A 1970 film by Billy Wilder, which asks the question: we all know about how successful Sherlock Holmes is at solving mysteries, but what about his failures? His secrets? Those things he wouldn't want Dr. Watson to reveal to the world?
The film was envisioned as a collection of several short stories, with four segments filmed but two ultimately left out of the film to keep the running time down. One of them is included in some home video releases.
The movie as released is essentially split into two stories, one longer than the other: in the first, Holmes is approached by a beautiful Russian dancer with an unorthodox offer to make to him; in the second, he is drawn into a conspiracy at the highest levels of government after a woman who was fished naked out of the Thames finds herself on the doorstep of 221B Baker Street. In both cases, the outcome is something that Holmes would rather not be reminded of...
Provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody
- Aloof Big Brother: Mycroft, natch.
- Ambiguously Gay: It's been called a campy one-sided romance (by Mark Gatiss, notably) but each suggestive scene has some plausible deniability.
- Asexuality: One of the possibilities that can be inferred from Holmes and Watson's very suggestive conversation. It is later established that Holmes is probably not gay, as would be the most likely interpretation of his remarks, when Holmes reveals to Ilsa that he was once engaged to be married to a woman (his fiancée died before the wedding). Even so, he doesn't speak particularly fondly of his fiancée, but after Ilsa's own death we see that Holmes was truly attached to her when he turns to the needle in grief.
- Chekhov's Gag: Holmes makes a dismissive joke about a missing persons case he's been offered; later, it turns out to be part of the conspiracy. The missing persons, a troupe of circus midgets, were hired in secret to crew the Diogenes Club's mini-submarine.
- Deconstruction: A mild example, of Sherlock Holmes himself; it's mostly affectionate, but points out that he was more than a bit weird and that he had to screw up every so often.
- Downer Ending: Ilsa winds up dead, shot after being exposed as a spy in Japan. This drives Holmes back to the cocaine bottle.
- Everyone Knows Morse: Gabrielle uses this to communicate with her German handlers, and Holmes inevitably knows how to decode it. Justified because, well, of course Sherlock Holmes would make sure he knew something like that.
- Faux Yay: Holmes tries this with Madame Petrova, much to Watson's fury.
- Foreshadowing: The old lady in the wheelchair uses a contraption to pull up her birdcage cover that closely resembles a drawbridge - this foreshadows later in the film when a drawbridge becomes part of the story.
- Iconic Outfit: In universe example; Holmes bemoans the ridiculous get up he's now forced to wear everywhere he goes because it's expected of him.
- My Greatest Failure: This ends up being Watson's recounting of Holmes'.
- Not the Nessie: This is what the Diogenes' invention was disguised as.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Diogenes Club is a non-evil example.
- Performance Artist: Apparently the Russian Ballet attracts these like flies. Gay, gay flies.
- Sherlock Scan: Oddly enough, averted with Holmes himself. The closest we get in the film is Watson doing this after Gabrielle is brought up to their flat.
- Sorry, I'm Gay: Upon learning that it worked for Tchaikovsky, Holmes uses this to get out of having to father a child with Madame Petrova. Watson is not pleased...
- Stalker with a Test Tube: The Russian Dancer tries to get Holmes to contribute his DNA to her children, hoping their offspring with have her physical advantages and his mental advantages.
- The Scrooge: Discussed; one of the letters begging for Holmes's help comes from a circus owner asking Holmes's help to find six midgets who have disappeared from his circus. After spinning Watson a yarn about how the midgets are actually anarchist assassins planning to blow up the Tsar of Russia when he's on a state visit, Holmes reveals that it's actually more likely that the circus owner is a massive skinflint and the midgets have ran away to seek more profitable employment elsewhere, acerbically pointing out that the circus owner offers to pay Holmes a mere five pounds for his services — he's not even offering a pound a midget. Funnily enough, the midgets turn out to be working for Mycroft.
- Unreliable Narrator: Not an example itself, but it suggests that Watson was this for the original Holmes stories; Holmes acidly notes that he has a tendency to 'over-romanticize', and gives him a telling off for all the ways he or his publishers have exaggerated what he's like. The accusation that Watson romanticizes their adventures is taken directly from the original stories.
- Vodka Drunkenski: Lots of drinking going on at the Russian Ballet's after party.