Better Holmes And Gardens

  • videoarchives
  • December 6, 2022

Everything’s elementary on today’s episode of The Video Archives Podcast! Jacqueline Coley from Rotten Tomatoes joins Quentin and Roger to discuss one of the final works of master filmmaker Billy Wilder, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. From there, it’s a long trip from London to the southern tip of South America for Kevin Billington’s Jules Verne adaptation The Light At The Edge Of The World, before the Video Archives crew is taken captive by René Cardona Jr.’s Hostages. I’ve got VHS covers and some Sherlock thoughts on today’s Counter Talk, so let’s get into it…

The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes is a hidden gem in Billy Wilder’s filmography, but Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts (often called “Holmesians”) were among the first to unearth it, some of whom have drawn inspiration from it for their own depictions of the detective. Holmes has been a famous character for as long as movies have existed, and every era of cinema has its own signature Holmes, from Basil Rathbone and Peter Cushing to Robert Downey Jr and Will Ferrell; not to mention, practically every detective story from the 20th century on has drawn from Conan Doyle’s work.

There have been brilliant straightforward portrayals of Scotland Yard’s finest (Rathbone is probably the gold standard, and Video Archives favorite Roger Moore once delivered his own traditional take), but in later decades the most famous Sherlocks have been deconstructions to some degree or another. Michael Caine made the genius detective a full-on fool in 1988’s Without A Clue; George C. Scott played a delusional pseudo-Sherlock in 1971’s They Might Be Giants (before the alt-rock duo took its name); and a personal favorite, 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective, made the character…a mouse.

Wilder was a lifelong Holmesian who dreamed of making his Sherlock epic for a decade, before United Artists cut it to pieces at the last moment. Despite the disappointing performance of the film, he succeeded in fusing the traditional and deconstructed takes on Holmes, revealing hidden depths in the character in a way that purists could still love. (He later admitted he wished he had gone further in making the queer subtext of the film text.) It’s not surprising that the creators of the most famous 21st century Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch on BBC’s Sherlock, saw this film as the template for their series.

The Video Archives VHS copy of “Private Life” comes in a classic rainbow Key Video box, showing a very classic Sherlock with a deerstalker and pipe - but cloaked in shadow:

The back copy really plays up the comedy, calling it ‘hysterical,’ ‘wacky,’ ‘madcap’ and ‘laugh-packed’. The movie is funny but it’s not Clue!

This was a big week for adaptations of 19th century superstar novelists, as we move from Arthur Conan Doyle to Jules Verne for 1971’s The Light At The Edge Of The World. For those of you following along with the After Show clues, trying to guess the new films before each episode – it’s not so easy when you can’t cheat and look at the New Beverly calendar, is it? Gala writes most of these clues, but I contribute a few, including this teaser: “A film that takes place in a fiery land, featuring a previous Video Archives leading lady.”

Fiery land…land of fire! Or, in Spanish, “Tierra Del Fuego,” the archipelago at the southernmost part of Argentina where the story is set. I think this confused some listeners because Tierra Del Fuego is actually quite chilly, with glacial winter winds blowing from nearby Antarctica. It was named after the bonfires set by native Fuegians…anyhow, the movie is a ripping adventure story, and our beloved Samantha Eggar is a key player in the most thrilling scenes (along with a menacing Yul Brynner).

The VHS box art for The Light At The Edge Of The World is just fantastic - it’s crammed with swashbuckling detail, from the fight atop the careening title, to the swirling black hole backdrop that lends the art a sci-fi touch (appropriate for a Verne adaptation), to that bold, loud copy typeface.

The Video Archives discussion on The Light At The Edge Of The World touched on the history of animal cruelty in film production; the director of this week’s final feature, René Cardona Jr., sadly developed a reputation for indulging in this as well. A shark was killed during the filming of his Jaws ripoff Tintorera, and live birds were thrown through glass windows in his 1987 film Beaks: The Movie (known as “The Birds 2” in some markets). There are no animal attacks in Hostages, however - it’s simply a showcase for his high-octane thriller direction, with a heist-gone-wrong setup and a nail-biting ending.

The Paragon VHS cover prepares you well for what you’re in for when you pop this in the VCR - something rough, lurid and terrifying, a “Nightmare of Violence”:

It’s that time of year officially - did you grab a limited edition Video Archives holiday sweater yet? Listener Matt Landsman did! He says, “I can't wait to wear this to the upcoming Silent Night Deadly Night/Black Christmas Double feature at the New Bev! I sell horror VHS tapes at Be Kind video in Burbank CA, Rubycon Records in Hollywood and Whammy Analogue in Silver lake as Matt's Mortuary.”

As you heard at the start of the episode, even though we released Eli Roth’s American Giallo episodes earlier, Jacqueline was the first guest we recorded with, and remains the first Video Archives customer! She was so fun to have in the studio, and everyone should go check out her work at Rotten Tomatoes and elsewhere on the internet. While you’re at it, follow us on Twitter and Instagram – there’s even a Facebook fan group you can check out! Then go to for merch, podcast news and movie facts. Next week we’ll be cracking open the Video Vault on the After Show…see you then!