Customer Reviews: Without a Clue [Region 2]
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on March 12, 2004
Without a Clue (1988) poses an interesting and humorous take on the Sherlock Holmes mythos created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film asks what if the character of Sherlock Holmes was truly a fictional character created by Doctor Watson, and is played by an actor, with Watson being the actual mastermind behind solving the various cases and crimes?

In the film, Ben Kingsley plays Doctor Watson, the man behind the deductive and crime solving skills of his fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. For reasons that are revealed within the movie, Watson was not able to take credit for solving his first caper, so he invented the character of Sherlock Holmes, but soon found his creation was in great demand, so he hired an actor, Reginald Kincaid (Michael Caine) to play the part of the detective while Watson stayed in the background continuing to be the 'brains' of the operation. Only problem is Reginald Kincaid is a buffoonish, womanizing, gambling, drunkard, and unable to, as he put it, '...detect horse manure if he stepped in it.' After a falling out, Doctor Watson fires Kincaid, and decides to go it alone as 'The Crime Doctor'. Guess what? The legend of Holmes has grown so large and become ensconced so deeply within the public psyche that no one takes Watson seriously, and even his publisher threatens to sue if Watson reveals the truth of the situation publicly. Not only that, but a rather important case involving the financial integrity of the British Empire has surfaced, one involving the nefarious Professor Moriarty, and Holmes is the only man for the job. Watson finds himself in the humbling position of bringing Kincaid back for what will be one last performance.

Kingsley and Caine play their parts perfectly, and are supported by a wonderful cast including Jeffery Jones as Inspector Lestrade, Paul Freeman as Moriarty, Lysette Anthony, and Peter Cook. The dialogue is witty, and even though the plot a bit thin in some areas, the film works wonderfully as a farcical tale with just the right amounts of slapstick and tongue in cheek humor. A completely professional job done by everyone all around. My favorite part of the film was the notion of Watson using Holmes to keep Inspector Lastrade busy tracking down pointless leads while Watson performed the real detection at the crime scene. I was laughing hard when Holmes was on all fours inspecting the pattern of a rug with the baffled inspector right next to him, trying to get the jump on the 'master' detective.

I was a little disappointed in the release of this film on DVD, as I thought the picture and sound quality could have been better. Also, why is there only a full screen release available? Special features are virtually non-existent with the inclusion of a trailer for the film. MGM usually does a pretty good job with their releases, but they seemed to have dropped the ball here. Anyway, this is a great little film, and worth watching if only to see two fine actors at work

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on August 24, 2001
You don't have to be an avid reader of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories to enjoy "Without a Clue". If you are at all familiar with this legendary character, you will most likely enjoy this fun, tongue-in-cheek look at what it would be like if Holmes was actually the apprentice of Watson. Michael Caine plays the role of a down-on-his luck actor who is hired by Dr. Watson (Ben Kingsley) to play the role of the greatest Detective the world has ever seen (Sherlock Holmes). The only trouble is, "Holmes" can't seem to stop his drinking, gambling, and womanizing; nor does he have a shred of deductive reasoning skills. The story is clever and original, and the performances are fabulous. Michael Caine plays the loveable doofus to perfection and Ben Kingsley wonderfully displays Watson's constant frustrations at Caine's ineptness. The movie is fun, good natured, and genuinely funny. It's a shame it wasn't well received by audiences when it was released in 1988 (I actually remember seeing it in the theater). I would highly recommend this movie.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 18, 2004
Dr. Watson has a problem. He's always been the brains behind Sherlock Holmes, a fictional character he dreamed up as cover for the cases he has solved. He even hired a third-rate ham actor, Reginald Kincaid, to impersonate Holmes. But now he's fed up with the fatuous dimwit Kincaid whom everyone is fascinated by and who seems to believe his own notices. He longs to be known as John Watson, Crime Doctor, and to receive the recognition due him for his amazing deductive powers.

That's the set up, and it's a funny one, especially with two first-rate actors as Ben Kingsley playing Watson and Michael Caine playing Kincaid. Watson finally boots out Kincaid and decides to solve a case as himself...but no one is prepared to take Dr. Watson seriously as a detective, even his publisher. Plates for 5-pound notes are stolen from the Royal Mint, the powers of England want Holmes on the case, Watson finds he may need Kincaid after all, and the game's afoot.

Caine makes a spectacular dimwit who finally and inadvertently comes through. Kingsley combines frustration and resentment in a performance that is funny and believable. They both learn something about friendship.

The movie has its weaknesses. It goes on a bit, the climax is workmanlike, and it's essentially a one-joke premise. It still, however, is a very nice, amusing movie, especially if you're a fan of Holmes pastiches. If you're stuffy about Holmes and the sacred canon, well, you may not find this suitable. I thought it was great fun.

