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The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)



Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.



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Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 3,856

My Rating

Movie Info

In Billy Wilder's cinematic homage to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British stage luminary Robert Stephens plays Holmes, while Colin Blakely is his friend and chronicler Dr. Watson. This self-described "hitherto suppressed and thoroughly fascinating" tale concerns Holmes' search for a missing mining engineer -- a case that may have a far-reaching effect on the national security of England. Along the way, Holmes falls in love for the first time in his life, with enigmatic foreign beauty

Jul 15, 2003


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All Critics (21) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (1) | DVD (5)

It is in large part old-fashioned, in that it's mile-wide and ancient-history Sherlock Holmes, but it's also handsomely produced and directed with incisiveness by Wilder.

August 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
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A wonderful, cruelly underrated film.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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Wilder's second most underrated masterpiece.

September 29, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
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Before the movie is 20 minutes old, Wilder has settled for simply telling a Sherlock Holmes adventure.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
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The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is comparatively mild Billy Wilder and rather daring Sherlock Holmes, not a perfect mix, perhaps, but a fond and entertaining one.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
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Affectionately conceived, chock-full of marvelous subtleties, this meticulously constructed adventure-romance shouldn't be missed.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This existing version is still fascinating, funny and clever.

August 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Billy Wilder's endearingly romantic The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is...worth seeing just for Alexandre Trauner's sets, especially a magical Baker Street.

August 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

This unjustly forgotten Billy Wilder film takes on the much-loved character of Sherlock Holmes and attempts to humanize him by examining his vulnerabilities.

August 14, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

A true evocation of the spirit of the Strand Magazine, this is the best Holmes movie ever made and sorely underrated in the Wilder canon.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Stage actor Robert Stephens brilliantly plays Holmes with a nod and a wink.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Billy Wilder's psychological angle on Holmes is compelling.

June 12, 2005

Wilder's after something more profound than a simple mystery tale here and to a large extent he succeeds in his quest to cast the man in relief when held up against The Legend

October 25, 2004 Full Review Source:

The setup is brilliant. The central mystery -- concerning the Loch Ness Monster -- is less rewarding, and its shaggy sea-monster solution somewhat less than that.

August 14, 2003 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

A mismatch of flavours (Holmes, Wilder) the thought of which doesn't so much turn your stomach as lead to speculation, and the taste of which is soured only by a foreknowledge of missed opportunities.

July 9, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

Billy Wilder stamps his own inimitable mark on to the strange case of Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest invention.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4

You wouldn't expect anything directed by Wilder and scripted by his long-time associate IAL Diamond to be anything less than funny and watchable, and this is both.

December 10, 2002 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

While it never achieves what the lost three hour print could have accomplished, this is still one of the sparkiest adventures that the private detective ever left 221b Baker Street for.

November 22, 2002 Full Review Source: BBC

The story keeps accumulating disparate and baffling developments in a way that Conan Doyle would have been proud of

September 24, 2002 Full Review

Audience Reviews for The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Holmes: We all have occasional failures. Fortunately Dr. Watson never writes about mine. 

"My private life is my own affair."

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a interesting and thoroughly entertaining mystery from the great Billy Wilder. The first half hour is about as much into the private life of Sherlock Holmes as you'll get. The title is a little misleading because this is still a standard Holmes picture. Wilder just added some confusion about Holmes sexuality and the idea that when Holmes is not busy on a case, he likes to indulge in cocaine. After that there is no real difference plot wise, to any other Sherlock Holmes movie, except this better than average.

Holmes is bored with no case to take his interest. Then one night a woman arrives at his doorstep. Apparently an attempt was just made on her life, and now she doesn't know much about herself. The next morning she remembers everything. She came to Holmes for him to help her find her husband. This mystery takes us to Scotland and involves a variety of weird things like the Loch Ness monster, midgets and canaries. 

The performance by Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes is spot on. He portrays the detective brilliantly. Then there's Colin Blakely who is an admirable Dr. Watson, and the iconic Christopher Lee as Sherlock's brother. The plot is pretty cool, with weird occurrences adding to the mystery of the case. 

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is fun throughout and sporadically funny. Wilder's witty touch is perfect for a Sherlock Holme's film. I was a little disappointed this didn't dive more into the personal life of Holme's, but as a straight detective story, it is a damn good one.
October 25, 2011
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

I've only seen a few of the older, black & white, more sinister Sherlock Holmes movies. I enjoyed the occasional laughs this story provided and how Wilder was unafraid to show some aspects of Sherlock Holmes that were not traditionally portrayed. In the special features on my DVD I learned that Wilder and Diamond intended the movie to be in four parts, four mysteries Watson had supposedly locked up and not revealed to the public during his life. The movie was too long so the original full length preface describing this had to be scrapped as well as two of the mysteries and a flashback segment. As the movie stands today, Clive Revill is a Russian ballerina's assistant who sends for Holmes and his services in the first part. The services required are not what you'd expect, but then this is a Billy Wilder movie and you shouldn't expect the sort of mysteries of the old days. The second larger part is closer to a traditional mystery and brings Genevieve as Ms. Valladon into the picture. She provides a good steady third leg to Stephens as Sherlock and Blakely as the Doctor for the majority of the film. Christopher Lee also appears as Sherlock's brother Mycroft who works for the government and adds ambivalence to whether Her Majesty's government may be involved in a cover up. The three main characters follow the clues to Scotland and a few castles around Loch Ness. The ending with Queen Victoria is satirical, but pretty silly. Still it is a fun movie with great production values recreating the time period!
December 4, 2009

Super Reviewer

It seems like Billy Wilder can do no wrong when it comes to filmmaking; "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" stands out as his most supremely underrated work. A film of wonderful performances, offbeat humor and intriguing mystery, "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" unfolds at a very deliberate pace, taking close to forty minutes to actually get started. Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely give us without question the best cinematic representation of the flamboyant detective and his knowledgeable companion, each delivering lively, nuanced performances. It has been said that "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" was originally intended to run close to around three hours long, but due to studio interference, it was cut down and excess footage was lost. What a shame: there's no telling how grand that three hour version might have been.
April 13, 2013
Stephen Earnest

Super Reviewer

As a huge Sherlock Holmes fan I really had high hopes for this one. Major disappointment. The cast was fine, the overall concept was interesting, the script was fair, and the result was the equivalent of a gay Sherlock Holmes SNL skit stretched to over 2 hours. I'm somewhat baffled at these critical reviews.
September 10, 2012

Super Reviewer

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