Without A Clue

Without A Clue movie still

Director:Thom Eberhardt
Screenwriters: Gary Murphy, Larry Strawther
Starring: Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Jeffrey Jones, Lysette Anthony, Paul Freeman
Release details: Orion Pictures, UK 1988, 102mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Mystery spoof
Rating: 8 out of 10

What if Dr John Watson had really existed and Sherlock Holmes had been a figment of his imagination? That's the starting point for Without A Clue, in which Watson (Kingsley) is the real genius who writes up his own adventures for The Strand magazine, inventing a supersleuth, Sherlock Holmes, to feature as the main protagonist. Soon Holmes' popularity becomes so great that Watson has to hire an out-of-work actor, Reginald Kincaid (Caine), to pose as the world's greatest consulting detective.

So far, so Remington Steele. But, unlike Pierce Brosnan's urbane alter-ego, Kincaid is a drunken, lecherous buffoon with little talent:

Holmes: How can I be expected to maintain the character when you belittle me in front of those hooligans?
Watson: Character? Are we talking about the same man who once declared with total conviction that the late Colonel Howard had been bludgeoned to death with a blunt excrement?
Holmes: Is it my fault you have such poor handwriting?

Watson tries dumping Holmes and reinventing himself John Watson, Crime Doctor, but everyone wants the "real" Sherlock Holmes, not his sidekick. When the plates for making five pound notes are stolen from the Royal Mint, Queen Victoria herself insists only Sherlock Holmes can possibly be trusted to solve the problem, much to Watson's disgust, and the two are forced to work together again.

Caine romps through this, chewing scenery as he goes, proving that his movie-stealing comedic turn in Sweet Liberty was no fluke. Kingsley gives a clear indication that he, too, really should do more comedy. Equally noteworthy are a suitably sneering Moriarty (Freeman) and a perfectly cast Jeffrey Jones - who has made the pompous, yet incompetent, bureaucrat role his own - as the bumbling LeStrade. Only Lysette Anthony, as a damsel in distress, lets the side down.

An overlooked gem.


Lysette Anthony starred with Caine's Ashanti co-star Beverly Johnson in the DTV thriller, A Brilliant Disguise.


Caine is not playing Holmes, but an actor playing Holmes, and no one is better at playing frauds who become accidental heroes... Roger Ebert



Poster image © MGM/UA

Sir Ben Kingsley maintains an official site.

The Tim Burton Collective (an excellent site, by the way) has a profile of Jeffrey Jones and you can find interviews aplenty.

As you might expect, there's a wealth of Sherlock Holmes stuff out there. Top choices: