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Young Sherlock Holmes
Director: Barry Levinson
Screenplay: Arthur Conan Doyle, Chris Columbus
Producer: Mark Johnson, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Harry Benn
Cast: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood
Genre: Action & Adventure

Running Time: 109
Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1 (NTSC Widescreen)
Sound: Dolby
Subtitles: English
Studio:  Paramount DVD Region:  1 PG-13
DVD Release:  Dec 2003 Discs:  1 (Cloud) [$9.98]
Reviews:  I remember vividly seeing this film when it was first released - January 1986 - at a beautiful old cinema which has since been bulldozed and turned into a McDonalds. (Haven't they all..?)

The film was much vaunted at the time, due to the involvement of Amblin Entertainment, Steven Speilberg's own production company. After the massive success of E.T and Indiana Jones, Speilberg's name linked to anything was enough to cause mild hysteria to breakout in cinemas everywhere.

Too much hype is no good for anything. As a result, Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear - (to give it it's full title) - suffered from a surfeit of dissapointed cinema-goers and fared badly at the box office.

All of which mystifies me, since I absolutely loved it!

YSH boasts a fairly tight and lively script written by future Harry Potter director Chris Columbus. Columbus takes great pains to inform viewers in a caveat at the film's end - that his story is a work of speculation, crafted in admiration for Conan Doyle's great detective. That affection is writ large on the screen.

Filmed on location at Elstree and Hertfordshire and ably directed by Barry Levinson - who went on to direct Rainman amongst other things, the whole thing looks wonderful. With The action taking place during one of those magical, Victorian winters which seem only to exist on celluloid.

In fact, in a nod of weird cinematic prescience to Columbus' directorial destiny - one dining room scene set in the fictional boarding school where Holmes and Watson are students, looks uncannily like Hogwarts...

The special effects in the 'Hallucination' scenes where also pretty amazing for their time. The 'stained glass man' a particular favourite of mine. Anyone who finds old churches spooky cannot fail to be unsettled at the sight of one of the characters from a stained glass panel springing to life!

It's interesting to note in the credits that the 'Glass Man' was animated by Pixar - who have since gone on to produce some of the best animated films of recent years.

The film is noteworthy too, for its entirely British cast. Unusual in a film funded by American money. Thespy Brit stalwarts Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock and - heck! - even the voice of Paddington himself (Michael Hordern) narrating as the older Watson.

Anthony Higgins makes a marvellously dashing foil ('scuse pun) as Holmes' fencing teacher Rathe, and Susan Fleetwood is suitably Boo hiss as Mrs Drib. (Boarding school nurses are always horrible though, aren't they?!So, no surprises there...)

Bruce Broughton's marvellously atmospheric music score (which has STILL not been released on CD) is a neglected gem. Every bit as beautiful as John Williams' Harry Potter theme, Broughton's music complements the period and action perfectly. The only chance you have of hearing part of the film score, would be if you can hunt down a CD called 'Sherlock Holmes - Classics and Themes of 221b Baker Street. One of the tracks - 'The Game is Afoot' is lifted directly from Broughton's score for the YSH soundtrack.

The chemistry between Nicholas Rowe's Holmes and Alan Cox's Watson was very convincingly played. They genuinely seemed to enjoy eachother's company and you could actually believe they would choose eachother as friends.

Rowe gave his teen-age Holmes a warmth and tenderness which saved any cold intellectualising from just seeming like plain arrogance. And Cox's Watson is of the cuddly and loveable variety, akin to Nigel Bruce but not such a total numpty.

Granted, the script clunks in places. The love story between Elizabeth Waxflatter and Holmes was almost ruined for me by the stupendously soppy Sophie Ward. I was actually quite relieved when she snuffed it!

But, minor niggles aside, this remains one of my favourite films of the 80's. The very last scene (after the credits roll) was obviously intended to set the franchise up for a sequel. Quite why this never happenned is a mystery maybe only Holmes himself could solve.

Click on Title for International Movie Database link, click on Cover for Amazon link!

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