This is a darn fine Sherlock Holmes movie by Director Billy Wilder and it’s way ahead of it’s time.Not only does it poke fun of the myths that have grown up around Holmes but also directly deals with his substance abuse, the question of his sexuality and his unmentioned failures. It’s not a shocking reveal of some unearthed Holmes secret but rather an examination of the character and his more notable flaws. It’s not a drastically different character, just a more human one that is portrayed so well and is a worthy predecessor to the Granada series, BBC’s Sherlock and in part to the recent action packed Guy Ritchie movie. Each of them have tried to ground Holmes down to Earth a little more and dispel some of the casual stereotypes we associate with the character.
Originally this was to be a 165 minute movie and structured as a series of adventures. It was later edited down to 125 mins which explains why the first 15 minutes of the film don’t bear any relation to the rest of the films plot. A lot of websites have this down as a comedy. It has funny moments but I wouldn’t call it a comedy. Rather serious in some parts and the ending may leave you with tears that are not those of laughter.
Mycroft Holmes is played here by Christopher Lee a guy I just love to see in movies. He pretty much captures the spirit of Holmes more intelligent, powerful and somewhat smug (with good reason) brother. It’s a role that Lee can really chew on and I believe the character of Mycroft and even Sherlock Holmes lend themselves to his acting talents.
The film is not action packed, it’s at a slower pace and does play like a story right out of the pages of Conan Doyle, perhaps because it was filmed as separate stories. But elements resemble some of the original stories, Gabrielle Valladon could almost be a Irene Adler although I never quite believed Holmes loved Gabrielle, he just had a lot of affection for her. I enjoyed the change of pace to the most recent Guy Ritchie movie which unfortunately couldn’t get made without some serious action sequences to endear itself to modern audiences. Unlike the shocking revelations of “The Seven Percent Solution” we have here a movie that does not stray from the core of the character but rather delves into it without the need to shock and mystify.
Note of interest: Mark Gatiss has said that his Mycroft Holmes in the TV series ‘Sherlock’ was based on Lee’s Mycroft in this film.
Favorite Quote: “Some of us are cursed with memories like flypaper. Stuck there is a staggering amount of miscellaneous data, most of it useless.” – Sherlock Holmes