Cox and Co Bankers, London. That it is the present day is evident from the famous red buses reflected in the gleaming brass nameplate. Deep in a dusty, half-forgotten vault lies a tin despatch box bearing the name John H. Watson MD. It is not to be opened until fifty years after the Doctor's death. It contains mementos of his long association with the world's first and undeniably most famous Consulting Detective. As the titles play, we see the contents; faded daguerrotypes, a deerstalker hat, a calabash, magnifying lens, a revolver, stethoscope and the like.
|A faded daguerrotype of Holmes and Watson.|
We hear the late Doctor's voice narrating the words he had set down so many years past. In his lifetime he has recorded some sixty cases demonstrating the singular gift of his friend Sherlock Holmes, many famous as with the Hound of the Baskervilles. But there were other adventures, which for reason of discretion the Doctor has decided to withhold from the public until a much later date. They contain matters of a delicate and sometimes scandalous nature, as will shortly become apparent.
August 1887. A carriage conveys Holmes and Watson back from Yorkshire, where Holmes had solved the murder of Admiral Abernetty. (He had broken the murderer's alibi with an observation about the depth to which some parsley had sunk into butter on a hot day.) Back in the familiar rooms of 221b, Holmes is gently scolded by Mrs. Hudson; had he let her know of his return, she could have prepared a hot supper. Triumphantly, Doctor Watson holds aloft the new issue of The Strand magazine, which has printed his recollection of the Red-Headed League. Holmes is gently scathing; accusing Watson of over-romanticising his cases. Further, he has exaggerated his height and saddled him with the ridiculous costume of deerstalker and macfarlane cloak which he is now expected to wear. Watson's defence that it is the illustrator to blame falls on deaf ears. Watson has also, according to Holmes given the impression that the latter is a virtuoso, whereas his actual violin skills would hardly suffice for a pit orchestra in a second-rate music hall.
|Robert Stephens is Sherlock Holmes. (Below; Colin Blakely as Watson)|
The diatribe continues, with an accusation Watson has made Holmes out to be a misogynist – he merely distrusts women. Further, the readers are under the impression Holmes is a dope fiend, taking the occasional syringe of cocaine at a five-percent solution. When Watson tries to correct him at seven-percent Holmes merely remarks he is aware Watson has been diluting it behind his back. Watson disapproves, both as Doctor and friend, but Holmes only uses narcotics to relieve boredom, when he lacks interesting cases – he tosses a letter distractedly onto the table. An urgent appeal to find some missing midgets, the Tumbling Piccolos no less!. Holmes reels Watson in with an apparently serious description of the misplaced midgets as anarchists intending to blow up the Tsar whilst dressed as little girls before revealing his annoyance at being offered a mere five pounds for their recovery. Doubtless with such a stingy employer they merely ran away to another circus.
|Holmes and Watson, the latter played with superb comedic instinct by Colin Blakely.|
Holmes is lamenting the lack of enterprise and originality in the criminal classes when he comes to a halt and shouts for the landlady. There is something missing, something crucial from his desk; Dust!. Mrs. Hudson insists she disturbed nothing, but Holmes states that dust is essential to his filing system – by its thickness he claims he can date any document.
That night, Holmes operates a bellows with his foot. He has constructed an odd apparatus of pipes and tubes on which several cigarettes, pipes and cigars smoulder with a wheezing sound as if the machine were becoming asthmatic from the dense clouds of smoke filling the room.
As the Detective scrapes some ash onto a microscope slide, Mrs. Hudson protests at the fug, but Watson explains Holmes is working on the study of tobacco ash, so far he has classified one hundred and forty kinds; 'All of which will wind up on my rug' rejoins Mrs. Hudson. Restless, Holmes admits the departed landlady is right. He is suffocating, from lack of activity...
|An excerpt from the script.|
Later, as Holmes takes a bath, Watson implores him to take up the offer of tickets to the final performance of the Imperial Russian Ballet. Tickets have been going for a guinea apiece, which merely fuels Holmes' suspicion and reluctance to attend. The tickets were sent anonymously with a plea for help. Suspecting a plot, Holmes tells Watson it's a plot to bore him to death – he despises ballet. Watson persists; this isn't just any ballet, it's Swan Lake!.
The Ballet. The conductor gives the downbeat for the second act, a swan glides across the mist-shrouded stage. From their box in the upper tier, Watson explains to a bored Holmes the swan is an enchanted Princess. Yawning, Holmes nods off, to be woken rudely by Watson proffering his opera glasses. On stage, the great Petrova, Queen of the Ballerinas is en pointe, graceful as the Swan. Enraptured, Watson states twelve men have died for Petrova, six by suicide, four in duels and one by falling from the gallery at the Vienna Opera House. Ever alert, Sherlock points out that makes eleven, with Watson gleefully adding the plunger landed on top of another man in the orchestra. As Petrova and the Danseur noble go into the famed pas-de-deux, the box curtain is flung back to admit Nicolai Rogozhin, Director-General of the Imperial Russian Ballet. Rogozhin enquires about Holmes' health and allures to a problem the Prima Ballerina has. After the performance there will be a little party to which Holmes is invited.
As Holmes and Watson arrive onstage, the revels are in full flow, with balalaikas playing and cossack dancing. A delighted Watson is left in the company of the female cast whilst Holmes follows Rogozhin to madame's dressing room. The Director warns Holmes he may find this 'case' extra-extra-ordinary and they enter. Madame Petrova greets Holmes gracefully, with Rogozhin interpreting. She thought Holmes would be taller, but it is the brains that count. Madame has read all Watson's stories, but 'Big Dog from Baskerville' is her favourite – Holmes tactfully remarks the title loses something in translation.
At his mistress' urging, Rogozhin then shows Holmes a violin, asking his opinion. The label reads 'Antonius Stradivarius Cremonesis, Anno 1709'. Holmes declares it a genuine Stradivarius of the best period. It is a gift from Madame, for services Holmes will render. The Director will pour vodka and explain. Madame Petrova is retiring after a life on the boards and wishes to settle down with child. All she needs is a father. Madame wants a child who is brilliant and beautiful. As she is beautiful, the father must be brilliant. Za zdorovie!. As the penny descends, Holmes demurs. Indeed, he was not Madame's first choice; there was Tolstoy, the writer – too old. There was the philosopher, Nietzsche – too German and then there was Tchaikovsky. Surely they couldn't go wrong with him?. They can – and they did, women not being the composer's cup of tea.
|Clive Revill is Rogozhin.|
Watson, meanwhile, is joining in with the girls, dancing the cygnet's dance to the amusement of the party goers, flower behind one ear. Holmes is going home and urges his friend to join him, but he is having too much fun. Humiliated and in sour mood, Rogozhin emerges and whispers in one ballerina's ear, the shocked girl passing on the scandalous news to the others and then the boys, the danseurs. Gradually the danseurs replace the ballerinas until Watson is dancing alone with them. Finally, Watson notices and goes over to the group of girls, who part and want nothing to do with him. Rogozhin explains Holmes has told them everything as the boys form a semi-circle behind a certain look on their faces. Perhaps the 'Caprice of nature' is unusual between Doctors and Detectives... but in Ballet?, it is very usual... Watson suddenly needs a drink.
