Young Sherlock Holmes - 1985
Directed by Barry Levinson
Produced by Steven Spielberg, Screenplay by Chris Columbus
Starring Nicholas Rowe as Holmes, and Alan Cox as Watson

Originally titled Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear, this was meant to be the first in a series of films about the young detective. Unfortunately, the film sank like a brick glued to a lead model of the Titanic, and nothing else ever came of it. This is a shame, because it's actually very good.

Speculating what might have happened if Holmes and Watson met when they were teenagers, instead of as adults, the plot follows a string of mysterious deaths. A strange, hooded figure stalks apparently unconnected people, shoots darts at them with a blowpipe, and vanishes. The victims suffer terrifying hallucinations, and in the ensuing panic, end up running/falling/leaping to their deaths. Holmes decides to get to the bottom of it, and gradually uncovers a bizarre Egyptian revenge cult, which of course I'd suspected all along.

It sounds a bit silly, but the film is really good fun. Accept it for what it is, and just enjoy it - the effects are excellent, considering the time it was made, the hallucination scenes are fantastic, particularly the stained glass knight which menaces an elderly priest. The sounds of tinkling glass really sell this effect, and it's quite a spooky moment. Some of the film is a bit cheesy and corny, but it's meant to be, you know, for kids, and if you just let yourself get carried along, it's quite exciting.

Admittedly, it takes a few liberties - Holmes has a crush on a girl (although this is used to demonstrate why he never has a relationship in adult life, so they juuuust about get away with it), Lestrade is a total idiot, when in the stories he's quite intelligent, there's too much fighting, the religious cult thing is a total ripoff from Temple of Doom, and the final, end of credits revelation as to the identity of one of the main characters is a bit cheeky. Although it's still miles better than The Goonies, which is just shit, despite both films being written by Chris Columbus. Chris, you wrote this and Gremlins! What happened to you? Where did your talent go? Why Harry Potter? Why? Don't watch it on ITV, a UK channel, because they cut out all the scary bits. If you've seen the opening scene, a fairly disturbing moment where a diner is attacked by his roast turkey is lost entirely - he just suddenly gets scared, and runs down the street. Stupid TV censoring melonfarming corksmokers.

Most Excellent Movie Trivia:

The stained glass knight was the first ever CGI character in a film, and was animated by a little known company called Pixar.

The animatronics supervisor is Stephen Norrington - he was on the creature effects crew of Aliens, and directed the suprisingly good Blade (Wesley Snipes in good movie shocker). Yes, I always watch the credits, all of them, every line. It's very sad, drives my girlfriend bananas, but you can always spot something interesting...

Nicholas Rowe pops up in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as one of the "horti-fucking-culturalists" - me and about 3 others in the audience at the cinema muttered "fuck me, it's young Sherlock Holmes!" when he appeared, showing our ages.

Anthony Higgins, who plays Holmes' favourite teacher Rathe, played Holmes in a 1993 TV movie, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, in which Holmes is awakened in modern times, and hunts Moriarty in Baker Street, San Francisco. Yes, it's poo. A similar idea, but much, much better, was Time After Time (1979), in which Malcolm McDowell's HG Wells hunts David Warner's Jack the Ripper across time to the present day.

It's deleted on video in the UK, but still available in the US. I had to buy a second hand copy on VHS - it's only when you've got used to DVDs and are then forced to watch a VHS movie that you realise how shite the quality of VHS really is. That's not trivia though, I'm just moaning. I doubt this will ever get a DVD release, seeing as it bombed, which is a shame - there are plenty of shite duds on DVD.

There is no mention of cocaine whatsoever. Probably wouldn't have gone down too well with the family audience to show Holmes' descent into coke, but might have been good for a laugh. Maybe not. Although it does show him struggling to learn the violin, which is pretty funny.

Thanks to gnarl for this one: The changing numbers on the Da Vinci flying machine - they go up in number every time it appears.

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