The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray Review

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BBC's Sherlock owes a great deal to this classic.

by Casimir Harlow Jan 21, 2018 at 12:23 AM

  • Movies review


    The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £12.99

    Film Review

    The biggest inspiration for the BBC's Sherlock, Billy Wilder's playful classic should have more aptly been called The Case of the Loch Ness Monster.

    Wilder's skills with comedy and satire assault The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, ripping him from the more straight tales the world had previously known, but also not sending it into complete parody. Whilst initially playfully reflecting on the eccentricities and proclivities of the Great Detective, Wilder's colourful tribute soon evolves into a more traditional Holmes tale, as he gets involved with a mysterious widow, a secret society, and a Loch Ness monster, running into his arrogant big brother Mycroft, frustrating his beleaguered partner-in-crime Watson, and falling for the lying charms of a femme fatale.
    There's a great deal here which Moffat and Gatiss pays credit for in inspiring his modern take on Holmes, from the relationship between the main characters (and insinuations therein), to the only women who can get through his stiff exterior, to the depiction of Mycroft, or even the more comedic edge the modern incarnation favours. Ultimately, many don't regard it as a Wilder classic because, whilst throwing the world of Holmes into the air, the master filmmaker eventually puts all the pieces back together in a fairly conventionally Holmes-ian way. However it is something of a Sherlock classic as a result.

    Picture Quality

    The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Picture Quality
    The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes reaches UK shores courtesy of Eureka, on Region B-locked Blu-ray disc complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen.

    Clearly there are some problems behind the scenes in sourcing a new 2K or 4K scan of this 1970 film because the print is in appalling condition, rife with debris and easily discernible judder (just flick the subtitles on to see the image shaking in the background). The soft focus look of the piece works for the period style and can be forgiven as a stylistic choice, but the rest is pretty poor even if, once you've swallowed the bad, you may come to accept the fact that this may well be the best condition we ever see this classic in, as it's clear that, if Masters of Cinema can't produce a clean new scan, then likely nobody can.

    Likely the best the film is every going to look

    Once you've taken on board all of its faults, it is possible to revel in the more impressive moments, with a few very nice looking images strewn across the runtime, and even stretches which look so much better in HD that you can pick up on the frequent use of sets and painted backdrops for the final act. The colour scheme too is period, but skin tones remain as you would expect them to be, and there is some vibrancy to the greens in Scotland, as well as the rich wooden tones that dominate the interiors and, in particular, the Diogenes Club. Black levels bring the highlights down again, arguably only heightening the sense of all that's wrong with the image, but it really should be taken in context as this is a filmic image, suitable for a piece that's pushing 50 years old and clearly doesn't have a very good source, and was also shot under some less than favourable lighting conditions. Whatever defects you may observe, it doesn't overtly detract from your enjoyment of this underrated gem and, although hard to admit, is likely the best the film is every going to look.

    Sound Quality

    The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Sound Quality
    A faithful audio accompaniment

    The Linear PCM 2.0 uncompressed audio track is a faithful accompaniment to the main feature, driven by a melancholy score by Miklos Rozsa, which underpins the entire affair and grounds even the more playful sequences in more sobering sentiment. Dialogue remains relatively clear and coherent, taking centre-stage across the film, with nominal effects for a few incidental background noises - the Loch Ness Monster itself getting the grandest observation - allowing for some decent atmospherics even if there's nothing even approaching demo material here. It's the score that will remain with you and, even if the track is little more than perfunctory, it's largely devoid of any of the more obvious defects that plague the video and, for that, we should be grateful.


    The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Extras
    Eureka's compilation of extensive extra features - both old and new - is commendable, with a new Video Interview by film scholar Neil Sinyard offering a reflection upon the film, whilst the highlights still come in the form of the previously available Interviews and Deleted Scenes. Editor Ernest Walter's Interview is a welcome addition all on its own but Christopher Lee's Interview sets an all-new standard, with the late, great actor on fine and unabashed form discussing his extensive history with the world of Holmes and the high point in his career that was working with Billy Wilder.

    The Missing Cases are absolutely unmissable

    The Missing Cases are absolutely unmissable, however, a 50 minute compilation of 'Deleted Scenes' which attempts to recreate some scenes which were shot - and presumably mostly lost - from script excerpts, audio clips, on-set stills and brief audio-less footage. The scenes themselves are excellent - and you can see them also being inspiration for Moffat & Gatiss's Sherlock - and whilst the original prologue was a little too light for this film (but very Wilder), the subsequent 'cases' are superb. The audio-only epilogue merely hints at a potential sequel, and the disc is rounded off by the original Theatrical Trailer.

    Blu-ray Verdict

    The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray Verdict
    A Sherlock classic

    The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is an underrated gem from master filmmaker Billy Wilder and comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka, who deliver the flawed picture in what we may have to accept is the best condition it will likely ever be found in, decent enough audio, and a tremendous selection of extra features including some deleted footage which would have turned the film into a 3 hour epic, and which should have all been left in, even if the patchwork form that we have to watch them in now is far from ideal. Fans should consider this a must-have release.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99

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