The cases Dr. Watson deemed too scandalous to write up. A fiendish plot takes in bleached canaries, missing midgets, sinister Trappists, the Loch Ness Monster and Queen Victoria herself.
Originally a three-hour epic, this 1970 movie was taken from its creator and mutilated by the wholesale lopping of entire episodes. What remains is so wonderful that those meddling studio philistines should be sought out in their retirement homes and cemetery plots, and shouted at very loudly.
A loving, wry recreation of the Victorian world of Arthur Conan Doyle, it has Robert Stephens as a Holmes whose deductions and repartee are tossed off with a touch of Oscar Wilde. To the fury and discomfort of Watson (Colin Blakely), he even pretends to be gay, though we learn he is really a cynical romantic. The hero is satirised, but remains a hero. Elsewhere, the period settings are sumptuous, the Miklos Rozsa score is seductive, and there's great character work from Irene Handl (a sarcastic Mrs. Hudson) and Christopher Lee (a pompous brother Mycroft).
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.
Reviewed by Kim Newman