Watson runs through the abandoned streets of London, upon hearing his fevered step, Holmes quickly arranges a chair to face the window, dims the light. 'Holmes!' an enraged Watson storms the stairs, determined to have it out. Spotting Holmes' pipe fuming away in the chair anger gets the better of him and names fly. What Watson doesn't realise is that the pipe is, in fact connected to Holmes' smoking machine. Getting no answer to his demand for explanation, Watson hurls his opera glasses and knocks the apparatus over. Anxiety replaces fury as he suddenly fears he has injured Holmes with his binocular bunging, but when the fraud is discovered he looks across to where a shoe pumps the bellows in the darkness. How could Holmes invent such a dastardly lie?. Sincerity itself, Holmes explains he was cornered by a madwoman. It was the only way he could get out of it without hurting her feelings. What about Watson's feelings? His reputation?, if the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers heard of this, it would be the end... What is he to do?. Tactlessly, Holmes suggests Watson divests himself of his flower.
Watson decides they must live apart. Holmes then delivers this beauty; 'Of course, we can still see each other clandestinely... on remote benches in Hyde Park and in the waiting rooms of suburban railway stations.' Then the mood changes and defiance wins the day, with Watson daring anyone to say a word of an ugly rumour. Holmes is in agreement; after all watson has an enviable record with the fair sex. The unified front stumbles somewhat when Holmes is unable to name women to vouch for him. Watson hopes he isn't being presumptuous, but there have been women in Holmes' life?. The answer is 'Yes. Watson is being presumptuous.' Holmes retires leaving his friend crestfallen.
Note to the reader; What, Dear friends, my leaden scribblings can never convey is the sense of fun, the humour in a film. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a funny film – sometimes spit-your-coffee out funny. Diversion ends.
Night. As Holmes fiddles, Watson reads a paper in the living room of 221b. The Doctor ponders the riddle that is Sherlock Holmes. What indeed was his attitude towards women?, had he some secret – or was he the emotionless thinking machine?. Watson was not to get the answer until the most outrageous case of all their years together...
A hansom cab pulls up, the driver consults a card and rings up. Watson goes to investigate and Mrs. Hudson tells him the cabbie wants 2/6. (Two Shillings and Sixpence. Not a clue how much that is now.) He brings in an attractive woman, soaked in a state of confusion with amnesia, wrapped in a horse blanket. The cabman was driving on the Embankment just below Westminster bridge when he saw her in the water. Holmes appears and asks why she was brought to Baker street. The answer is simple, the lady was holding a card with the address. Holmes agrees to take delivery and the cabbie leaves with his blanket. As the driver makes to depart, he is watched from across the street by a craggy faced man with Prussian features. (Although not named, we know this to be a Prussian named Von Tirpitz from the script.) The cab turns and the sinister figure climbs in, the hansom clattering off into the chill London fog.
Gallantly, Watson leads the unfortunate woman to a seat by the fire. Meanwhile Holmes applies his mind. The card she held had printing on the reverse, now illegible. Doctor Watson examines his patient, finding her to have sustained a nasty blow to the head. The names of Watson and Holmes mean nothing to the woman, her own a mystery to her. Watson deduces she is foreign, married – and not wearing corsets. Sherlock spots her shoe, the label reading 'La Femme Elegante'. Vous etes Francais?. Non. Vous etes Swiss?. Non. Belge?; she is not sure. A glance at the label of her dress shows Holmes it is from Brussels. At this, Mrs. Hudson bustles in with refreshments. Next, Holmes removes the nameless woman's ring and inside the copper band the inscriptions Gabrielle and Emile flank a pair of entwined hearts. Losing patience, Holmes tries another tack and begins barking questions. Gallantly, Watson intervenes, taking the lady to Mrs. Hudson with the injunction she take her to his bed. He, naturally, will take the sofa. As he prepares a sleeping draft, Watson overrules Holmes' opinion that the woman would be better off in a hospital; he can provide medical care and her life has already been endangered. Not wanting the flat cluttered up with women as Holmes puts it, the sooner they can break through the veils of her amnesia, the sooner they can be rid of her.
Dawn and a Bobby walks his beat along Baker Street West, suddenly struck with terror at some approaching doom – or at least the water cart washing down the pavement from which he only just leaps clear. The cart recedes, while up in the living room, poor Watson is jammed into the sofa in an uncomfortable position. In his bedroom, an anxious Holmes paces, pondering the smudged ink on the reverse of the card the woman had held. Quietly, he opens the door to Watson's room and studies her sleeping form for a moment. As the door clicks closed, she awakes, calling for 'Emile' walking into Holmes' room stark naked. Thinking quickly - somehow – Holmes answers her as Emile, her husband and she embraces him. As if in a trance, she tells 'Emile' before she left Brussels she bought a pink negligee. Lying back on the bed, she wants to make love, but Holmes is interested in her negligee, where is it?. In her luggage. Where is that?. She doesn't know. Espying ink on her palm, Holmes snatches up a mirror and reads '301'.
|This lobby card features the scene where a 'confused' Mme Valladon uses her body to attempt to beguile Holmes.|
Morning, Mrs. Hudson awakens Watson from his sleep and has to help unlock his back with a knee and a headlock. Sitting for his porridge, he asks the landlady to check on their guest; she's gone. Finding her asleep in Holmes' bed they are both speechless, but then Holmes breezes in carrying a bulky suitcase with leather straps and a parasol held by them. Holmes suggests Mrs. Hudson get a towel and wipe the look of disapproval off her face and she leaves in an indignant huff. Watson says if he didn't know Holmes better, he might suspect Holmes had taken advantage of the lady. The detective replies he did. A comedy delayed reaction and Watson is dumbfounded, reprehending his friend for his lack of ethics. Has he no shame?. None whatsoever – he found her body quite rewarding – especially the palm of her right hand. Fnarr fnarr.
