“ Genre: Comedy / Theatrical Release: 1988 / Parental Guidance / Director: Thom Eberhardt / Actors: Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Jeffrey Jones, Lysette Anthony, Paul Freeman ... / DVD released 2001-11-12 at ITV DVD / Features of the DVD: PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
I was given this dvd from someone who knew I like detective shows but a quick search shows that it's available between £1.15 to £5.99 in English language on Amazon and between £5-9 on eBay.
Starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsly this is a comedy caper, a parody on the canonical crime fighting duo this film uses role reversal to show Holmes and Watson in a different perspective. Holmes is a fictional character in a work of fiction based on truth and Watson is the author and the detective.
The characters we know and love are played by:
Michael Caine - Reginald Kincaid aka Sherlock
Ben Kingsley - Dr Watson
Jeffrey Jones - Inspector LeStrade
Pat Keen - Mrs. Hudson
Dr Watson is a doctor who solved crimes on the sly and writes the popular Sherlock Holmes adventures for The Strand magazine, the only thing is no one is interested in Dr Watson or his opinions unless they are voiced via the fictional Sherlock Holmes who the public believes to be real. Hence he employs an actor named Reginald Kincaid to pretend to be Sherlock in flesh and blood; unfortunately he's also an avid drinker, gambler and womanizer. His ability to remember his lines is pretty good but he does insist on fluffing his lines, ad-libbing and mistaking words but manages to save himself through bluffing and bravado, with trusty Watson watching his back and ever imagining stabbing it. Watson wishes he could rid himself of his bumbling Sherlock but is forced to admit he needs him. The plot revolves around the counterfeiting of £5 notes, the rivalry between them and LeStrade/the police and battling an archenemy (three guesses who it is, easy to guess hence why I haven't given it away). Overall is funny, has a touch of the ridiculous, a tad slapstick and a decent armchair detective movie. It's not laugh out loud but more satire on people's hypocritical attitudes towards celebrity, in this case pandering to popularity.
The film highlights the difference between detective fiction and crime drama and their respective followings. The former is more personal, based on the individual/detective and their personality, lifestyle/habits/preferences and people around them whereas crime drama is more about the actual case, the technical elements and can be grittier/more gory in presentation. It can be argued that there's a lot of 'facts' and technical presentation of deductions as proof in Sherlock Holmes and at least starts off with physical clues in contrast to other detective driven fiction such as Poirot who starts with psychological analysis, but I'd say that much of Sherlock's evidence is circumstantial and akin to Poirot is unfair on the part of the author/director to the reader/watcher. Clues and connections are plucked out of the air and the viewer would be unable to deduce them because they are often presented in the same way as an illusionist or stage magician - with shock and awe, and sometimes late in the 'game'. It's only really when such detectives apprehend the culprit that their understanding of the case starts to make sense to the viewer and only at times can they work out the mystery along the way with the detective. This sub-genre of crime is character driven and I do prefer it to crime drama but Holmes is not the most likable of characters; pretentious, sexist, brash with those of lesser social class, had a privileged upbringing, can pretty much do as he likes and his only real angst being a big brother complex to which he feels inferior simply because he's second fiddle even though there's nothing wrong with admitting someone is better than you if they are and your own character (and/or achievement) is nothing to be sniffed at. He doesn't really garner sympathy or empathy so of course it's only with his pairing with Dr Watson that he becomes more than a clever action hero that we are enthralled by, he becomes more 'real' or perhaps just more revealing. Through Dr Watson this behind the scenes helper is brought into light/the forefront. It's this relationship that's turned on its head in this film.
With Watson as the major brains and Sherlock as a figurehead Watson's frustration is palpable and probably only too understandable by many who have to put up with others they feel dependent on yet are carrying or assisting significantly but at least in this movie Watson and Sherlock come to terms with each other. Not the usual buddy movie but still one where the characters learn to appreciate each other, though don't seem to improve!
Besides the main duo all of the other characters are played well from bar folk and gangsters to pompous politicians; it's of course a very British affair and the filming, setting, costumes and accents are true to form and time. The skies are pretty much always Grey, the industrial smoke is not amiss and most of the indoor scenes are chintz and print laden. The hair and fashion are also spot on and the score, though not entirely noticeable to me did change tempo as necessary.
1) The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975 PG) - Starring Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman.
2) Sherlock Holmes (2009 12A) - Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong.
3) Murder by Death (2007 PG) - Starring David Niven, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Eileen Brennan.
4) Clue (2003 PG) - Starring Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean.
Available in Region 2
Unfortunately there are no extras such as footage, scenes or interviews.
It's true to say that I don't enjoy this film as much as other films I've noted in this review but I'm a big fan of detective fiction both as the written word and on screen, and with Holmes being a classic benchmark for a detective, the Holmes/Watson relationship being the cause quite a bit of controversy and speculation on the part of fans and the adventures of the duo being continued by many writers other than Conan Doyle it's safe to say that the characters hold a fascination for many. A spoof like this speaks to my appreciation of irony in the world we live in and suspicion that Holmes and Watson as they were originally written and perceived may not be in accord.
'He's got his hat, he's got his pipe...but he hasn't got a clue!'
