DIRECTOR: DICK GARLOGY. RUNNING TIME: 76 mins. VIDEO: REDWING. PRICE £15.99 CERT 15
Red Wing Video is to be congratulated on resurrecting this eccentricity from the little-known low-budget British exploitation outfit Old Holborn Productions. They produced only a handful of films, most of which played on the lower halves of dubious double bills on the grindhouse circuit – most have not seen the light of day since the late 1960s. This effort is probably their best-known (although that’s not saying much) and represented an attempt to break new ground with an adult-orientated Sherlock Holmes flick. Although obviously made on a shoestring budget, the film has some points of interest. Veteran director Dick Garlogy uses the black and white photography to good effect, disguising cheap sets and building up a surprisingly effective period atmosphere. However, the plot strays some way from traditional Conan Doyle material, featuring Holmes and Watson’s attempts to find out why a series of erotic sculptures have had their penises shot off. This somehow involves distinctive genital warts, repressed homosexuality and strange masonic knob-shaking rituals. In the course of their investigations the duo are required to visit several Victorian brothels and observe various bizarre fetishes (at one point Wiliam Gladstone – portrayed by Emmerdale Farm‘s Toke Townley – is seen having his naked buttocks slapped with a glistening wet fish).
Essaying the central role of Sherlock Holmes is Roger George, an underrated performer who became familiar through his TV commercials for a well-known brand of laxatives, whilst familiar Hammer bit-player Barry Dobber (flatulent villager in Brides of Dracula, etc.) is surprisingly effective as Dr Watson. Somewhat bizarrely cast as Inspector Lestrade, is popular French performer Maurice Biffon, famous for his portrayal of Maigret in the previous year’s production of Simenon’s Maigret et les Homosexuals. (Who could forget the great scene where Maigret asks a bartender “Ou est le bar des homosexuals?” “Ici, Monsieur”, replies the barman, putting his arm around the policeman. Biffon’s expression is priceless). Biffon’s curiously dubbed Lestrade provides much of the comic relief – at one point Holmes tells him “Get out your knob, Lestrade. Good, now lay it on this table…”, before hitting it with a huge stick! “Did that hurt?” Holmes enquires as Lestrade collapses in agony. “Then this is the stick to use!”
The denoument sees Holmes and Watson, in disguise, infiltrating a the villain’s lair at an opulent London bordello. In a tense climax they find themselves confronted by a huge steam-powered flagellating machine, all seems lost until Holmes succeeds in shooting off the safety valve. Just in the nick of time hordes of policemen clad only in boots and helmets (so as to blend in) raid the establishment. The film closes with another comic exchange between Lestrade and Holmes: “You can let go of tour penis now Inspector.” “Blimey Mr Holmes, I could have sworn I had hold of my shotgun – I even sawed the end off before coming out!” The film has rarely been seen in Britain after the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle threatened legal action, and a sequel – Sherlock Holmes and the Devil’s Knob – was never released theatrically here. As a point of interest, Holmes actually does utter those immortal words in this film: “Watson, don’t forget your nutcrackers”.