Using the butter knife, Holmes breaks into the case, explaining he guessed she had come by the boat train and probably checked her belongings at Victoria station. As well as the pink negligee, they find a bundle of letters and a photographic portrait. The woman herself makes an appearance, now identified as Gabrielle Valladon, wife of Emile whose portrait Holmes shows her. She wonders where she is and when she finds out, faints. As Watson goes for coffee, Holmes tries to assist Mme Valladon. She is searching for her husband?. Yes, he is a mining engineer, they married in the Congo. Where he worked in a copper mine?. How did Holmes know? - the copper wedding ring. Gabrielle tells Holmes her husband invented a new type of air pump and was hired by an English firm, Jonah Limited. Watson hands her her coffee. They wrote to each other regularly, she states, but three weeks ago, his letters abruptly stopped. Finally, she decided to go to the address she had been writing to, 32 Ashdown Street. It was an empty shop. Nor was there any trace of Jonah Ltd. The police were of little help, the Belgian Embassy recommended Sherlock Holmes. She was on her way when she was attacked from behind, smelling chloroform and was thrown into the river!.
Holmes instructs Mme Valladon to send one more letter to her husband at the Ashdown Street address. What should she say?... nothing. Clearly the address is an accommodation address, or letter drop. What gets dropped, however must be picked up...
Ashdown Street, North West London and a sawing noise sounds from the rear of the shop at number 32. Using a nifty fold-away tool kit that fits inside his hollow cane, Holmes saws the iron bars across a window, then uses hammer and chisel to chip away the cement from the last bar. Finally, he is able to swing the bars inward with a squealing noise, the intact bar acting as a hinge. Gingerly, Holmes, Madame Valladon and Watson drop to the inside of the dusty, dingy old place. The only other occupants are a large cage of canaries beneath a tarpaulin. As luck would have it, the shadow of the postman crosses the whitewashed shop front and their letter drops into the dust, which is marked by many sets of tracks going to and from the door.
|Geneniève Page is Gabrielle Valladon, Colin Blakey plays Watson.|
They wait. Holmes re-assembles his deceptively useful stick, Madame Valladon laments she cannot pay him for his services, her purse being at the bottom of the Thames. Watson has noticed the lack of footprints in the inches-thick dust in the shop, how does anyone pick up letters without leaving footprints?. More lucky timing as the creaking of the back door announces the arrival of the shop owner. Quickly, Holmes leads them to hide behind the opening door as it slides back on its runners. An aged, decrepit, but cheerful cripple enters in her wheelchair. Raising the tarpaulin she feeds and waters her birds. A kindly soul, she tells the canaries some of them will be going on a journey soon, then spots the letter, going to collect it. Her tracks add to those already on the floor. A cart turns up, two men with a cage to collect two dozen of the small yellow birds. What can they want up there with so many birds?. The delivery men don't know – or want to. When you work for Jonah, better not to ask questions. Holmes watches through a hole in the door and spots the masthead of the paper lining the cage; the Inverness Courier & General Advertiser. The cart leaves and, after lowering the tarpaulin and leaving the letter, so does the old crone.
As Holmes and Watson discuss events, Gabrielle has noticed something odd; the letter is addressed to Holmes!. Beginning My Dear Sherlock, the message is from Sherlock's brother Mycroft summoning himself and Watson to the club on receipt of the letter. According to his calculations that should be at 11.40 a.m. What is the time?. Watson has 11.43. Holmes suggests he resets his watch.
The Diogenes Club, St. James's. The commissionaire, a one-armed former military man with a chest bedecked in medals asks the two men to sign in, but Holmes merely hurries past and the commissionaire is left bewildered as the pair take the stairs. The reading room of the club is vast, stuffy, silent. Everywhere men of varying advances in years sit reading, smoking or sleeping. Pausing, Holmes stops to collect a tower of ash from the cigar of a dozing member, pronouncing it as Jamaican. Tropicana or Golosina, he cannot be sure which.
Entering the upstairs study, they encounter a frock-coated Mycroft Holmes carefully decanting wine from a dusty bottle into three glasses using a curious contraption which tilts the bottle minutely, leaving the sediment undisturbed. Politely, Holmes enquires after Mycroft's gout, which he is informed is under control. The wine is an 1814 Madeira, one of only six remaining bottles. The elder Holmes has two already and is negotiating to ownership of a third. Watson's caution against gout sufferers drinking wine is smoothly brushed aside. The last Doctor who warned Mycroft slipped on an orange peel while crossing Piccadilly, falling beneath a Fortnum and Mason delivery van.
Sherlock is curious as to why his brother would waste such a rare vintage on himself and Watson. His brother replies they see each other so rarely – the last time being the case of the Greek Interpreter. Isn't it ridiculous?, two brothers living in the same town. The same town, but not the same world is Sherlock's dry reply. At last, Mycroft arrives at the point. He advises Sherlock to pursue the case of the missing Belgian Engineer no further. It involves 'the national security' and 'we' are handling the matter 'ourselves.' Holmes posits the Diogenes as being a front for the Foreign Office. Wherever there is unrest, Diogenes Club members are conveniently contiguous. Mycroft tries to deflect this theory, but then Wiggins, a young man approaches with an urgent message. Enigmatically – perhaps rather foolishly, Mycroft gives the answer; the three boxes go to Glennahurich and the red runner goes to the castle. Thoroughly intrigued, Sherlock asks what Jonah Limited is and gets coldly rebuffed. Mycroft orders him to drop the matter, using the authority of Her Majesty's Government. Tail somewhat between his legs, Sherlock withdraws, Watson trailing like a faithful dog not entirely aware of events.
Walking along Baker Street, Watson wants to know if Holmes will be gentle with Mme Valladon when he tells her the bad news, that they are dropping the case. Perhaps he hasn't noticed his friend cheerily whistling 'Loch Lomond'. Indeed, Holmes asks him if he knows the meaning of Glennahurich. It is, of course Scottish and like all Scottish words a word picture. 'Glen' means 'valley', 'na' is 'of the' and 'Hurich' 'Yew tree'. Hence the three boxes are going to the valley of the yew tree. As they cross to 221b, the cabbie who brought Gabrielle slyly watches, as does the Prussian-featured man in the cab. Watson unllocks the front door which stops on the chain and a revolver barrel is thrust forward from within. Amused, Holmes urges Mrs. Hudson not to shoot; she would lose two excellent tenants.
The long-suffering landlady admits her residents and they take the stair to their rooms. By now aware Holmes may indeed be pursuing the case despite Mycroft's prohibition, an alarmed Watson reminds his companion that he would be defying Her Majesty's government. Holmes tells Madame Valladon Watson and himself will put her on the boat train tonight. Unsurprisingly, she is upset, scornful of 'The Great Detective'. Holmes rides out the storm then explains he said they would put her on the boat train. He didn't say she would be staying on it. At 7.30 Mister Holmes and Doctor Watson will be seen waving goodbye to Mme Valladon at Victoria. At 8.12 Mr and Mrs. Ashdown, accompanied by their valet John will appear at Euston to board the Highland Express to Inverness. She is delighted, Watson is not. Sherlock is brightness itself; as Watson says in his chronicles, the game's afoot!. Ignoring Watson's dig about whether Holmes is interested in the Belgian Engineer or his Wife, Sherlock retreats to his room to pack. Gabrielle breezes out and announces she has mislaid a glove. As the ever puppy-like Watson goes to assist her, she opens and closes her parasol at the window. This strange signal is received by the nameless Prussian in his cab. He knocks up and the hansom departs.
