Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

1985-young-sherlock-holmes-poster2Young 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.

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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!

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Clash of the Titans (1981)

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Starring Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Burgess Meredith, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom, Ursula Andress, Pat Roach, Jack Gwillim, Neil McCarthy, Susan Fleetwood

Directed by Desmond Davis

Expectations: Moderate, but I LOVE Harryhausen stop-motion.


As I’ve said in reviews past, going back to watch old-school special FX extravaganzas is something of a double-edged sword. You really have to throw yourself into the mindset of the times and consider the film within its place in time. If you hold it up to current standards the whole thing will usually fall apart and you’ll be left picking up the broken pieces of the film you spent the last two hours picking apart. So as a 1981 FX-filled adventure, Clash of the Titans soars and delights, but like the current wave of 80s and 90s nostalgia, Clash of the Titans seems to rise directly out of a nostalgia for the 60s and the glory days of stop-motion monsters with films such as Jason and the Argonauts or The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

All of those classic films share one defining element behind the scenes, the work of stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen. Clash of the Titans is his swan song, and it contains some of his best work. The Pegasus moves with a realistic quality that makes you question its nature, the Medusa slithers and stalks her prey with glorious fluid motion, the deformed Calibos fights hand-to-hand with Perseus in perfect sync and integration with the live action footage. I could go on, but if you are a fan of stop-motion and you haven’t seen this one, it’s a must.

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