While it pales in comparison to the same year’s big-screen Sherlock Holmes adventure The Seven Per-Cent Solution, this entertaining telefilm boasts a colorful cast, a fine script, and more-than-adequate production values. The picture also represents Roger Moore’s first and only attempt at playing Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective, and he’s a good fit. Not only does Moore’s velvety voice make long scenes of Sherlock explaining things an auditory pleasure, but the snobbishness inherent to Moore’s screen persona meshes nicely with the aloof quality of the Holmes character. There have been so many wonderful interpretations of this particular investigator that offering superlatives is imprudent, so it will suffice to say that Holmes and Moore do each other justice.
Written as a screen original by veteran TV scribe Alvin Sapinsley, directed by the reliable Boris Segal, and set to jaunty music by Richard Rodney Bennett, Sherlock Holmes in New York opens in London, with Holmes spoiling the latest scheme of his nemesis, Professor Moriarty (John Huston), who vows revenge before escaping. Soon afterward, Holmes receives word that his on-again/off-again lover, actress Irene Adler (Charlotte Rampling), is in peril. Thus Holmes and his trusty biographer/sidekick, Dr. Watson (Patrick Macnee), travel to New York, where Irene is performing. Holmes learns that Irene’s son—whose father may or may not be Holmes himself—has been kidnapped, and that Moriarty is responsible. The catch? Moriarty has stolen all the gold from an international exchange, and Holmes is warned that if he helps police recover the stolen loot, Adler’s son will suffer the consequences. Dum-dum-dum!
Sapinsley’s script hits nearly all the required notes well. The dialogue is elevated, the criminal scheme is outrageous, and the interplay between Adler and Holmes is deep, encoded, and sexy. (Rampling looks especially beautiful here, with her signature iciness suiting the role of a woman capable of intriguing the brilliant Holmes.) Despite wearing a goofy perm and sideburns, Moore cruises through his performance with great flair, and Macnee employs a gruff vocal style instead of his usual sing-song tones, which makes his Watson a fine complement to Moore’s suave Holmes. If there’s a weak link in the cast, which also includes the great David Huddleston as an NYPD detective, it’s Huston, who delivers an over-the-top interpretation of Moriarty; that said, Huston appears in just a few scenes, and he raises the energy level whenever he appears.
Sherlock Holmes in New York: GROOVY