Film / Young Sherlock Holmes

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A 1985 mystery/adventure film directed by Barry Levinson, produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, and based on the classic characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. An admittedly non-canonical What If? story, it depicts a young Sherlock Holmes and John Watson meeting and solving a mystery together at a boarding school.

It was the first film produced by Amblin Entertainment to receive a PG-13 rating, and notable for including the first fully computer-generated character: a knight composed of elements from a stained glass window. The effect was created by Lucasfilm's John Lasseter, who is now chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios. The SFX earned the film an Academy Award nomination, and was beaten by Cocoon.


This film is an example of:

  • All There in the Stinger: The Stinger at the end shows Rathe (a.k.a. Eh-Tar) signing into a hotel in Switzerland. He signs the register as Moriarty.
  • Already Met Everyone
  • Bald of Evil: The Mooks, except for a thin ponytail dyed turquoise.
  • Bald Women: Mrs. Dribb.
  • Batman Cold Open: The pre-title sequence involves Mrs. Dribb drugging Bentley Bobster by shooting him with a dart tipped with a hallucinogenic substance; this first causes Bobster to see his dinner as alive, and later believe that his room is set on fire, causing him to throw himself out of his window to "escape."
  • Best Served Cold: Holmes gets his revenge on Dudley (his rival who framed Holmes for cheating) by slipping an unknown chemical into his drink, causing him to resemble an albino for the next several months.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The two heroes win the day, but Elizabeth dies.
  • Blatant Lies: "Sherlock Holmes, jealous? My dear, that word does not enter my vocabulary."
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Dudley isn't evil, per se, but he's a Jerkass and Consummate Liar who does great damage to Holmes' reputation.
  • Blow Gun: An assassin uses a blowgun to shoot darts tipped with a hallucinogenic drug.
  • Boarding School: Where Holmes and Watson meet here.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Holmes and Watson go the the Egyptian pub, the bartender asks what he can get them: drink, food or women.
  • Canon Discontinuity: This movie is NOT a part of the canon, and the movie makers say so.
  • Canon Character All Along: In The Stinger at the end, the Big Bad Rathe is revealed not to have died in his fight with Holmes. He checks into an inn by signing his name as "Moriarty", showing that he will become Holmes' nemesis in the years to come.
  • Captain Crash: Holmes doesn't know how to land Waxflatter's flying machine.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Professor Waxflatter's flying machine. We're shown several unsuccessful attempts to make it work early in the movie as some sort of Running Gag that stops halfway through the film. Then Holmes uses it to gain up on Ehtar as he flees with Elizabeth.
  • Collapsing Lair: The pyramid at the climax; Holmes rigs the chandelier to the support beams and Watson brings the chandelier down, causing multiple support beams to collapse and setting the pyramid on fire.
  • Dawson Casting: Nicholas Rowe, who plays Sherlock Holmes, is several years older than most of the other actors playing students. This was probably intentional to give Holmes his necessary height and appearance of superior intellect.
  • Disney Villain Death: Rathe falls into a frozen river. He survives to become Moriarty.
  • Dying Clue: After stabbing himself, Waxflatter tells Holmes the name of the Big Bad: Eh-tar.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Holmes and Watson go to school together. For more, see The Stinger.
  • The Eyes Have It: The scene where the knight in the stained-glass window leaps down to do combat with the poor priest. Notable because it is specifically later revealed, like other deaths in the film, to be caused by a hallucinogenic drug. What the priest saw was in fact all in his mind, but since it made him flee the church and run under the wheels of a moving carriage, he still ended up just as dead.
  • Fanservice: The first shot of the Arab-Egyptian bar is of the belly dancer's abdomen.
  • Flanderization: This film does use the Flanderized version of Watson who's overweight and rather clueless, but it's somewhat justified by being Watson as a schoolboy. Presumably he's got years (and a stint in the military) yet to grow into the more fit and savvy Watson the original was. And in the end, Watson narrates that this first adventure with Holmes IS part of what helped him go from a weak, easily frightened boy to a man.
  • Follow the Leader: From two different ends.
    • What does Harry Potter have to do with Young Sherlock Holmes? A lot, actually!
    • From the other end, Young Sherlock Holmes takes its cues from Indiana Jones - so much so that the UK release was called Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear.
    • From the MAD satire "Young Sureschlock Homely":
    Indiana Jones: Hmm, this scene seems familiar, but not the dialogue! Am I in the right movie, Mr. Spielberg?
    Steven Spielberg: Go back a few pages, Indy - Fool Of The Nile needs you more than Sureschlock!
  • Force Feeding: The sequence where John Watson hallucinates that his legs are bound with sausages and that pastries are trying to force him to eat them. On YouTube here.
  • Frame-Up: Holmes' rival Dudley forges Holmes' writing and frames him for cheating. As a result, Holmes is expelled.
  • Freudian Excuse: For both Holmes' detective career (see Troubled Backstory Flashback) and being a bachelor (his first love dies).
  • Fright Death Trap: The Run To Your Doom variety is used frequently in Young Sherlock Holmes, as several elder gentlemen who pissed off the wrong Egyptian cult as younger men are drugged with blow-darts, causing them to see terrifying hallucinations and run into traffic, leap out 3rd story windows, etc.
  • Gilligan Cut: While being told about Professor Waxflatter, Watson wonders why he is considered a lunatic. Cue Waxflatter trying to fly—again.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Holmes kills Mrs. Dribb by blowing one of the thorns from her blow gun into her mouth.
