Friday, November 13, 2015

Movie Review - Young Sherlock Holmes

Young Sherlock Holmes
Inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Release Date: December 4th, 1985
Starring: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Roger Ashton-Griffiths and Earl Rhodes
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

A young John Watson is sent to Brompton Academy in London after his previous school is shut down. There, on the next bunk, trying to learn the violin, is a young Sherlock Holmes, who is put out because he should have mastered the violin in the three days he's had it. But at least he is able to quickly deduce all there is to know about Watson, the son of a Doctor from the north of England who is overly fond of custard tarts. Holmes takes Watson under his wing and shows him the ropes at the school. The real benefit of the school is that up in the rafters one of the retired teachers, Rupert T. Waxflatter, has created a laboratory to rival anyone's and spends most of his time working on a Da Vinci-esque flying machine, mentoring Holmes, and taking care of his orphaned niece Elizabeth, who has caught the eye of every boy in the school but whose heart belongs to Sherlock. Yet things aren't as idyllic as they seem. There is an odd man hanging around the school looking to talk to Waxflatter. Also there is an odd jingly sound heard on several occasions. Two distinguished men, Bentley Bobster and the Reverend Duncan Nesbitt have committed suicide. But if they committed suicide, why was Waxflatter interested in their deaths? Holmes takes his queries to a young police officer, Lestrade, who brushes Holmes aside clearing the way for the trio to investigate on their own.

But their investigation is put on hold when Holmes is expelled, despite his teacher Rathe speaking up for him. One of the other students has framed Holmes, very nicely indeed, for cheating. Holmes's perfect school record works against him because it is assumed by the board that only a cheater could reach that level of perfection. They just don't understand the brilliance of Holmes! As Holmes is about to be sent away, Waxflatter kills himself... or so it would appear to the common observer, much like the previous two "suicides". But Holmes knows better, this was his mentor, and with Waxflatter's dying words "Eh-tar" the game is afoot! Soon Elizabeth, Watson, and Holmes are racing through the streets of London and uncovering an ancient Egyptian cult, the Rame Tep, who are worshippers of Osiris and have been sacrificing young girls in their temple. But their only goal isn't to silence these unwelcome interlopers. They have revenge in mind and the diabolical genius behind the evil machinations might just change Holmes's life forever.

There are movies that forever change you and help form the person you are. They become a part of your DNA. You remember the first time you watched them. Usually followed immediately by the second viewing. And then, in some rare cases, the third. For me there are a few besides the original Star Wars trilogy, which is on a separate list. These films are: Clue, The Princess Bride, The 'burbs, and, of course, Young Sherlock Holmes. Besides forever installing Sherlock Holmes as a focal point in my life, this movie forever shaped my sensibilities and instilled a love of Victoriana and Egypt, not to mention mysteries, in me. Whenever there is an Egyptian exhibit somewhere within driving distance I will be sure to be there. Because not only did my parents encourage my love of movies, helping to refine my tastes by the simple expedient of refusing to watch any crap, they also gave me my love of museums. Though I will still call them out for the incident of King Tut. The Young Sherlock Holmes provided me with a great fear of Egyptian cults and mummification, which exists to this day in one form or another. Sometime in the late eighties King Tut was on display again at the Field Museum in Chicago. I was convinced that he would kill me, take my soul, in other words, something really bad was going to happen. But I think that had more to do with the fact my Dad told me that the mummies all came alive at night and if I wasn't careful I would be locked in with them and they'd attack me. Yes, because I had a "normal" childhood. Therefore I spent the entire time crying in a stairwell. But other than that, I love me some mummies.

Despite the fear I still have whenever I hear the Rame Tep chanting, the movie's music being played at the first Teslacon I went to during the mummy unwrapping sure didn't help any, I love Egyptian history and art. I adore poplar fiction set in Egypt from Elizabeth Peters to the Theodosia Throckmorton books by Robin LaFevers. I can tell you if an artifact is Mesopotamian or Egyptian just from a cursory look, and yes, this has been tested. Because of this movie my world view was expanded and therefore, being a book worm, I sought out more knowledge and information. I have a brain bursting with facts just because of the little seeds planted by Spielberg in my youth. And yes, I still want to ask why there really wasn't any representation of Osiris in the pyramid of a cult devoted to him, instead just his buddy Anubis hanging out. Iconography fascinates me to no end. And when you start to study Egyptian society and culture, this Western culture of ours is just a drop in the bucket. The Pyramids of Giza were built almost three thousand years before Christ. We aren't even three thousand years past the time of Christ, and that society thrived for millennia! Plus, not to put to fine a point on it, but a culture that worships cats? Well, they are doing it right in my mind.

Yet, it's not just Egypt that got me. The whole Gaslight Victorian romance aspect hooked me too. If you think about this film, you could quite easily remove the "Holmes" element and still have a corking good mystery and movie on your hand. The Holmesian elements just add another layer. People might argue with me as to why I love the "romance" aspect, because canonically romance has no place in the world of Sherlock Holmes. Part of it is that I just want to hear Nicholas Rowe say my name over and over again. Holmes purists would decry the idea of lost love being the reason for Holmes's somewhat puritanical sex life. But to me it comes down to the fact that, as Holmes says, he never wants to be alone. That is an astute observation, and a sad one, because isn't that what we all want? And an arch nemesis doesn't really fill that void. They're not someone we can cuddle up to at night. The same can be said for a comrade in arms, now don't you go being one of those people who think Holmes and Watson were more than just work colleagues and roommates, at least in this instance. This movie creates a relatable and good entry point for younger people to get an interest in Sherlock Holmes, and I'm sticking to that statement. If it wasn't for this movie who knows where my interests might lay? Would I have had such a love of Art History that I almost went to graduate school for it? Probably not. This movie made me, and it's as simple as that.

But it wasn't just the side of me that loved art, antiquity, and Victoriana that blossomed because of this movie. It was the creative side of me that wanted to make art as well. My Star Wars obsession had pretty much made me adore Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) for years. But their work on Young Sherlock Holmes showed that their work didn't have to exist in a futuristic setting. Perhaps there most famous and memorable scene they've ever done was the stained glass knight separating himself from the window embrasure and chasing the Reverend Duncan Nesbitt under a carriage in this movie. Because of the way they combined practical and computer generated effects they still stand up till this day. This fueled my love of Muppets and props, leading me to do much sculpture and theater in Undergrad. In fact, when I was at a loose end not sure if I wanted to continue schooling beyond a bachelor's degree, again ILM changed my life. They had a job opening, which I applied to despite being woefully underqualified. Being turned down by them made me go back to school, to learn more about computers, to expand my skill set. Because of this I have the career I have now as a graphic designer. I also have the friends I have because I met them through school and Teslacon. It's weird to think that so much of my life ties into the spark this movie awoke in me, but there you have it.


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