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As far as I can remember (it's hard to check since I don't think there has ever been a region 2 DVD) the fantastic but under appreciated movie Zero Effect featured a somewhat reclusive private eye whose sidekick did his publicity. He was also a genius detective whose major failure involved a female criminal.

The recent Sherlock Holmes remakes (the modern BBC version and the Guy Ritchie Movies) both somehow reminded me of Zero Effect and made me as two questions: why is it impossible to find on DVD or online (at least in Europe)? and was it intended as a sort of modern version of Sherlock (15 years before the BBC did Sherlock)?

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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I can't answer the question about region 2 DVDs, but the similarities between Zero Effect and Sherlock Holmes are not a coincidence. The film review The Zero Effect–Out of the Dung Heap and Into the Rose Garden points out many of the similarities between the two.

The Zero Effect ... is based on the great Sherlock Holmes short story A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film stars Bill Pullman as Daryl Zero (Sherlock Homes), a gifted but strange private detective who is socially awkward and inept. His “Dr. Watson” is portrayed as Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller). Zero keeps himself locked in his apartment where, like Holmes and his violin, he composes dreadful songs on his guitar and subsists on a diet of tuna, Tab, and amphetamines (Holmes’ drug use included morphine and other narcotics).

Paralleling A Scandal in Bohemia, Zero is retained by Gregory Stark (Ryan O’Neal), a wealthy man who hires Zero to investigate who is blackmailing him. During the investigation Zero ventures outside of his apartment encountering Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens). Gloria is based on the character Irene Adler, the only woman who had the wit to outdo Holmes, and he admired her for it. Sullivan is the blackmailer (like Adler) and as the film progresses, they begin to fall in love.

The similarities between the characters Zero and Holmes:

  • brilliant detective
  • strange personality
  • social awkwardness
  • lives alone
  • faithful sidekick
  • plays a musical instrument
  • drug use

are also shared by another TV character inspired by Holmes.

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Sounds like the correct answer to accept. –  Napoleon Wilson May 17 '12 at 20:02
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It certainly seems that way, with the "Extreme Deduction" method of detective work. I haven't found any primary source on it, but Roger Ebert is good enough for me.

"So one finds his way into Zero Effect in the form of Daryl Zero, an aging hippie Sherlock Holmes with the household habits of a Howard Hughes…"

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Hi nickgb, and welcome to Movies.StackExchange! –  DForck42 Jan 27 '12 at 20:23
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