Whistle blowing, the Highland Express steams north at a fair clip through the moonlit night. In their sleeping compartment 'Mr. Ashdown' pulls his night-shirt over his head before giving 'Mrs. Ashdown' the all-clear. She has the lower bunk, naturally. He tells her of a case where he spent a night with one hundred and twenty-one women in a harem in Constantinople.
Meanwhile, 'John the Valet' is both in suitable livery and third-class with the hoi polloi, the packed carriage filled with smoke and the cries of an infant. He takes a seat next to a group of monks in brown habits and cowls. He attempts to strike up friendly conversation, but nearly gives himself away when his stethoscope falls from his bowler as he fans himself with it. The nearest Brother points to his mouth indicating he must not talk – these are Trappists and have taken ein vow of silence. By co-incidence, he notices the nearest monk's bible is open at the book of Jonah.
Amusingly, Gabrielle reads aloud; 'Women are never to be trusted entirely – not the best of them.' Sherlock is curious as to who said that, only to find according to Doctor Watson he did. Watson has lent Mme Valladon/Mrs. Ashdown some back-issues of The Strand magazine. Holmes admits he doesn't whole-heartedly admire women, in fact the most affectionate woman he ever knew was a murderess. It was a passionate affair conducted at odd hours in his laboratory (This man knows how to show a girl a good time!) and all the time she was stealing cyanide to sprinkle on her Husband's steak and kidney pie!.
Third Class and Watson dozes. One of the monks gets up and goes to talk with another. Hang on... and he's speaking German, hein?. Sure enough, the monk whom he addresses is our obscure Prussian. The plot thickens...
The train departs from Inverness with a cheery gaelic whistle – or should that be hoots?. Holmes asks directions for Glennahurich. Watson adds they might picnic there. The Porter thinks it an odd place for one as its a cemetary. The monks file across the jacobs ladder over the tracks.
Glennahurich cemetary and as Holmes and party arrive so do two workmen and a vicar. The labourers have a trolley laden with an adult size and two infant size coffins, which they take to where two gravediggers wait. Pointing, Watson asks if these are the three boxes and Holmes thinks so too. Moving closer, they watch as the coffins are laid out for burial. After a brief, perfunctory ceremony the graves are filled in. Gabrielle finds it sad, Holmes finds it odd; there were no flowers or mourners. Going up to the diggers, Holmes strikes up a conversation. It's healthy country round here, sometimes nothing for the gravediggers for weeks, then three at once. A Father and his two Sons, drowned in the Loch when their boat capsized. He's lived around Loch Ness his whole life and he believes it was the monster. A local saw their faces when they were recovered from the water and they looked more like old men than children. Holmes buys the fellow a drink and gets some advice. If you wish to holiday in Scotland, go to Loch Lomond, go to Holy Loch, but stay away from Loch Ness.*
*The reader may care to know – but probably won't, that I intend to do this very thing in the summer (2016). If I am drowned by the monster you can all have a good laugh at my expense.
Watson scoffs at the idea of a monster in the 19th Century, while Gabrielle is relieved it cannot be her husband that has been buried. Spotting the approach of four small boys bearing flowers, Holmes and the others take cover to observe. Laying their tributes, the lads kneel in a respectful contemplation. Holmes has realised they are mourning their brothers – and they aren't boys. He asks Watson for some pebbles and tosses them against a grave stone. The 'boys' turn as one and are revealed to be adult midgets. Boys with the faces of old men...Holmes reminds Watson of the missing tumbling act he had been asked to find. The little men depart and Gabrielle' fears are aroused. Who is in the third grave?.
Under cover of night, Holmes undertakes the grim business of opening a grave, the only light from Watson's bullseye. As the coffin is prised open with a harsh squeal, Gabrielle screams and faints. Obviously it is Emile Valladon, less so is why his wedding ring has turned green or why he was buried with three canaries. White canaries.
An open carriage drives the trio to the Caledonian Hotel, where the Ashdowns and their valet take up residence. The proprietor shows them their room, opening the window he promises a lovely view of the loch, when the morning mists roll away. Handing Holmes a guide to the area, he shows the Valet to his room. Alone, Holmes employs his customary tact and asks for Gabrielle's wedding ring which he compares to its counterpart, removed from the late Monsieur Valladon. Forlorn, she sits on the bed in tears, while he pontificates that the difference in colour between rings indicates drowning was not the cause of death. Striding across to the bereft woman delicacy flies out of the room totally as Holmes barks at her to stop it. If they are to find the cause she must stop acting the grief-stricken widow – they must be 'That nice couple from London, on Holiday in the Highlands'. Bravely, she chokes back her tears and Holmes is satisfied. Hopes of returning to his work are dashed by a manic Watson bursting into the room calling for Mr. Ashdown. He's seen it! From his room in the attic window!. Rifling through Holmes' case for a telescope he crosses to the window and focuses on a spot out in the Loch.
Sure enough, through the lens we see the beastie, a long-necked Nessie!. Invited to see for himself, Holmes sees only water. It has gone. Watson wonders if this killed Valladon in his boat, but Holmes knows better; he died from asphyxiation. There is only one substance that can turn a copper ring green and bleach canaries... chlorine gas. Dismissing Watson's sighting, Holmes declares the only concrete lead is the reference to the castle – unfurling the guide to reveal an illustration of Loch Ness with it's many castles – the problem I, which castle?.
Sure enough, through the lens we see the beastie, a long-necked Nessie!. Invited to see for himself, Holmes sees only water. It has gone. Watson wonders if this killed Valladon in his boat, but Holmes knows better; he died from asphyxiation. There is only one substance that can turn a copper ring green and bleach canaries... chlorine gas. Dismissing Watson's sighting, Holmes declares the only concrete lead is the reference to the castle – unfurling the guide to reveal an illustration of Loch Ness with it's many castles – the problem I, which castle?.
The party take to bicycles, Holmes and Gabrielle on a tandem, to visit the castles around the Loch. (No small task, this as the Loch is some twenty-three miles in length.) The first castle is an imposing triangular tower. This not being the place, the quest continues, the three cycling through woods and across meadows to a second pile, then onwards to a third.
Lunch is taken picnic fashion, with Watson remarking they have investigated eight drafty castles, been attacked by sheep and assaulted by bagpipes. Watson spots the trappists from the train, crossing a bridge in single file, but they do not respond to his friendly calls. Gabrielle is flapping her parasol erratically, claiming a bee is bothering her. The last of them, Von Tirpitz looks casually over his shoulder, but follows the monks on their way.
