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Young Sherlock Holmes

(1985)

By Tom BakerPublished 7 months ago Updated 7 months ago 3 min read
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"The game is afoot!" Nicholas Rowe as the world's most famous detective.

I remember seeing Young Sherlock Holmes as a child, me and Mom being the only two people sitting in an empty theater in the freezing cold. The theater manager, because there were only two patrons, obviously didn't think it advisable or worthy to turn the heat on. I suppose that made sense to him. It added something to the film, even, as the thing takes place in a freezing London winter in Victorian times.

The film's plot, a fantasy based on the "meeting" of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as boyhood chums at a stuffy, repressive English boarding school, is entertaining and combines elements of Indiana Jones and a bad hallucinatory horror flick. Holmes (Nicholas Rowe), a tall, skinny, aristocratic-looking young man with features that could almost make him a Windsor, is the wunderkind of the school, a boy genius whose brilliant powers of deduction startle and amaze the other students and make jealous the snooty, effete Dudley (Earl Rhodes), who frames him for cheating, causing his expulsion. Beforehand, Watson (Alan Cox) transfers to the school, meets his future partner in sleuthing, and reveals himself to be a somewhat pudgy, clueless young boy. (His weight becomes a part of the subplot. It's not severe and wouldn't even merit comment today, in our era of epidemic morbid obesity.)

The film is genial enough so far, and rounding out the young cast is Sophie Ward ("Elizabeth"), the daughter of Professor Waxflatter (Nigel Stock), an eccentric inventor in a deer stalker cap whose bicycle is a flying contraption that is pedaled, with flapping Davinci batwings, and that no sane person could expect to ever be airborne. Waxflatter crashes sure enough, but Holmes and his new friend Watson become enthralled with the attic-dwelling mad genius.

Also, we have Professor Rathe (Anthony Higgins) and Mrs. Dribb (Susan Fleetwood), the former being a rather dashing and mysterious fellow, the latter a Victorian schoolmarm with a forbidding air about her. An additional appearance is made by Freddie 'The Elephant Man" Jones, who it is always good to have on hand when time traveling back to Victorian London.

Holmes is quickly expelled but takes up residence at Waxflatter's attic laboratory, to solve the murder both of Waxflatter (oh yeah, didn't mention it, did we?), as well as a businessman and a priest who, remarkably, seemed to have committed suicide or come to freaky, bad accidental ends while having hideous, nightmarish hallucinations: birds come to life on the dinner plate, stained-glass warriors pop out of windows (the film was famous at the time for having the first CGI-created total character in it), and there is a mysterious, hooded figure running around with a blowgun shooting psychedelic darts into people's necks.

Young Sherlock Holmes - Stained Glass Knight (1985)

Holmes, Watson, and Elizabeth all get their blow dart, and the ensuing hallucinations are, actually, quite disturbing, with Elizabeth falling into a vast, bottomless grave, custard coming to life and attacking Watson, and Holmes reexperiencing the brutal rejection by his father for exposing some indiscretions of his to his weeping mother. (Holmes enters this scene by way of a mausoleum, a metaphor perhaps for the death of love in his fractured family.) The film has a lot of violence and imagery that may be too intense for young viewers.

Eventually, the three young sleuths make their way to a wooden pyramid structure beneath the streets of London and happen upon a cult whose practices and template were borrowed from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The film had what at the time were the "Lucas and Spielberg" fantasy film tropes of happening upon mysterious cults, weird and horrific rituals, and lots of slam-bang action as these issues are resolved during the denouement of the picture. By modern standards, trite, hackneyed; not to say even slightly offensive, insomuch as these "mysterious cults" make frightening the religions and cultures of foreign peoples, a leftover from older entertainments where such cultural bias and suspicion was more acceptable.

On the whole, Young Sherlock Holmes is an entertaining and visually arresting piece of cinematic fluff from yesteryear, with special effects thrills that were state-of-the-art for their time, and still hold up relatively well. It may be too intense for the wee little ones, but older kids may love it, and this overgrown child still looks back, quite fondly at a day thirty-seven years in the past, when he sat in a cold, cold movie theater with only his mother, drinking up the weird Sherlock Holmes movie that, as noted in the closing credits, is NOT a part of the traditional "canon."

All of the rest is, well, elementary.

One final word must be said about the soundtrack, which was composed and conducted by Bruce Broughton. It is particularly good and memorable, especially during the scary ancient Egyptian ritual scenes.

Young Sherlock Holmes - Trailer

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About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.: http://tombakerbooks.weebly.com

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock7 months ago

    I remember this coming out about the time my wife & I got married. I don't remember seeing it in theatres. Sounds like fun. May have to check it out.

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