ performance seems to not quite be what one expects of Holmes.

That being said, I love the ending, and the way it plays out, as it is very much in fitting with the character, and is not a Hollywood ending as the times would have predicted.

It should come as no surprise that the Loch Ness monster featured in the film isn’t a ‘real’ dinosaur within the reality of the film world, but it is the clue to the reveal of what is really going on.

That being said, it’s not even a fun version of the monster (and yes, I was fascinated by the idea of lake monsters as a kid – the thought that such creatures could possibly still be inhabiting our world – fantastic). Still, this film makes a fun diversion from some of the other dinosaurs and dragons that have populated this chapter.

And it was fun to see Billy Wilder’s take on the classic detective, and while most of it rings true, I think I would have been happier with a different actor in the role.

Check out this film, or pick up a copy of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies, and find something monstrous to watch tonight!

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