At length, the party pulls up at a ruined castle by the loch, a warning sign forbidding unauthorized people from passing it, teams of workmen at work apparently restoring the place. A guard of some sort is approaching from the castle, two snarling, slavering mastiffs on the leash. Watson sees no point in examining the crumbling ruin, but Gabrielle is intrigued by the security around the place, as is Sherlock. He decides on the 'tradesmen's entrance' and they go around to the back. Leaving the bicycles, they advance into the castle ruins, Gulls swirling about the main keep. Before they can get close, an imposing kilted figure walks out to stop them going any further. Questioned by Holmes, he claims to be the Guide, but says the castle is closed whilst work is going on. The restoration is being conducted by the Society for the Preservation of Scottish Monuments. Claiming he wanted his wife to see Urquhart castle Holmes states it dates from 1400, to which the Guide agrees. Holmes' next trap is asking if it was James II or III – the 'Guide' says James the Third and he'll be glad to show them around next year. Thanking the fraud, Holmes withdraws, as a covered wagon arrives.
Watson says the man was a pleasant sort. Pleasant, but ignorant responds Holmes, tapping his guide into his hand he reveals it was 1500 and James IV. A sudden outburst of trilling catches Holmes' ear and he asks Watson if he can hear anything. Watson says no, the birds are making too much of a racket. It's our old friends the canaries being unloaded. After the birds come two large glass bottles in a wooden cradle marked SULPHURIC ACID-CORROSIVE. Gabrielle states the more they find out, the less sense it makes. To a graduate chemist it makes a great deal of sense, remarks Holmes. Sulphuric acid exposed to salt water equals chlorine gas...
Sherlock gets John to give him a bunk up, clambering up the wooden scaffolding to spy on the workmen, who are carrying both birds and acid bottles to the tower, a draw-bridge lowering at their approach. Clearly there is something going on in that tower, but the arrival of the guard and his mastiffs – imagine bears doing a push-up for an idea of scale – sends the three adventurers packing, at least until early evening...
The night descends over Loch Ness and, sure enough, Holmes and Watson are at the oars of a rowing boat. Gabrielle sits primly in the stern, Holmes' Norfolk jacket over her to ward off the chill. Watson has had enough, having seen the castle from all angles he's none the wiser. He declares Holmes will catch his death, adding it would be ironic if Holmes' last case was a case of pneumonia. Holmes is not amused. Suddenly, Gabrielle points out into the mist, terrified. A chilling sight emerges, a creature of some kind. Quickly, Holmes takes up oar and urges Watson to pursue the beast. They make water, but Watson realises the folly and wants to go away from it. 'Keep rowing, damnit!' shouts the Detective, his blood up. Before they can get closer, however, the creature dives, descending into the depths of the Loch.
Shipping oars, Holmes calls for quiet, then Watson's stethoscope, which the Doctor is never without. Using the stethoscope, Holmes listens to the surface of the water, placing the chestpiece on the surface to hear a distinct, clear noise of some machinery of some sort – getting closer, by the sound of it. Struck dumb with fear, Watson can only point as the head and neck of the Loch Ness Monster breaks the surface, heading straight for the boat!. Watson manages a shout of warning as Gabrielle's scream alerts Holmes to the mortal peril; too late as the beast passes close past, the wake and turbulence throwing the boat over and flinging the hapless occupants into the cold, deep waters. The monster glides off towards the castle. Gabrielle has lost her parasol, Holmes his Watson. Swimming over to the familiar bowler, Holmes finds nothing beneath it. All is not lost, however, as the good Doctor hauls himself over the side of the boat, spluttering and gasping for breath.
Perhaps understandly, Watson is rather overwrought by all this, stating he has faced man-eating tigers, stampeding elephants, but he's never been half as frightened as this night. Mme Valladon hopes it doesn't return. An odd sight; one side of the wooden scaffolding covering the castle is being raised, some lights just visible through the murk and mist. Drolly, Holmes cracks the beast has gone home for it's supper.
Back in their hotel room, Holmes has changed into dry things, Gabrielle is tucked up in bed and laughs as Watson warms himself by the fire, rather absurdly dressed in a kilt. Apparently you can't borrow a decent pair of trousers here. Idly whistling the theme from 'Swan Lake', Holmes paces the room, until Watson breaks and asks him for his confidence – whenever he starts whistling, Watson knows a solution is near. Using Swan Lake as analogy, Holmes pronounces that in the ballet there is both lake and castle, a swan that is not really a swan, whereas here there is a monster that isn't a monster. What monster feeds on canary birds and sulphuric acid and has an engine for a heart?. The air bubbles he spotted on the surface indicate some sort of air pump, involving the late M. Valladon. Why, Watson asks would anyone want to build such a mechanical monster? - to scare people?. Holmes doesn't think it very likely. (At this point I can't be the only one trying not to think of Scooby Doo?...) Clearly upset, Gabrielle asks why did they try to stop her finding her husband? Why was he buried anonymously?. Holmes has a good idea what they are up to, the 'Society for the Preservation of Scottish Monuments', better known as the Diogenes Club.
A knock at the door and the manager hands a magnum of champagne to 'Mr.Ashdown' with the instructions to deliver it. To whom and where he does not know, but there is a carriage awaiting downstairs. Holmes asks if he is sure he has the right Mr. Ashdown. The reply – 'Quite sure, Mr. Holmes.' It appears the curtain is going up on the last act. Watson produces a revolver from his sporran, but Holmes ignores the offer and leaves alone. Outside, he finds the Guide from Castle Urquhart, leaning against a small gig. Some sort of party, perhaps?. Drily, the Guide assures him he won't be disappointed in the guest list. Who is the host?; Jonah. Their carriage takes them in silence through the night to the castle. Holmes seems taken aback at the scene that greets him; a red carpet leads up past some lighted tents, several flaming torches lighting the way. The guide remains resolutely by the gig leaving Holmes to take the carpeted steps. Some workmen are unrolling more of this carpet towards the tower.
'Mister Ashdown, I presume?' A lithe, familiar frock-coated figure steps out behind Sherlock. 'The red runner, I presume?' Sherlock retorts, adding his brother shouldn't have gone to all this trouble. Acidly, Mycroft Holmes replies it is not for Holmes. Sherlock remarks on the poor vintage – 1886 – of the champagne. It is not for drinking – Mycroft calls an aide, instructing him to tie the bottle up. He directs his younger brother into the tent, in the light of the double lamp are laid out a theodolite, a draftsmans table and various items of equipment. In the corner a cot on which sits a trunk bearing the name 'E.Valladon'. As Holmes jnr inspects the tent, outrage takes over in the elder. Despite his most emphatic warnings, Mycroft is indignant that Sherlock persisted. It would have served them right had they drowned. Sherlock reads the name on Valladon's trunk, but Mycroft attempts to regain control of the situation by showing his sibling Mme Valladon's parasol and Watson's stethoscope, found floating on the lake. Speaking of things floating... Mycroft challenges Sherlock to state what he knows, or thinks he knows.
