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I don’t hate women, I merely distrust them.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Let me start out by saying I’ve found a new favorite with this film. Billy Wilder crafted a completely entertaining, fast-paced laugh fest that not only succeeds as a comedy, but also a character study as well. The dramatic elements don’t interfer with the comedy, they just support it.

I’m no expert on Sherlock Holmes. Outside of a few Holmes movies, I’m rather in the dark with the history of the character. I was worried at first that I wouldn’t be let in on the joke, since the film starts off with Dr. Watson’s will be executed and his trunk full of Holmes relics opened. I thought I wasn’t getting each item brought out, but luckily for me they were all items from the story being told in the movie. I saw a giant book compiling every one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories at Costco recently… very affordable… something like $20 for a nice, leatherbound book. Might have to pick it up because I’d love to revisit this movie after reading the complete Sherlock Holmes mysteries. While I never felt in the dark as a viewer I can guarantee there’s a deeper level of understanding that can be gained from being familiar with the case files. Watson and Holmes discuss many previous cases, sometimes Holmes chastises Watson for exaggerating. The banter is already funny, thanks to the ingenious casting of Robert Stephens as Holmes and Colin Blakely as Watson, but I could tell that there’s a whole other level of appreciation I could be having if I wasn’t such a retard and actually read up on my classic literature.

The idea is that the story we’re seeing is a secret accounting of a particular case that Watson promised would go unpublished until well after they were both in their graves. When Watson’s (unseen) heir opens a trunk 50 years after his death (during the opening credits) a lot of items are pulled out, everything from Holmes’ cocaine syringe to his iconic pipe, hat and clue that are found throughout the adventure follow. Also included is the manuscript for this case, outlining a darker, truer version of Sherlock Holmes than those accounts published to the mystery rags of their time. Sounds like a dark drama, doesn’t it? Never forget this is Billy Wilder telling this tale. The overall tone is very light, but it is punctuated with very serious character moments, like Watson’s fruitless attempts to talk Holmes out of his cocaine habit, which only manifests itself when he’s very low (usually due to boredom having no cases worthy of his intellect). Stephens plays Holmes almost effeminately, which actually is important to the story. There is a question about Holmes’ sexuality that is never wrapped up in a nice bow. Early in the movie Holmes is summoned by a famous Russian ballet star. His interest is piqued and when it is revealed she is looking for her child’s father he gets excited. When did he go missing? Where is the child? Well, there is no child yet. It got lost in the translation. She wants a child and has picked Holmes to be the father, wanting his brilliance… she believes her beauty and his mind will make a worthy child. His excuse to get out of it is that he and Watson are two bachelors who have lived together… for five years… get it? Of course, this is news to Watson who is busying himself dancing and flirting with all the supporting ballet starlettes, who are swooning over him. This makes for an absolutely wonderful scene as the rumor starts spreading and the beautiful girls he is dancing with start slowly being replaced by the male ballet dancers until it’s just Watson and these guys in tights arm in arm.

When Watson confronts Holmes about it, he explains the situation, but it is very open-ended as to whether or not Holmes might be playing for the other team. Does that explain his misogeny? Or was his heart broken earlier in his life? There are cases to be made for both, as he does have a story about a young fiancée. I like that they keep it ambiguous. MVP of this movie is Colin Blakely as Watson. He really is a bright beacon of energy and enthusiasm that keeps even the more drab-ish moments from becoming a bore. He is in a couple of the latter PINK PANTHER films, but I can’t say I remember him from those. It’s quite possible this was his one shining moment, the perfect casting in the perfect role. If it wasn’t for Blakely the MVP would undoubtably go to Christopher Lee, who connects us to yesterday’s ‘80s satire SERIAL, who shatters his pigeon-holing horror casting with this role as uptight Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older, smarter brother. You get the feeling this dude balances the fate of countries, his decisions ending regimes and starting new ones. He pops in when Sherlock and Watson have taken a case from the lovely Genevieve Page, playing an amnesiac looking for her husband, trying to talk them out of it. He can’t go into any details, but if Sherlock continues he will be trampling on a situation Mycroft views as too big for him to handle.

