Sherlock Holmes is one of the best known detectives in the world -- so famous in fact, that 221B Baker Street in London continues to get mail addressed to this fictional character almost a century after he would have died had he been a real person. There are groups of people -- Sherlockians and Holmesians, the distinction between which is rather subtle -- who delight in retelling the tales; it has become somewhat traditional to try to fill in the gaps, things left out of the 'canonical' stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- 56 short stories and 4 novels. The official tales allude to happenings beyond them -- some authors take up the point there, and others create fanciful tales altogether. These have been made into films, television programmes and radio programmes for most of the history of their publication.
This film, 'Young Sherlock Holmes', derives from the mid-1980s film of the same name, produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Barry Levinson as an homage to Holmes and Holmes fans. The screenplay, written by Chris Columbus, was adapted into novel form by Alan Arnold. This story fills in the gaps of Holmes' childhood and education.
There are many wonderful pieces here -- it breaks with the canon in that it introduces Holmes (then 16 years old) and Watson as school mates at a private school. Holmes is struggling to learn to play the violin (a canonical piece), and already displays prodigious powers of observation and deduction. He is a loner for the most part, a bit of trouble with authorities and often underestimated. Lestrade is also introduced here, as a junior policeman.
The game is afoot in short order when Holmes' favourite, highly-eccentric professor dies mysteriously; this death mirrors in a fashion several other deaths, which leads Holmes and his new sidekick Watson on a merry chase, along with Elizabeth (this early relationship and its outcome is meant to explain the later absence of women in Holmes' life). The headmaster is generally supportive of Holmes, but is his support all that it seems?
The chase leads Holmes through the London underworld he will later come to know very well, tracking down a mysterious cult with Egyptian origins. Arnold's researching into the Egyptian lore, as well as details about London and Holmesian detail is impressive. Arnold holds Holmes as an ideal, stating in an author's epilogue that Holmes is as much the chivalric medieval knight as a Victorian and Edwardian gentleman.
This is a mystery very much in the spirit of Conan Doyle. The clues are there -- one merely needs to follow them to a logical conclusion. Some purists may balk, but this is an intriguing addition to the body of post-Conan Doyle literature, a worthy pastiche.
The lead is played by Nicholas Rowe, an actor deserving of more recognition. Alan Cox plays John Watson - had the Harry Potter stories come about twenty years earlier, he might well have been cast in that role. Sophie Ward plays the love interest for Holmes - Holmes is noted in the stories for not being particularly amorous of nature, and this story attempts to explain that. Anthony Higgins is the villain (do be sure to see the final bonus scene after the credits for the transformation of the villain), assisted by Susan Fleetwood as his 'moll' of sorts. Rounding out the cast is Freddie Jones as Cragwitch and Nigel Stock as Waxflatter, an eccentric (possibly mad) scientist/academic who is friends with Holmes.
The CGI graphics stand up with to time - the walking stained-glass window knight is reminiscent of the knight in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'. The sets, costumes and other effects of the film are really well tended, as is the care taken to add elements faithful to the original stories of Holmes.
on December 22, 2003
This movie has been repeatedly underrated since it came out in 1985 and for no good reason. It has strong writing, directing, acting and setting, and a balanced dose of mystery, fantasy, reality and adventure.
Sherlock Holmes, a young man still in school, faces a mystery that involves an old religious cult that may be responsible for the recent, strange murders taking place in London. Watson is the narrator of the story. He has just arrived at Sherlock's school, and fascinated by the charm, intelligence and wit of his soon to be good friend, follows him along on his adventure. Poisoned darts, DaVinci-like experiments, mysterious acquaintances, seemingly unexplained events, and ghosts from the past make an appearance and very soon "the game is afoot".
It has a solid script that combines the mundane environment and events of high school with an interesting mystery/adventure plot penned by Chris Colombus in the well-known Conan Doyle style. It has equally solid main characters that not only accurately portray younger versions of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but also behave believably and in accord to the books written by Conan Doyle.
The realistically reproduced sets and costumes (you will even get to see the iconic cape, hat and pipe) and the speculative twists on the origins of the characters make this movie more than just enjoyable and entertaining, it makes it as charming as Holmes and Watson's personalities.
If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan or simply enjoy an old-fashioned, well-crafted, surprising mystery, buy this movie. You won't be disappointed.
--Reviewed by M. E. Volmar
on June 27, 2004
Young Sherlock Holmes is a truly excellent film. Although the story is totally apocryphal and Holmes Purists may be upset by the story, it is certainly one of the most fun I have ever watched about the Sleuth.
The Acting is great, the story is great and the score is a classic, but the where this film truly shimes, at least for me, is the visual effects.
Since this film was made before Computer Animation was widely used, there are a number of puppetry/stop action scenes that are amazing, as well as a computer animated stained glass knight.
This movie is a must watch, all the way through the credits (which contains an excellent indulgent twist).
on January 20, 2004
Fans of Harry Potter should check out this Victoriana fantasy ; in style and tone, they have much in common. They share the classic English boarding school setting, and are filled with magic and monsters, jaw-dropping sets, and wonderfully crusty and unusual British personalities.
Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two Harry Potter movies, wrote the script for this bouncy marriage of a Sherlock Holmes detection story and an Indiana Jones-style cliffhangers. This odd combination received a lot of criticism when the film was first released, but ultimately the mixture of a Victorian detective story and an ancient Egyptian cult is charming and a lot of fun.
Nicholas Rowe is perfect as the snotty, elegant young Sherlock Holmes, and Sophie Ward is absolutely radiant as his romantic interest. Alan Cox as Watson (a dead-ringer for Daniel Radcliffe who plays Harry Potter) is less effective, but tolerable. The effects were groundbreaking in their time, featuring the first computer-generated characters -- animated by Pixar before they became a household word -- and still hold up nicely. They actually have more charm than most modern CGI effects. The film does suffer from slow patches and a premise that could have been pushed even further, but this is still a good family film and most older kids and adults interested in special effects should enjoy it. (Be warned, however: younger children may find parts too frightening.)
Sadly, as far as extras goes, the DVD is "Elementary, my dear Watson": nothing, not even a trailer. That's a shame, since many special effects breaththroughs were made on this movies, such as the computer animated stained-glass window character, and early work from Pixar (yes, Pixar!)
P.S.: Make sure you watch all the way through the end credits for the quick bonus scene.
on December 22, 2003
I'll readily admit, here and now, hand on heart; I have never picked up a Sherlock Holmes book, never mind read one! I can tell you what I know about this: the author is Arthur Conan Doyle, and the names of the main characters are Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. That will get me far in a general knowledge quiz. Apart from that, I know nothing, and have no interest in the books. (Although, there is a Sherlock Holmes book based around the Titanic disaster by William B. Seil , and I want that!) So why did I watch this film? Arm pushed up behind my back; I was forced to watch it. OK, seriously, I was given it to watch, and I could have put off watching it, but I guess I was curious.
And to my utter horror, I actually found myself enjoying it! Not enough to go out and start reading the books though. But from a novice's point of view, to know nothing about the books, and to enjoy the film on its own, without having read the books, is quite good. When you've read the book and go to see the film based on the book (or vice versa), you end up liking one or the other. I wouldn't necessarily go out and buy the books, or borrow one from the library. But I really did like the film. And I wasn't expecting to!
The only thing that annoyed me about the film was the period of time it was set in. I know that's when it was supposed to be set, but the whole Victorian era just annoys me. The fashion, the little boys dressed up like old men, and the stupid way of talking.
I loved the characters. The little Harry Potter lookalike (Alan Cox) who played Watson, Sophie Ward who played Elizabeth was beautiful, and Sherlock (Nicholas Rowe) - well, I couldn't really see it, until he put on that stupid coat, hat and put the pipe in his mouth in the last few scenes.
It was also quite interesting to find out how the young Sherlock came across the items you would normally associate with Sherlock Holmes from the books. The daft-looking hat was from Elizabeth's uncle; the pipe is when Watson had to buy something in a shop; and the coat/cloak thing . . . Watch the film for yourself and find out.
Directed by the wonderful director who did Rain Man, Barry Levinson couldn't quite live up to Rain Man, but has done a brilliant job. The (young) stars shine in this.