'I think you're testing some sort of underwater craft – camouflaged to mislead the gullible. I think it's an experimental model, operated by a crew of midgets. I think it it powered by sulphuric acid batteries and uses canaries to detect escaping gas... altogether a unique contraption.' Clearly taken aback by the extent of Sherlock's perception, Mycroft nonetheless corrects him on the last point; there being four countries attempting to develop what 'we' call a 'Submersible'. None of them could solve the critical problem of how to stay submerged long enough to make it effective. Sherlock recalls the Book of Jonah; how Jonah lived in the belly of the whale for three days and nights. Indeed, that was their goal, Mycroft concedes proudly, thanks to M. Valladon's air pump they had the jump on the lot of them. It is a highly complex system of filtration, so they had a few trials... and at least one error, Sherlock observes. During a test run in the Moray Firth, pressure caused a leak which caused sea water to mix with acid in the batteries. The resultant chlorine gas was fatal to the crew; Valladon and two diminutive crew members. Burying them in unmarked graves was essential to keep the information from Sherlock's client. Sherlock finds it hard to believe – and distasteful, that the Diogenes Club went to such lengths to prevent Madame Valladon from finding her husband. Then, the bombshell...
|Christopher Lee's Mycroft Holmes is a real treat.|
Holmes' client isn't Madame Valladon – it's the Imperial German Government!. They were after Valladon's invention, but couldn't trace him, so they enlisted the finest brain in England to help them. Bitterly, a sardonic Mycroft tells Sherlock that he has been working for the Wilhemstrasse.
Anger now, as realisation dawns on Sherlock Holmes that he has led the Germans to the very door of
Great Britain's most closely-guarded secret. What role did Madame Valladon play in all this? He
wonders. Very little; Madame Valladon was found murdered in Brussels three weeks ago by German
agents. Crossing to the trunk, Mycroft hands Holmes a photograph which he finds painful to look at.
A dark haired, rather severe woman, quite unlike the 'Madame Valladon' who presented herself
soaking wet at his door not so long ago. That woman is one Ilse von Hoffmanstal, one of their most
skillful agents. Mycroft cannot resist a last dig about hogs being used to find truffles before consulting
his watch. Inviting the thoroughly humiliated Sherlock to join him, Mycroft states they are expecting a
certain Royal personage from Balmoral. The Royal coach in escort is approaching Castle Urquhart at the end of a long journey from Balmoral.
The initials 'V.R' adorn the door. The coach rolls imperiously into the courtyard and the footmen jump
down to open the door. The honour of greeting the Royal guest falls to Mycroft Holmes. A line-up of eminent scientists awaits Her Majesty and Mycroft introduces them; a Naval Architect, an expert in hydraulics and the co-inventor of the revolving periscope. When Mycroft
adds Sherlock to the introductions, the Queen lights up, telling him 'We have been following your
exploits with great interest.' Is he engaged in one of his fascinating cases?, yes, in a manner of speaking.
She asks when she can expect to read Dr. Watson's account of the case and is disappointed to hear the reply
'I hope never, ma'am' as it has not been one of his more successful endeavours. At a signal from Mycroft,
a piper strikes up 'Hielan' Laddie' and pipes Her Majesty into the tower, an equerry and a lady in waiting
amongst the procession following on. Inside, spiral iron stairs lead downwards to an extraordinary sight; with pride ringing in his voice,
Mycroft Holmes introduces Her Majesty to Her Majesty's Ship, Jonah. HMS Jonah is perhaps no more
than eighteen feet or so from stem to stern, a single propeller at the latter. Aft of the top hatch the rather
familiar head and neck of the Loch Ness Monster, now revealed as a bolted-on sham. A wheeled cradle
supports the submersible out of water. (Writing this in 2016 it's impossible to avoid the word
'Steampunk' – the design of HMS Jonah is simply fabulous) The ominous red tip of a torpedo extends
from a tube in the side, an open hatch behind this inviting entry, the now-infamous red runner
terminating at steps provided for the Royal visit and Sherlock's champagne bottle proudly be-ribboned
hanging from the prow ready for the ceremonial launch. A small porthole at the foremost point of the
prow adds a homely touch. The entrance to this unique submarine pen is camouflaged by the scaffolding
, which is garnished with foliage for the purpose. Her Majesty asks the purpose of the 'gargoyle' – is it to scare the sharks?. Mycroft answers that it is
merely a decoy. The crew now demonstrate the workings of the submersible, starting with removing
the 'gargoyle', which reveals periscope and Schnorkel tubes. (Readers of a more advanced vintage may
remember Schnorkel from the Banana Splits Show. If not, it's a sign of your age...) Four midget sailors
stand en revue on deck, with a full-sized sailor adressing them. At the command 'stand to', the midgets
scramble into the, erm, midget sub and HM notices their small size. Mycroft explains the Navy made an
exception because of the nature of the craft. Wryly, the Queen states it should be the rule as One is quite
tired of standing on one's toes to pin medals. Mycroft assists the Royal Presence up the steps to gaze into
the belly of the beast. By now, Sherlock has cottoned on to the blindingly obvious fact that Her Majesty, whilst charm itself,
is more than a tad dotty and less than likely to properly grasp any of this nautical mumbly-jumbly. With
some relish he jumps in and says 'You know... to observe the fish.' 'And the plants and the cockles' adds
HM. Mycroft explains that isn't quite the idea. HMS Jonah is being commissioned as a warship.
Outraged, Queen Victoria recoils from the craft, ordering the noise to cease. Hastily, Mycroft signals the
crew to stop engines and tries to explain; The Admiralty regards Jonah as the ultimate weapon in Naval
Warfare. It can seek out enemy ships and sink them whilst remaining invisible. HM asks if this means
from underwater, without warning or showing of colours?. 'Mister Holmes – We are not amused!.' (Me
again; debate continues as to whether Queen Vic did, in fact say those immortal words – she said she
didn't, which is good enough for me. She was, in fact known by her lively sense of humour.) 'It is
unsportsmanlike, un-English and in poor taste. Sometimes We despair at the state of the World – what
will scientists think of next?.' Grasping at straws, Mycroft informs Her Majesty that at this very moment, the Germans under Count
von Zeppelin are experimenting with a dirigible, which could be used to drop bombs on Buckingham
palace. It is being developed at the express order of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Nonsense! The Queen scoffs at
the idea; refusing to believe that 'Our grandson Willie' would do a thing like that. Mycroft persists; our
man Ibbetson in Friedrichshafen saw the dirigibubble and made a drawing of it, only to be apprehended.
