Poorly received both critically and at the box office on its release, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a sweeping and comedic late Billy Wilder film with a cracking good (albeit far-fetched) mystery and a slightly different take on Conan Doyle's famous consulting detective. Originally conceived as a 4 part, just under 4 hour film, MGM cut two of the original bits prior to its theatrical release. The entire segment of the film concerning Holmes' first love was cut, but the studio restored 12 minutes of the film for the DVD release. The result is a compromise of sorts with the DVD version clocking in at 125 minutes. As it stands the time seems about right although the original cut (probably long lost) would have been an interesting addition.
Actor Robert Stephens makes Holmes a slightly foppish, melancholy character but he works well as the master detective. Colin Blakely is a humourous but never caricatured Watson. Wilder first wanted Peter O' Toole and Peter Sellers but they aren't missed. The production design is exceptional and opulent. If you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes, this should be on your must see list. Others might enjoy the banter between Holmes and Watson and the old fashioned style and wit of the film. This was to be Wilder's 2nd last film. His final turn in the director's chair came 2 years later with Avanti!.
He was one of the best.