If you're not a fan of Sherlock Holmes, don't worry. Look at me! Never read a book, and found myself enjoying it like any other film. Not really that much of a Christmas-y movie, until the end - apart from the snow on the ground of course!
on December 14, 2003
Although it dates me to admit it, this movie was originally released when I was in the eighth grade, and I still have very fond memories of my friends and me falling in love with it. So when it was released recently on DVD, it was nothing more than a sense of nostalgia that prompted me to buy it, for I remembered next to nothing about the movie itself.
And I am so glad I did! Young Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential action/adventure movie of the 80's - big, colorful, and sheer fun. Never mind that certain things don't make sense, that the momentum never lets up, that the entire plot is completely implausible, and that Watson's hallucination reminded me in a very distracting way of the singing cheeseburgers from Better Off Dead (the quintessential 80's comedy). As with the best action/adventure films of the 80's, this movie is meant not to make a statement, but to be wildly entertaining, and it succeeds grandly.
Although I had more than a slight crush on the very charming Nicholas Rowe as a kid, I see now that his acting was actually a bit wooden. This aside, he has enough charm and charisma to pull it off. Alan Cox as the sidekick Watson is the real thing, a very fine actor and the gem that makes this movie work. Neither of them went on to become famous actors, but at least are immortalized now in this finally-released DVD.
I noted several things about this film that only now have any real significance, portents of great things that at the time were yet to come. First, one of the assistant directors was Andrew Grieve, who went on to direct the spectacular Emmy-winning Horatio Hornblower series for A&E. Second, the screenplay was written by Chris Columbus, of Harry Potter fame (and the movie has a very Harry Potter-like ambiance that is impossible to miss, and very appealing to modern audiences). Third, it was one of the first movies to be assigned the brand new PG-13 rating, which is now probably the most common. And forth, I was delighted to discover from watching the credits that the very ingenious stained-glass sequence (which still looks great after nearly twenty years) was produced by none other than Pixar, still in its infancy and many years away from the glory days of Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Brilliant.
This movie, with its faults that aren't really faults but souvenirs of a bygone decade, is even better than I remembered. It is big, colorful, and sheer fun, exactly as it's meant to be. (And may I add completely inoffensive - devoid of foul language, crude humor, and innuendo. Rare, to say the least.)
Highly recommended, for old kids like me and a generation of new kids who will enjoy it even more.
on December 7, 2003
The sequence where the stained glass window figure becomes alive was terribly innovative at the time, and remains artistically very satisfying today.
I often find many of Spielberg's productions would make wonderful silent movies, whether or not the dialogs are any good. The dialogs ARE interesting in this picture, but also there are so many moments that are pure film, when you can just follow everything without the need for any words.
It's thoroughly enjoyable and I give it five stars, although I saw many flaws in it when I first watched it as a child and my objections remain valid. Sherlock isn't remotely interested in his "love interest". This girl is an impossibility in an all boy's school in the Victorian Era, anyway. But if one where to let oneself get carried away by suspension of disbelief (which I find difficult in this instance) it would still remain impossible that this - by the way, extremely - pretty girl has only two (yes, that is 2) rivals to her affection in that whole school full of pubescent boys! There is this scene when they are in the library and Sherlock actually moves to kiss her, and this is not looked upon with either scandal or envy. I'm sorry, but that would not do at all in real life, not in those days anyway.
Also, at that age I already knew that one had to be thoroughly dead and devoid of any internal organs in order to be mummified, so several of the scenes were outrageously implausible to me even then.
The movie has hardly aged, though, and remains one of my personal favorites.
on November 29, 2003
Well it wasn't. But it still could be. Young Sherlock Holmes is a fantastic movie that could have kick-started a whole bunch of sequels. They never happened but the film has enough clout to convince me now, 18 years later, that new movies of this calibre would be more than welcome.
In the mid-80s Chris Columbus wrote many family adventure movies (Gremlins and The Goonies were other notable entries, he also went on to do 2 Harry Potters, 2 Home Alones and Bicentennial Man) but Young Sherlock Holmes is definitely his most sophisticated as a writer. With strong direction from Barry Levinson and wonderful production values from Spielberg himself there's no denying that the movie looks great as well as being very clever.
