Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
AKA Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear
Starring Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Earl Rhodes, Brian Oulton, Patrick Newell
Directed by Barry Levinson
Expectations: High, this is a childhood favorite.
Young Sherlock Holmes tells a “What if?” story about what might have been if Holmes and Watson had met during their school days. The filmmakers make it a point to inform the viewer (twice!) that this tale is non-canonical and purely a fantasy dreamt up by the creative team; Holmes purists ’round the world must have protested the shooting of the film or something. I think I might know how they felt, though, I was that Holmes purist scoffing at the most recent films with Robert Downey Jr, and to this day I haven’t seen them (and I still refuse to). But where those films seem to take extreme license with the characters (judging from the trailers), Young Sherlock Holmes is quite respectful to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary work, even though the script is specifically crafted around hallucinations that allow the filmmakers to create blow-out special FX sequences.
But those hallucinations are awesome! Not only are they a highlight of the film, they’re stunning examples of FX done right to punctuate scenes instead of overwhelm them. The film’s opening scene sets the stage marvelously, and has always been one of my favorite film openings. An English gentleman rushes into a restaurant, but not before a shadowy, robed figure shoots him with a blow dart. The man sits down to dine on a roasted pheasant, but when he cuts into it, a head sprouts out of its body and starts pecking at him relentlessly. The other diners see nothing, but when we return to the man’s point of view, the terror strikes hard and fast. He leaves the restaurant, only to have the nightmares follow him home! And that’s just the opening scene!