HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. Our third Rewind Sherlock Holmes adventure is a very rare one starrring a one-time 007 in the role of the great detective.
HCF REWIND NO.35. SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK 
AVAILABLE ON R1 DVD
DIRECTED BY: Boris Sagal
WRITTEN BY:Alvin Saplinsley
STARRING: Roger Moore, Patrick Macnee, John Huston, Charlotte Rampling
RUNNING TIME: 95 mins
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
March 1901: Sherlock Holmes penetrates his arch enemy Professor Moriarty’s secret headquarters in London’s dockland to inform him that his latest crime has failed, though as usual there is no evidence to implicate Moriarty directly. The villain tells Holmes he is going to perpetrate ‘the crime of the century’ and humiliate the great detective in the eyes of the world. Holmes receives an envelope from actress Irene Adler, once a brief love of Holmes; for the past ten years, she has been sending him tickets of her first nights, but these particular tickets are torn in half. Sensing something is wrong, Holmes, accompanied by Dr Watson, heads for New York to find that Irene’s illegitimate son Scott has been kidnapped…….
This TV movie is one of the less remembered Sherlock Holmes movies, despite it starring Roger Moore in the role. Perhaps that is the problem; Moore, Mr Charm himself, or, some might say, Mr Smarm, is one of those actors who few would ever imagine as Holmes, so I think many Holmes fans will understandably have ignored the movie. Well, Moore is actually quite good, certainly much better than I expected. I thought I would spend the whole time laughing at him and, almost to my disappointment, didn’t. As a Holmes film Sherlock Holmes In New York is reasonably enjoyable, with some good ideas; it also has some terrible ones. The result is a somewhat muddled endeavour which just about manages to coast on its charm. It was shot on sets left over from Hello Dolly. Oliver Reed was asked to play Moriarty but refused, so the role went to the great director John Huston, a rather bizarre choice. Huston claimed he couldn’t remember his lines and trouble was made to put up boards everywhere with them on, but the old devil, when the cameras rolled, delivered all of his dialogue perfectly without so much as glancing at the boards! Sherlock Holmes In New York received little interest when aired and is these days quite a rare film.
For much of its running time, the film ambles along in a leisurely way, with writer Alvin Sapinsley’s story appearing to mimic Conan Doyle reasonably well, at least at first. While Holmes isn’t really given enough to work out, the plot unfolds quite interestingly as it incorporates kidnapping, gold robbery and eventually the world being held ransom in the manner of a James Bond villain. There’s little growing tension though and the only excitement is a brief bit of shooting and a fight at the end, said fight being unintentionally hilarious. Holmes is supposed to have trouble besting this elderly Moriarty – Huston was 70 years old – but then this Moriarty fails throughout as a menacing adversary to Holmes. Despite his dastardly doings, he never once comes across as a threat, a serious problem that the movie never gets over.
The same can be said for Patrick Macnee’s Watson. The actor seems to be impersonating Nigel Bruce’s blustering fool in the Basil Rathbone series of Sherlock Holmes films in the 30s and 40s, but every now and again also seems to wheeze, his voice becoming really high pitched. It’s a totally misjudged performance, and I cannot for the life of me understand why he would get the opportunity to reprise the role fifteen years later. Then again, the character doesn’t really get to do much in the film, though he provides some laughs, such as refusing to set his watch once in America, saying “they’re cheeky buggers, I must say, making up their own time”. Moore though is rather good, despite sporting unconvincing sideburns. Refusing to do his usual Saint/James Bond schtick, he delivers a very committed, serious performance as Holmes, at times really suggesting the intelligence of the character, though he’s not really given enough great Holmes ‘moments’.
Sherlock Holmes in New York has the odd genius idea, such as Moriarty building an empty gold vault over the real one, and has plenty of references for Holmesians and even general film buffs to pick up on [is that the Maltese Falcon, from the Huston-directed film of the same name, on Moriarty’s desk?]. It also displays some stupidity, especially when concerning Irene Adler. This duplicitous female, who only appeared in one of the original stories, has often been portrayed on TV and in the cinema, and is sometimes even written as a love interest for Holmes [as in the recent Guy Ritchie movies], but the writing concerning her is very poor in this particular effort, especially in one really painful scene when the two reminisce about ‘a weekend in Montenegro’, replete with absurdly corny dialogue about how they met. We also learn that Holmes’s full name is ‘William Sherlock Scott Holmes’ [listen, you can here Doyle turning in his grave] and are given hints that he might be Scott’s father, though of course this aspect is rather wasted overall.
The film looks great, the re-used sets making it look like a much bigger budgeted production than it actually was, and overall the acting, Huston and Macnee notwithstanding, is okay. Sherlock Holmes In New York is wrong in all sorts of way but I think it’s impossible to entirely dislike, and you know what? I wish Moore had played Holmes again, and in a more traditional outing. That is something that, when I watched the film for the first time the other day, I never thought I would say!