Nicholas Rowe (who didn't really do much after this for some reason) plays 17-year-old Holmes and Alan Cox (Harry Potter look-alike and son of popular actor Brian Cox) is Watson. They meet at a private school (actually Eton) and become good pals. But Holmes becomes concerned with a series of bizarre suicides and convinces Watson to help him investigate.
Some of the scenes seem a little hard. It was one of the first films to be rated PG-13 (Temple of Doom was the very first), but if this were made today they would probably tone it down a bit. Keep a lookout for the first ever CGI character in a movie (the stained glass knight) and watch the credits right to the end. This is one of those movies where every scene is cool and you can watch it again and again.
It's a shame that at the time it was considered another 'special effects' movie because it the visuals only compliment the story. Without them the movie would be just as good. Unlike today when movies are sold on their effects alone, they visuals to Young Sherlock Holmes are vital to the plot.
Of particular note is Bruce Broughton's majestic score (I am lucky enough to have the ultra-rare 132 minute soundtrack CD) which is so cool it deserves a paragraph of its own. Definitely one of the best scores to any film and well worth seeking out.
This surely one DVD you must get. The 1.78:1 anamorphic picture looks great and the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack sounds good considering it has been remastered from plain old stereo. The only extra is a trailer.
on September 3, 2003
A good deal of literary license in fact since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not write about a young Sherlock. It is however a delightful renditon that I think even he would appreciate. The Spielberg and Levin magic that later went into the Young Indiana Jones movies was well established in this movie. The cast, sets, and music are excellent. The special effects add to the movie but don't overpower it. The story is compelling and you will be glued to your seat.
Most fans of the Harry Potter series should enjoy this movie. It starts out with young Sherlock going to a private school and meeting Watson for the first time. As he unravels the mystery of an underground society that worships the occult in a hidden pyramid he meets his nemesis Moriarty for the first time. The movie is magical and draws the viewer into a wonderful world of Victorian England.
If you like Spielberg movies you will probably enjoy this movie. If you liked the Indiana Jones or Young Indiana Jones movies you will probably like this movie.
The DVD picture and sound quality is excellent. I absolutely loved the movie. It is ashame they did not include any extras. The setup only offers changes of language. No documentary, commentary bios, or trailers are included.
on August 21, 2003
After "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), "Poltergeist" (1982), "The Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983), "Gremlins" (1984), "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984) and "The Goonies", Steven Spielberg continued to amaze audiences with "Young Sherlock Holmes" (1985), a movie that stayed in the vein of themes immersed on the occult that Spielberg so much adores to explore.
This one directed by Barry Levinson ("Rainman") and written by Chris Columbus ("Gremlins", "Goonies")follows the adventure in which a teenager Holmes launches himself, with an equally young Watson, to discover a murderous plot that threatens some British men with nothing apparently in common.
The importance of this film is not only the fact that it shows the first digital character in movie history, but the freshness that Columbus brought to the story and the extremely original point of view with which he aproaches one of literature's most precious and serious characters.
The story will keep you nailed to your chair, and you'll start seeing shadows around the corner. Production Design is equally impecable as you're transported magically to Victorian London... with its fog and misterious streets.
The seriousness that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle imprinted to his character is still there, but comic relief has an important presence, courtesy of young Watson.
There are some mistakes, alright, but the movie's exceptional 80's innocence will be forgiven by almost every one who gets to see it.
Bruce Broughton's score is one of a kind!
I couldn't nearly believe when I discovered this movie is going to be released on the DVD format, it has been one of my favorites of all time and you can feel the Spielbergian scent all over it! With the Indiana Jones Trilogy being released this
October, I will be the proud owner of almost every Spielberg (directed or executive produced) movie related with the occult.
I know it's kinda hard for the Twilight Zone Movie to be released on the Digital Disc format, but, Hey! I'm satisfied to own all the others.
Sit back and enjoy being a little scared and excited.
P.s: Don't stop your DVD until the credits roll up to the end. If you're a Sherlock Holmes avid reader... You'll be amazed!!!