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We all have occasional failures. Fortunately, Dr. Watson never writes about mine.

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 movie 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.
  • 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.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: In universe example; Holmes bemoans the ridiculous get up he's now forced to wear everywhere he goes because it's expected of him.
  • Bonnie Scotland: Where the second half of the film takes place.
  • 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.
  • Faux Yay: Holmes tries this with Madame Petrova, much to Watson's fury.
  • Ho Yay: Obviously.
  • Missing Episode: The film was envisioned as a collection of several short stories, with two more segments filmed but ultimately left out of the film to keep the running time down. One of them is included in some home video releases.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Lots of drinking going on at the Russian Ballet's after party.
  • What Could Have Been: Wilder originally planned on casting Peter O'Toole as Holmes and Peter Sellers as Watson.
    • The original idea had four stories involved, two of which (one in which Watson solves a mystery on a cruise and Holmes solves a murder in an upside-down room) were edited out. The latter featured Inspector Lestrade.
  • Word of Dante: The movie takes Holmes' older, smarter brother Mycroft and suggests that he was the head of the Secret Service, and that his frequent haunt, the Diogenes Club, was a front. In canon, neither are other than what they appear to be (a Brilliant but Lazy civil servant and a club of reclusive eccentrics specifically), but this interpretation has become the popular one.
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