It’s a wonderful role for Lee, who had previously played both Watson and Sherlock and is to this day the only actor, I believe, to have played both Holmes brothers and Dr. Watson. As Mycroft he’s able to be very strong, but not threatening. He’s not a dark character, even though he is shrouded in mystery. In fact on this DVD there’s a brilliant special feature which is just Christopher Lee talking about Sherlock Holmes as a literary character, his insights to the books and to Arthur Conan Doyle himself and the debt he feels to Billy Wilder. It’s worth the price of the DVD alone, nevermind the great movie itself. After a little digging, I discovered that Wilder actually shot a lot more than what is in this movie. It was originally intended to be a big, roadshow type movie, complete with intermission, chronicalling multiple “newly discovered” Holmes tales. Wilder apparently shot and edited together a three hour and 20 minute epic series of Holmes tales that the studio ultimately cut down to just over 2 hours, eliminating all but the main tale involving the Loch Ness monster, the Queen of England and midgets (I’m not kidding).

Supposedly that footage is lost and nobody expects it to turn up. Pretty insane… how the hell do you spend a ton of money on footage like that and not at least keep the original camera negative? I mean, seriously… I know there wasn’t home video and the idea of owning different cuts of movies wasn’t even hatched, but still… there must have been re-release value or something, yeah? Final Thoughts: This movie has Wilder’s trademarks: effortlessly entertaining and a vehicle for some perfectly cast actors, from big names like Christopher Lee to relative unknowns. In fact, rumor has it that Peter Sellers was originally going to play Watson to Peter O’Toole’s Holmes… which would have been fascinating, but I can’t imagine that would have turned out any better than Stephens and Blakely. The chemistry between all the players is perfect, the cinematography is gorgeous and dreamlike and the balance between drama and comedy is nailed. I highly recommend this one.

Here are the final run of A Movie A Day titles: Thursday, January 1st: IRMA LA DOUCE (1963)

Friday, January 2nd: THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE (1974)

Saturday, January 3rd: THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977)

Sunday, January 4th: LOST IN YONKERS (1993)

Monday, January 5th: THE SUNSHINE BOYS (1975)

Tuesday, January 6th: CALIFORNIA SUITE (1978)

Wednesday, January 7th: A BRIDGE TOO FAR (1977)

Tomorrow begins our final week of AMAD, following director Billy Wilder over to the Jack Lemmon/Shirley MacLaine reteaming romantic comedy IRMA LA DOUCE! See you folks for that one! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
November 19th: The Holcroft Covenant
November 20th: Birdman of Alcatraz
November 21st: The Train
November 22nd: Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
November 23rd: Mystery Street
November 24th: Border Incident
November 25th: The Tin Star
November 26th: On The Beach
November 27th: Twelve O’Clock High
November 28th: Gentleman’s Agreement
November 29th: Panic In The Streets
November 30th: The Hot Rock
December 1st: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
December 2nd: The Day of the Dolphin
December 3rd: Carnal Knowledge
December 4th: The Cincinnati Kid
December 5th: Pocketful of Miracles
December 6th: Mikey & Nicky
December 7th: Two-Minute Warning
December 8th: The Sentinel
December 9th: How To Steal A Million
December 10th: What’s New Pussycat?
December 11th: Being There
December 17th: The Party
December 18th: Casino Royale
December 19th: The StrangerDecember 20th: Brother Orchid
December 21st: The Petrified Forest
December 22nd: Moontide
December 23rd: Notorious
December 24th: The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
December 25th: The High Commissioner
December 26th: The Silent Partner
December 27th: Payday
December 28th: A Stranger Is Watching
December 29th: The New Kids
December 30th: Serial

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