HM is resolute, insisting HMS Jonah be scuttled and promising a sharp note to the Kaiser regarding
dropping bombs on the Palace. The Queen wishes to return to Balmoral – and departs in a Regal Huff.
(Somewhat like a Reliant Robin, but with four wheels.) Alone with his brother, Sherlock finds it ironic they have both been undone by women, all that
engineering and espionage for naught. Not necessarily... Mycroft has had a thought. If the Germans
want this submersible so badly, why not give it to them?. Invite them aboard for the final journey,
seven-hundred feet - straight down. Since Sherlock is on such intimate terms with Fraulein von
Hoffmanstal, Mycroft is counting on him to arrange it. Outside, the skirl of the pipes announces Her
Majesty's departure and the Holmes brothers go to see her off, leaving HMS Jonah sitting forlornly and
unchristened with her champagne bottle unbroken. The gig takes Holmes back to the Hotel, 'Gabrielle's' parasol over his shoulder. In their room, 'Gabrielle'
sleeps in bed, her back uncovered. Wistfully, the detective stands over her for a moment, then covers
her. Stepping to the window, he opens it and spots the seven Trappist monks standing as if in silent
contemplation at the Loch side, except they are turned towards the hotel. Flipping the parasol in his
hand, Holmes uses the handle to strike the metal lamp hanging from the ceiling, the loud ringing
startling the sleeping woman into wakefulness. Holmes asks her the German word for 'Castle' – Schloss,
isn't it?. Cautiously, she says she thinks so. So how would you say 'Under the castle?' Warily, she
claims not to know, keeping up the act. As her Trappist friends are waiting, Sherlock suggests they don't
keep them waiting and drops her real name. With a touch of steel, she speaks; 'Unter dem Schloss'. He
offers her the parasol, but her silent refusal to co-operate means he will have to signal the 'Monks'
The parasol at the window flashes its Morse code message, but from a distance Von Tirpitz and his
merry men cannot see that it is Holmes sending the communiqué. Helpless, Fraulein von Hoffmanstal
ties her night-dress and awaits her fate. As the mute group departs along the shore, Holmes remarks it
is their hands now. Ilse drops the Gabrielle persona and her German accent is revealed as she corrects
him for omitting the 'von' from her name. It must amuse him, Trappists walking into a trap. Sherlock
reveals that inside the castle, they will find surprisingly little resistance, the submersible running and
ready to go. He assumes they are all expert sailors (And, presumably, contortionists – all the monks are
a good height) and, since there happens to be a German battleship cruising off of Western Scotland,
they will attempt to rendezvous with it at sea. He suggests she get her things together as Mycroft will
arrive shortly to take her into custody. She does this and declares Holmes was onto her from the very
start. Ruefully, he tells her not quite that soon. She asked for this assignment, having been scheduled
for a mission in Japan. She couldn't resist the challenge of coming up against the best. She is sorry she
didn't give him a closer game, to which he answers 'Close enough'. Shameless!. He reveals that it is
fortunate Watson doesn't write about his failures. Back in manic mode, Doctor Watson sprints down the stairs and into the room, managing to trip over
the one thing on the floor, Ilse's trunk. Holmes is watching the loch through his telescope as a frantic
Watson tells him he's seen 'that thing' again out in the Loch. Through his glass, Sherlock Holmes
watches a trail of bubbles, which suddenly gout into a brief, final explosion under the water. He hands
Watson the 'scope just in time for him to see a champagne bottle and a bible pop up to the surface. It
seems someone carelessly left a few bolts loose – and Holmes remarks on such a fitting end for
Trappists, now in eternal silence at the bottom of the lake.
Mycroft Holmes arrives for Fraulen von Hoffmanstal, who is ready to leave. The one thing he likes
about Prussians is their punctuality – the one thing she dislikes about the British is the damp climate,
the jails are quite damp. She isn't going to jail – Mycroft tells her she is going back to Germany, in
exchange for Ibbetson, the British Spy arrested during his mission to investigate the Kaiser's Dirigible.
Her thanks are directed at the wrong Holmes, as it was Sherlock's idea. Mycroft considers it a poor deal
as she is much better than most operatives working for British Intelligence. Better, too than some
Consulting Detectives Holmes adds sportingly, with a small, gracious bow towards Fraulein von
Hoffmanstal. Taking her parasol from Watson she pauses at the door, taking her leave with the single
Christopher Lee and Geneniève Page on set.
yet. Insisting on the public's right to know, Watson doesn't see any need to consider Ilse's feelings.
Wistful, Sherlock watches as, outside Fraulein von Hoffmanstal climbs into an open carriage with
Mycroft to leave. Desperate, Watson implores his friend, if he promises not to write a word would he
enlighten him?, as his friend, his valet?. Holmes calls for quiet, as he is trying to read one last message.
As the carriage departs along the tree-lined drive, Ilse is casually signalling behind with her parasol.
Auf Weidersehn. Baker Street, Winter. Snow lies deep along the broad thoroughfare, children playing gleefully with the
snow, while less carefree souls shovel the pavements clear. Watson and Holmes are at breakfast, a cosy
fire warming the living room we know so well. Watson reads the newspaper, Holmes his mail. Tossing
aside his spoon, he announces a letter from the Diogenes Club. Perhaps an invitation to take up a
membership?. Perhaps not, as Holmes' face clouds, his breath coming in a sigh, he drops the letter onto
the table and throws down his napkin, rising to the window with heavy heart. Watson drops a lump of
sugar into his coffee and then uses the tongs to turn the missive so he can discretely read the contents.
It is from Mycroft, informing Sherlock that his sources inform him that Ilse von Hoffmanstal was
arrested by the Japanese Counter-Intelligence Service for espionage against the Naval installations in
Yokohama. After secret trial, she was executed by firing squad. Gingerly, Watson turns the letter to
read further. Mycroft adds it might be of interest to know she had been living in Japan under the name
Mrs. Ashdown. His face set, Watson goes to his friend, expressing his condolence. Bitterly, Holmes asks 'Where is it?'.
Watson tells him in the files – May to July, 1885 and walks from the room. Sherlock goes to the files
on their shelf and is surprised by the ingenuity of Watson's concealment; three 'files' turn out to be
facades affixed to the bottom of Watson's medical bag, itself on end. Remarking that Watson is getting
better, Holmes retires to his room with his cocaine. With the weight of events pressing on his shoulders
Watson takes to his writing chair and begins to write the story of recent events. The End.
When Billy Wilder bought the rights to Sherlock Holmes in 1957, he had a musical in mind. Later,
after a seven-year incubation, a two-hundred and sixty page script was ready, written with regular
collaborator I.A.L. Diamond. (The two were to fall out after savage cuts were made to the film.)