Directed by Thom Eberhardt , Without a Clue (1988) is a hilarious reinvention of the Sherlock Holmes genre which will have you laughing non-stop from beginning to end.
Sherlock Holmes of 221b Baker Street is the ultimate detective. With impeccable logic and elementary deductive skills his talents are widely renowned - the public love him, the police envy him, criminals fear him. There's just one problem - Sherlock Holmes is in fact a drunken, debauched actor named Reginald Kincaid and it is in fact Dr. Watson that is the brains behind the operation.
It soon transpires that Dr. Watson invented the character of Sherlock Holmes as he couldn't be seen to be a crime detective in his social circle, but the popularity of the Sherlock Holmes stories skyrocketed and the public demanded to meet the real life Sherlock Holmes - cue Reginald Kincaid.
Without a Clue begins with Dr. Watson at the end of his tether. As Reginald Kincaid makes blunder after blunder in their latest case he finally snaps and throws Kincaid out on his ear. With a higher than warranted opinion of the public, Dr Watson tries to invent "John Watson the Crime Doctor" as a replacement for Sherlock Holmes, but is met with nothing but barely disguised scorn.
There's nothing for it - when a new case investigating fraud at the Exchequer drops in Watson's lap and Lord Smithwick will only see Holmes, Watson has to beg for Kincaid to return for one last case. But what starts out as a fairly innocuous mystery takes on a dark twist when it was clear that the prime suspect is none other than Watson's arch nemesis Professor Moriarty.
Let the hilarity begin!
Michael Caine - Sherlock Holmes / Reginald Kincaid
Ben Kingsley - Dr. John Watson
Jeffrey Jones - Inspector Lestrade
Lysette Anthony - Leslie Giles
Paul Freeman - Professor James Moriarty
Nigel Davenport - Lord Smithwick
Pat Keen - Mrs. Hudson
Without a Clue is a genuinely hilarious spoof of Sherlock Holmes. Whilst all spoofs never exactly use subtle humour, Without a Clue is certainly more intelligent than some of the more transparent spoofs like, for example, the Naked Gun or Scary Movie series. Slapstick is certainly used to great comic effect, but is not the most important element of the film. To me, the dialogue and great sense of comic delivery that both Caine and Kinglsey exhibit are where the majority of the humour is derived.
"You, sir, remind me of someone I once encountered during the curious affair of the Manchurian Mambo."
"I believe that was the Manchurian Mamba, Holmes."
"Mamba, Mambo. What's the difference?"
"Very little, other than one is a deadly poisonous snake and the other is a rather festive Caribbean dance."
Caine is quite simply wonderful as the washed-up ham actor hanging desperately to his former glories and trying to take on the persona of Sherlock Holmes, often with very limited, yet always amusing, success. Equally, Kingsley is just as fabulous as Dr. Watson - his exasperation at the idiocy of Reginald Kincaid and the fact he has to give him all the credit is comedy genius. The chemistry between these two is brilliant and goes a long way to making this the film as cohesive as it is. The contrasts between their two characters are another great source of humour with Watson making insightful comments and deductive observations to be met with a ludicrous or disinterested response from Holmes.
Jeffrey Jones is also excellent as the long suffering Inspector Lestrade - fruitlessly always trying to get the upper hand over Holmes and his barely restrained anger at constantly being scuppered is highly amusing. Other characters worth mentioning are Mrs Hudson played by Pat Keen and Lord Smithwick played by Nigel Davenport who have barely more than a supporting role, but are wonderfully eccentric and help keep the amusement flowing. Also, Paul Freeman as Professor Moriarty was fittingly sinister.
The quality of production in this film is also of a very high standard. Late 19th / early 20th Century London is brought wonderfully to life, with realistic costumes (naturally including the trademark deerstalker hat and calabash pipe - we couldn't have Sherlock Holmes without them), Hansom cabs lining the streets and street urchins with exaggerated Cockney accents - the whole atmosphere of the film is quite enchanting. I also love the score for this film which I think compliments the humour perfectly. There are wonderful compositions that are designed to affect a silly mood, or create a ludicrously overdramatic or ominous air.
But for all this silliness, there is actually a very good mystery to be solved. With Watson constantly alluding to but never revealing his suspicions, we are frustrated along with Holmes with the case and are left guessing with what will happen next - something all good mysteries should aspire to achieve. With lots of clues and red herrings afoot and a twisty turny plotline, Without a Clue is a very entertaining and highly amusing film.
Film Overview and Extras
Director: Thom Eberhardt
Runtime: 102 mins
Film Release Date: 21 October 1988
DVD Release Date: 12 November 2001
Due to being updated from VHS to DVD in November 2001 there are sadly no extra bits to the DVD apart from your obligatory Scene Index which is a shame - but the film pretty much speaks for itself so that's all you really need from this DVD.
Without a Clue is a fantastic spoof which brings a refreshing twist to the Sherlock Holmes series. With a great line up including Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine and Jeffrey Jones this film will have you falling out of your chairs with laughter at the general overall silliness of the film, but what is ultimately actually a very clever film.
I will leave you with this thought - when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. The truth in this case is unless you want to miss out on some comedy gold you must watch this film - at £2.98 from Amazon it is an absolute steal!