9. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
Wilder’s Sherlock movie was made in collaboration with the man who became his second great writing and producing partner, I.A.L. Diamond, who, like Wilder himself, was an emigrant to America from eastern Europe (in Diamond’s case, Romania). As a man who was so often part of great teams (Wilder was a true collaborator and often dismissive of the “auteur” theory of directors that developed in the wake of the French new wave), it was natural that he was drawn to the great Holmes-Watson double act. His movie purports to tell the “untold” story of Sherlock, in particular his great love affair with a woman who turns out to be a German spy intent on uncovering the truth about Britain’s first submarine (which, to prevent it from being spotted and copied, is often disguised as the Loch Ness Monster).
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a minor Wilder as opposed to a major one, but even minor Wilder movies have their delights and this is no exception. The acting, as in most of his films, is extremely good, with Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely as a fine Holmes and Watson; Christopher Lee as perhaps the best ever Mycroft Holmes (Mycroft is supposedly the better behaved and more responsible of the Holmes brothers, so it is ironic that Wilder cast Christopher Lee, one of the great movie villains, in the role); and the beautiful, brilliant Geneviève Page as the woman capable of winning Holmes’s heart.