  • Human Sacrifice: The cult of Rame-tep make mummies by wrapping up young girls, then coating them in hot wax. Elizabeth narrowly avoids this fate.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: After Chester Cragwitch is affected by a hallucinogenic drug that causes violent and self-destructive actions, Holmes tries to talk him down by reminding him of his name and that he's a banker.
  • I'm Going for a Closer Look: While exploring the hidden temple.
  • In the Hood: The killer conceals their identity by wearing a large hooded cloak.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Two famous items associated with Holmes are featured here: the deerstalker cap and the curved pipe. Both are treated as ridiculous in-universe, particularly the pipe, which Watson had to buy so Holmes could get information. Holmes thought the pipe in particular was ridiculous, while he inherited the cap from Waxflatter..
  • Made of Iron: Rathe. He is smashed in the head by debris, lands in hot wax, has his head covering set on fire, thrown off a moving carriage and sinks in icy water. He's still alive and, if he is Moriarty, plagues Holmes in years to come.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Professor Waxflatter is more eccentric than mad, but his daughter Elizabeth is quite beautiful.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When Holmes and Watson show a Blow Gun to the proprietor of an Arab-Egyptian bar, he starts screaming "Rame-Temp!" Cue everyone else in the bar drawing weapons on Holmes and Watson.
  • The Mourning After: Sherlock after Elizabeth dies, vowing he will never love again.
  • Mummy Wrap: The evil cult featured in the movie does this as part of some sacrificial rite.
  • Mushroom Samba: The peculiar way the victims are killed. Also happens to Holmes, Watson, Elizabeth and Lestrade
  • Mythology Gag: Plenty of them.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: "Holmes. Sherlock Holmes."
  • Oop North: Where Watson's from, as Holmes deduces from his shoes; Holmes has only encountered that type of shoes in the north of England.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Lestrade knocks out a drugged Chester Cragwitch to prevent him from strangling Holmes.
  • Police Are Useless: Apparently, no one noticed the large crowd of bald people with ponytails, wearing robes and carrying swords that were chasing three teenagers.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: When the gargoyle in the shop starts to animate, its eyes glow red.
  • Red Herring: While witnessing the sacrifice in the temple, Holmes removes a square shaped object from one of the members. Most people would think it was important, but it never shows up again.
  • Running Gag: Watson's guesses about the color of a bear from a house with an all-southern view. It's white, a polar bear.
  • Sequel Hook: The Stinger reveals that one of the characters in the film would eventually become Professor Moriarty. Shame that there was no sequel (beyond the books, of course), because the flick wasn't that bad.
  • Serial Killer: Two and both are connected; Mrs. Dribb is murdering several men involved in the desecration of a religious site, while Rathe is murdering young girls as replacements for five sacred mummies that were damaged in the desecration.
  • Sherlock Scan: A school-aged Watson transfers to a new boarding school and meets Holmes for the first time. Holmes deduces Watson's name, home county, father's occupation, and Watson's love of writing and pastries. He only gets Watson's name wrong (he guesses James instead of John) because he only saw "J. Watson" on Watson's luggage and decided to go with a common name starting with J (John would have been his second guess). The mistake with the name is likely a reference to The Man with the Twisted Lip, in which Watson's wife refers to him as James, a mistake that has confounded Holmes scholars for decades.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: The villain Eh Tar uses the alias of Professor Rathe for his cover job at Brompton Academy. Watson even spells this out towards the end of the film as a "very important clue."
  • Speech Impediment: Brompton Academy's chemistry professor has a noticeable one.
  • Spinoff Babies: A pastiche supposedly telling the early life of Holmes and Watson when they first met as teens — and apparently before Holmes figured out how to solve crimes by logical deduction. (Unlike most examples, it's actually quite good.)
  • Taking the Bullet: Poor, poor Elizabeth.
  • The Stinger: The end credits are played over a sleigh going through a snow-covered forest. As the credits end, someone gets out of the sleigh and checks into the hotel. We see him signing in under the name Moriarty. As the camera pans up, Moriarty is revealed to be Ehtar/Rathe, the villain, who survived the fall into the river.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines
  • Too Dumb to Live: No Holmes, it isn't smart to shout "Stop! She's alive!" in the middle of a Human Sacrifice ritual.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: Holmes' drugged hallucination starts out as one of these, with his father yelling at him while his mother weeps in the background. It's implied that Sherlock's snooping uncovered Holmes Sr.'s affair or other transgression, breaking his mother's heart and earning his father's wrath.
  • Wham Line: Rathe: "So my dear, you've discovered our little secret."
  • Wham Shot: Bald Mrs. Dribb.
  • What If?: The movie begins with a disclaimer explaining that it's a "What If" story, and the end credits similarly start with an acknowledgement that it wouldn't fit in with the official Holmes canon.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Rathe} is perfectly willing to douse young girls in hot wax in a Human Sacrifice ritual. He also guns down Elizabeth.
    • The bartender of the Egyptian pub (as well as most of the patrons) almost kill Holmes and Watson when they start asking too many questions about the Rame Tep.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Holmes and Watson have foiled Rathe's plans by keeping Cragwitch alive, saving Elizabeth and destroyed his cult's temple. Now Holmes, Watson and Elizabeth are walking back to school. Then Rathe appears and shoots Elizabeth.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/YoungSherlockHolmes