The DVD transfer is nothing special but good enough.
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on July 1, 2004
Although I'm a lover of Sherlock Holmes movies, I almost missed this gem. Everything about this film was wonderful, particularly the tremendous performances by Caine and Kingsley. You can see they're having fun with it every scene, and I loved being along for the ride.
The script is intelligent and witty, without getting goofy or slapstick. The plot is hilarious yet holds together as a "mystery" (kind of...). It is totally devoid of the offensive language that plagues so many movies, making it a great family fun flick (but it's NOT at all juvenile).
I just wish they'd made a series of these films -- I didn't want it to end.
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on July 6, 2005
This is a wonderful, literate satire of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, in which Watson is the actual great detective and Holmes an unemployed ham actor. One of Michael Caine's best performances as Holmes, with Ben Kingley witheringly sharp as Watson. Beautiful production, excellent supporting cast. It helps to know your Conan Doyle to appreciate the nuances this film offers. Most unusual that it has not received the notice it deserves.
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on September 30, 2008
There are plenty of reviews that tell what a delightfull movie Without A Clue is.It is a crime that this is not available in widescreen for region 1 dvds.however,for all of you with multi region players the region 2 disc IS ANAMORPHIC WIDESCREEN.Please note the dvd case cover said fullscreen but it is most definately widescreen,not compessed screen or anything else but the real deal.I will discribe the particular disc I am talking reads''itc entertainment,the silver collection,distributed by carlton video limited,region 2. I beleive this is a australian and great britan version for all writing is english only...Its amazing in widescreen....well i hope this helped someone..good luck.
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on January 15, 2007
The reviewers who have said you don't have to be a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast who is familiar with the Holmes stories to enjoy this film are exactly right. I don't generally give in to hyperbole when reviewing a movie, so I won't go overboard with superlatives here, suffice to say that this is a charming, delightful and VERY funny satire! It really is. If you are reading this review and have never heard of this movie, or have heard of it but never got around to watching it because it didn't get rave reviews, don't let that deter you any longer! Buy or rent this movie and you will not be disappointed, I'm willing to bet.

The plotline and background of the film have already been reviewed here, so I won't repeat them. I will say that I first began watching this movie with luke warm hopes that I would enjoy it, but boy, did I enjoy it! The time flew by and I laughed almost all the way through it. Usually, movies with so many in-jokes, visual humor and tongue-in-cheek one-liners will have several jokes that fall flat, but very few, if any, do here.

The character of Mrs. Hudson has a prominent role in this film, and it turns out to be a blessing, as Pat Keen played the role to the hilt. Her comedic portrayal of the proper and sometimes haughty Mrs. Hudson of the books was hysterical! (Oops! Some unintended hyperbole there! Well, what the heck, she really was extremely funny and I was impressed at just how engaging Ms. Keen really is! I had never heard of her before this movie and I found myself searching online for roles she has had in other films.)

I give this five stars. Admittedly, I am a huge Holmes fan, but my girlfriend is not and when I loaned this movie to her, she returned it to me saying that she thought it was great. She even threw a couple of notable quotes at me from the film. I liken Without a Clue, in many ways, to the original version of The Out of Towners with Jack Lemmon, another film I reviewed last month. (NOT the new, inferior version with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn). Like Without a Clue, it is also relatively unknown by many people and is a very underrated comedy.

As for the packaging, I too, like others, am disappointed that this DVD is only available in full screen version and take off half a star on my rating for that. I would gladly have paid a few bucks more for some extras, possibly a commentary by Caine or Kingsley (or best of all, BOTH), or even a short interview or two. But since I am not able to give it 4 1/2 stars, I have given it five, as it is clearly worth more than four. Confusing? Peace.
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on September 4, 2004
You might think of Ben Kingsley wearing a diaper as Gandhi, or as a villain in various roles (playing Meyer Lansky in _Bugsy_, Cosmo in _Sneakers_ or as the frightening Don Logan in _Sexy Beast_) but Kingsley can also do comedy, as proven by this film. The central conceit of this film is that John H. Watson, M.D. of the Sherlock Holmes stories was actually the detecting genius and that Sherlock Holmes was a fictional creation. Later Watson was forced to hire a drunken actor (played to perfection by Michael Caine) to fill out the role of Holmes for a public that would not accept the talents of "John Watson, the Crime Doctor". The chemisty between Kingsley, playing the tightly wound John Watson, fed up with the fact that his creation has taken center stage and that no one will believe in his talents, and Caine, as the buffoonish actor, receiving the adulation that rightly belongs to Watson is fantastic, as witness the scene where Holmes is recounting the curious case of the Manchurian Mambo ("It was a night like any other, when suddenly a knock came at the door. I opened it and there were these Manchurians, doing a rather festive Caribbean dance...").

The only reason I'm giving this DVD four stars and not five is because it is a panned and scanned print of the original movie and pan and scan sucks. Even so this is still worth seeing.
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on March 3, 2004
There are no extras, apart from the theatrical trailer. Well, fair enough, there were no extras on the VHS release. But it's fullscreen. Could no one at MGM be bothered to find a widescreen print?
If you've never seen Without a Clue, listen to the other reviewers and don't hesitate to grab the disc. But if you're hoping to upgrade your VHS copy...there's no rush.
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on July 3, 2004
What if Dr. Watson (Ben Kingsley) is the real detective and Sherlock Holmes is his fictional alter ego whose name he created and uses to protect his medical practice? And what if, when pressured to produce Holmes to the public, Watson hires an out-of-work actor to pretend to be Holmes (Michael Caine). All the actor playing Holmes has to do is what Dr. Watson tells him to do as he, Watson, does all the real sleuthing. This is the clever premise of this film -- all the more clever if you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor who wrote the Holmes detective mysteries on the side.

Of course, things start to spiral out of control when "Holmes" tries to solve the mysteries without Watson and "Holmes" makes up a lot of the famous mannerisms.

Lots of humor, a good mystery with quite a bit of suspense and the threat of real danger, plus very nice repartee between the two men as Watson becomes increasingly exasperated with his creation. (This has an almost "Remington Steele" like premise if any of you remember that 1980s TV show starring Pierce Brosnam.) This is a very under-rated film with a top notch cast.

I have not seen this film on the new DVD so can't comment on the quality of this DVD. I'm just reviewing the film itself.
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