Friday, December 27, 2013

Rare Flix: Young Sherlock Holmes

How did this one get to be so obscure?  Big name Director- check.  Big name Writer- Check.  Big time Movie Producer- big time Check!  The Director- Barry Levinson.  The Writer- Christopher Columbus.  The Producer- Steven Spielberg.  So what happened?  Today's film is Young Sherlock Holmes, a film that was clearly meant to lead to more.  Alas, it was not to be.  The film is a 'loving tribute' to Holmes and Watson, at least that's what they say.  I love that they do this TWICE in the film (one in the Intro and one in the Credits).  You really were afraid of the Conan Doyle Estate, huh?  Regardless, the film tells the tale of Holmes and Watson meeting for the first time- previous works be damned!  They must solve a series of strange murders/suicides in London.  The film is notable for a couple of reasons.  One of them is the film being the first to use a completely CG Character- suck it, Peter Jackson!  Will this film find a good middle ground between the good (although sometimes creaky) early Holmes films and the overly-stylized Guy Richie films?  To find out, read on...
If you are a fan of the Books, remember that this is not canonical.  All six people who would go to see a film called 'Young Sherlock Holmes' and be obsessed with continuity, your fears are alleviated.

I wonder if the Sherlock Holmes Porn film from 1975 has this same note.
A man seems to go crazy in a Restaurant and later at home.  He sees his house on fire and leaps out the window to his death.  I'm not sure why he thought he would have survived that in the first place, but whatever.
At Academy (see- I can talk British), we see Watson and Holmes meet for the first time.  They hit it off.

It's also worth noting the small, but vocal group of people who claim that 'Harry Potter' ripped off this film.  Just think of Watson as Harry, Holmes as Ron and Elizabeth as Hermione.  It doesn't help that Columbus wrote this and the film versions of a couple Potter films.  Could be, could be.
Here's the big moment.  This Priest gets shot with the 'imagine things' poison dart and sees...the Knight from the Stained Glass Mosaic in the Church trying to kill him.  He runs out into traffic (okay- one guy with a cart) and dies.

The other hallucinations have some meaning- the guy's food attacking him, a demon on his chest- but what's up with this.  Great effect though, thanks in part to an early work by John Lasseter.
Holmes, Watson and Elizabeth investigate the deaths and eventually find a giant wooden Pyramid built into a Warehouse.  I have several questions.

The real issue is that this is nearly the exact same bit from Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom (only with Egyptians)- a film made by Spielberg himself only a year earlier.  Really?!?
They eventually discover that the man who was obviously kind of evil is actually evil and seeking revenge on the people that desecrated the Tomb of his people.  As such, they try to sacrifice Elizabeth, since this has to be really derivative.
I won't SPOIL everything that happens- in case you really want to see the film naturally-, but I will reveal that they get almost no credit, since Holmes and Watson didn't become Detectives at 18.  Plus, it sets up Inspector Lestrad for the stories.
In a Post Credits scene, we see the arrival of...DUN DUN DUN!!!!
He even stops to raise an eye brow (now copyright of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) to tell you that he's evil.  Good luck with that sequel.  It's only been 28 years.  It took that long for Tales of an Ancient Empire, after all.  The End.
Well worth the time tracking it down, I think.  Viewed in a modern context, Young Sherlock Holmes can be a bit dated.  So much of what it was doing was new then, but has been done many, many times since.  Is that a cop-out?  Maybe.  The look is great, seeing London look like it should for the time period.  The story is solid, giving us good motivation for all of the people involved.  The special effects hold up quite well, especially the Stained Glass Knight.  They say that it took 4 Months to do, which is funny when you consider that it lasts about 15 seconds.  It makes you rethink how you've spent the last 4 months, huh?  In summary, the film is a neat little gem from the 1980s.  It looks nice and polished, even if there are some moments that are really derivative.  The one goofy part that really stands out to me is just what scares young Watson- anthropomorphic candy/donuts.  No, really.
Next up, I find the time to review a Christmas Classic.  Since Maynard doesn't like it, will then like it by default?  Stay tuned...

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