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SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK (TV)(director: Boris Sagal; screenwriter: Alvin Sapinsley; cinematographer: Michael D. Margulies; editor: Samuel E. Beetley; cast: Roger Moore (Sherlock Holmes), John Huston (Professor Moriarty), Patrick Macnee (Dr. Watson), Charlotte Rampling (Irene Adler), Gig Young (Mortimer McGrew), David Huddleston (Inspector Lafferty), Signe Hasso (Fraulein Reichenbach); Runtime: 100; 20th Century Fox; 1976)
“Moderate fare.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

At best, this TV film of Sherlock is moderate fare. It suffers from wooden acting, flat direction, and trite dialogue. In one scene with Roger Moore as Sherlock and Charlotte Rampling as Irene Adler, the only woman the great detective ever fell in love with, he says to her: “Fear not Irene, you shall not be long parted from your son.” This stagy dialogue took place in the New York of 1901 with Sherlock going after his nemesis Professor Moriarity (John Huston), whose villainous performance had no heart in it. It was as if Huston was reading his lines from cue cards, which made his confrontations with Sherlock unduly dry. They should have named this film, “Take The Money And Run.”

What the film did have going for it was a clever plot and a few gimmicks, which made it passably interesting for awhile, at least enough for me to continue watching so I could see how Sherlock resolves the complicated case. Sherlock has just located Moriarity’s hiding place in London after searching close to a year and he has foiled his plans to assassinate an important diplomat. But he now finds himself trapped in Moriarity’s house, which he foolishly enters by himself. The house is supplied with a multiple of devices controlled by a switch that releases trap floors, causes chandeliers to fall, and throws knives from all parts of the room. Moriarity warns Sherlock as he lets him leave the house unharmed, that he is letting him go because he will soon pay dearly for stopping him. Moriarity boasts that he will commit the greatest crime of the century and the great detective will be embarrassed in front of the whole world, as he will be forced to tell the police that he couldn’t help them without explaining why.

When Sherlock receives tickets that Irene customarily sends him when she appears in a show and these tickets are torn, Sherlock suspects foul play afoot and takes Dr. Watson (Patrick Macnee) along with him to New York to see the show. It is amusing to see the film’s vision of New York in 1901, with a new subway system being built underground and horse-carriage cabs racing through the streets.

Sherlock’s suspicions prove correct as he discovers Irene’s nine year old son has been kidnapped, and a note soon follows telling Sherlock that the child will die if he helps Inspector Lafferty (Huddleston). Sherlock is spotted in the street by the inspector and a concerned looking gentleman, Mortimer McGrew (Gig), who tells him that he is the head of the International Gold Exchange. It turns out that all the countries in the world have their gold stored in vaults under the Bowery Bank, which makes it easy for them when they make exchanges. But, somehow, all the gold was stolen and in three days an important exchange is set to take place between two countries and if they don’t make that exchange because all the gold is gone and this knowledge becomes public, this could lead to a world war.

When Sherlock refuses to help without explaining why the men are flabbergasted, and Sherlock is determined to privately put his powers of deductive reasoning to use and figure out how he can help the police without getting the boy killed as he rushes back to Irene’s Grammercy Park digs and puts his thinking cap on.

This is the usual Sherlock stuff, except the film never had an excitement or sense of urgency. Sherlock goes through the motions of wearing disguises, coming up with brilliant deductions, and moving about in New York as if he were a regular Dick Tracy. Any romance, seemed out of the question as the two stars seemed like cold kippers, afraid to even touch each other.

In the end everything seemed technically correct, but it never had any life. I would chalk this Sherlock version up as a mistake, and if I were in the mood to see a Sherlock I would stick to seeing any of the Basil Rathbone ones of the 1940s; especially, his “Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”