This entertaining addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon saw Billy Wilder come up with a new adventure for the famous consulting detective (Robert Stephens) and his faithful colleague Dr Watson (Colin Blakely). The film works as two stories, both involving ladies (Tamara Toumanova and Genevieve Page) and revolving around a missing husband, the Loch Ness monster and machinations in high places with Christopher Lee in place as Mycroft, Holmes’ older brother, who plays a double game.
What is fascinating is that Wilder’s Holmes starts out as a romantic and it is the betrayal by a woman that leads him to become the passionless creature portrayed by Conan Doyle. But the director also plays fair to the conventions, offering such clues as dead canaries, dwarves and a plethora of red herrings to drive the logic of the plot on to its conclusion that, while fantastic, is totally logical.
Wilder didn’t stint on the look of the film. Baker Street was re-created in Pinewood – it took four months to build and shots employed 100 extras and 19 carriages of the period alone while the Scottish scenes were shot in and around Inverness, home of the legendary monster. But what makes the film stand out is the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Previous and future films were to portray the good doctor as a bumbling fool and Holmes as the supreme intelligence but Wilder shows the flaws in both men and their affection for each other and, in doing so, creates a relationship that is, at times, genuinely moving.
UK / 1970
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Billy Wilder, I A L Diamond
Cast: Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Christopher Lee, Genvieve Page