Budgeted at a colossal $10,000,000, the film was originally to include a prologue, with the Grandson
of Dr. Watson visiting the Bank of Cox and Company to retrieve his ancestor's possessions. A
flashback sequence to Holmes' Oxford days showed him in love with a young girl (Jenny Hanley), who
then turns out to be a prostitute, triggering his distrust of women. The main portion of the film was split
between four separate stories, “The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room," "The Singular Affair of
the Russian Ballerina," "The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners" and "The Adventure of
the Dumbfounded Detective”. In total, some three hours of movie. So, why is the release around two
|The blurb on this poster suggests the marketing people didn't quite know how to sell the film.|
versions, shown before general release at prestige venues to pre-booked audiences and typically
featured an intermission. (Children of the seventies will remember the scramble to the loos and the ice-
cream lady with the torch and the Kia-Ora.) United Artists, however, suffered a series of flops and the
Roadshow fell by the wayside as a way of promoting films. Subsequently, the film was slashed to one-
hundred and twenty-five minutes, without prologue or prostitute. Gone, too were the 'Naked
Honeymooners' and the 'Upside Down Room'. Appallingly, the missing footage has largely vanished
without trace. The 'Honeymooners' sequence survives, but without audio. Laser Disc and Blu-Ray
releases feature a subtitled version;
The case involved Holmes investigating a pair of corpses on a
cruise-liner, with it being revealed he has the wrong cabin. In the 'Upside Down Room', Watson
ingeniously affixes the furniture in a room to the ceiling, which Holmes investigates as part of a
murder – later revealed as a clever ploy to shake the Cocaine-addicted Detective from his accidie.
As revenge for this, Holmes nails Watson's bed to the ceiling of his room and invites him to sleep in his
bed, prompting a further question as to his ambiguous sexuality – already under scrutiny from the
'Ballerina' story. The production itself was not without hitch; the Loch Ness scenes had to be reshot
after low light levels had rendered the original footage useless.
The original 'Loch Ness Monster/HMS
Jonah' was made as a full-sized prop and floated out into the lake, but unfortunately failed to stay
floating; it remains at the bottom of Loch Ness, a model in a studio tank used in it's place. What
remains is widely agreed to be a master-work, but especially as Robert Stephens made so few films, the
cuts seem especially cruel.
|The artwork for the film's poster is by the incomparable Robert McGinnis.|
|The Polish artwork shows a rather different approach.|
Robert Stephens is Sherlock Holmes. A leading thespian, Stephens was once regarded the natural
successor to Olivier. The principle reason for his casting would seem to be Shakespeare; Billy Wilder
originally conceived the film as a commentary on Hamlet. I'm far from the first to say this, but why not
get it from the Horse's mouth;
When Wilder cast Stephens, the actor asked the great director: “How do you want me to play it for the movie,” I asked Billy. “You must play it like Hamlet. And you must not put on one pound of weight. I want you to look like a pencil.” So, that’s the way we did The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.’
A further clue can be found in the casting of Stanley Holloway as a gravedigger – the part he had played in an earlier production of Hamlet.
Stephens' performance is more than enough to place him among the greats, but it suffers from the eviscerating cuts made to bring the film down to around two hours. We lose some of the rationale and backstory and the Hamlet analogies are almost invisible. One niggle that I find annoying is that Holmes appears to be in stage makeup the whole time – which may just be another nod to the Bard.
Colin Blakely's Watson is manic, frenetic and great fun; he really hams it up with a thick slice of comedic support that helps the whole thing along nicely. Peter O'Toole and Peter Sellers had been considered for Holmes and Watson respectively.
Christopher Lee is wonderful as Mycroft Holmes, in a performance that stole the film for me. One of the few actors to have played both Watson and Holmes, Lee was walking along the banks of Loch Ness with Billy Wilder when a colony of bats swarmed around the pair. Wilder is reported to have remarked “You must feel quite at home.”Geneniève Page is Gabrielle/Isle von Hoffmanstal. an Irene Adler type character who beguiles Holmes not with her sexuality or charm – she tries both, but with her intellect. Incidentally, the name Hoffmanstal has to be based on that of Hugo Laurenz August Hofmann von Hofmannsthal the Austrian prodigy, a novelist, librettist, poet, dramatist, narrator, and essayist. (I had to Google him, to be honest.) Wilder himself was an Austrian emigré. Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Percent Solution features Hugo von Hofmannstahl and a dusty manuscript by Dr. Watson awaiting discovery... Meyer's book came out in 1974, so who is following whom?.
Much-loved British actress Irene Handl is Mrs. Hudson, fitting the part nicely.
Clive Revill is Rogozhin, the Ballet Director, the celebrated Prima Ballerina Tamara Toumanova appears as Madame Petrova. TV regular Mollie Maureen appears as Queen Victoria, while Catherine Lacey is the crippled lady. Seventies children's TV presenter Jenny Hanley appears – of all things as a prostitute, in a missing scene. Jonathan Cecil and Nicole Shelby appeared in a cut scene named"The Dreadful Business of the Naked Honeymooners." David Kossoff plays a blind man in another lost sequence; “The Curious Case of the Upside Down Room," George Benson played Lestrade in this and a curious epilogue in which the Inspector comes to seek Holmes' help apprehending Jack the Ripper;
|The alternate ending.|
As well as being filmed on location at Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle etc, the courtyard of Somerset House, The Strand, London served as the exterior for The Diogenes club.
|Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness.|
Kilmartin House is named as the location for the Caledonian Hotel, but I can find no evidence as to whether this is true or not.
The first castle Holmes and party cycle to is actually the Broadway Tower, in Worcester.
|The Broadway Tower, Worcester|
The third is Eilean Donan castle, featured later in films such as Highlander and The World is Not Enough. The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, featured in The Railway Children was used, with a large and expensive Baker Street set built using forced perspective on the backlot at Pinewood Studios.
|Eilean Donan Castle.|
The plot involves the German Kaiser and Count von Zeppelin, in a plan to use dirigibles to attack Buckingham Palace. In fact, Wilhelm II did not become Kaiser until 15 June 1888, nor was Count von Zeppelin yet involved in dirigible manufacture at the time of the story (1887.)
|The novelisation is well worth tracking down.|
Dr.Watson says at the beginning of the movie that this takes place in 1887. However, he shows Holmes a copy of the Strand Magazine with "The Red Headed League", which was not published until 1891. Also, the Russian opera singer later tells Holmes that she read about his adventure, "The Hound of the Baskervilles", but that was not published until 1901.
|The Japanese Film Brochure (ruins80.rssing.com)|
For the script and further insight into this remarkable film, visit these sites;