Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

young sherlock holmes poster 1985 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Stain-glass knight, fun origin story

A bit slow paced at points

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Young Sherlock Holmes

Studio:  Amblin Entertainment/Industrial Light and Magic (ILM)/Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  December 4, 1985

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

young sherlock holmes egyptian cult nicholas rowe alan cox sophie ward

I like that this cult fully commits to pageantry

John Watson (Alan Cox) is starting school has been assigned a new roommate.  His name is Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Rowe), and he has a way about him that infuriates some and intrigues others like Watson.  Sherlock introduces Watson to a girl named Elizabeth Hardy (Sophie Ward) who lives at the school, and together they find themselves embroiled in a mystery that involves a poison that forces victims to see insane hallucinations.  Sherlock, Watson, and Elizabeth find their mentor and Elizabeth’s uncle Rupert Waxflatter (Nigel Stock) dead from the poison, Sherlock vows to uncover the truth about a secret cult in the center of London.

Directed by Barry Levinson, Young Sherlock Holmes is a mystery action-adventure.  The film was produced by Steven Spielberg and was also called Young Sherlock Holmes and Pyramid of Fear which indicates that it was planned for more sequels.  The movie was relatively well received and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.

young sherlock holmes stained glass knight computer animation

I’m Golem’s grandfather!

Despite Sherlock Holmes being famous and a known character that is parodied and recreated over and over again, this might have actually been my first film of Sherlock Holmes I ever saw.  While the story is not based on any true Sherlock Holmes story, the writers even indicate that it could be possible from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings.  Rewatching almost forty years later, I am surprised by how well it holds up.  Since the film is a mystery, a ******spoiler alert****** exists for the rest of the review.

The idea of how the odd Sherlock might have befriended the more level headed Watson is an interesting idea and it is wrapped in a mystery.   Much like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the movie makes lots of winks & nods to Sherlock’s future by introducing his violin playing, his coat, hat, and pipe from the classic look of Sherlock.

young sherlock holmes stop motion animated desserts attack

Sweets will kill you

The story itself is a rather simple Sherlock Holmes mystery.  It is pretty obvious who the bad guy is at the beginning and any viewer with any mystery knowledge will see it early.  The path to the mystery is a very Sherlock Holmes tale, but it is a fun ride (with some very English pacing).  There is more action than the standard Sherlock Holmes (maybe not the Guy Ritchie versions), but it is also darker than you might expect.

The cast is surprisingly good.  Nicholas Rowe makes a good Sherlock and it is a shame that he never got to flex his Sherlock again.  Likewise, Alan Cox (the son of Brian Cox) is a decent Watson.  The movie features a lot of English character actors in some key roles.  It is shame if you know Sherlock at all that women have always been a bit slim in his life and Sophie Ward’s character is doomed.  Anthony Higgins is a bit obvious in his acting and portrayal, but an early post-credit scene sets him up as Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty which is fun.

young sherlock holmes cult woman bald

I’ll get you and your little dog too!

What does work in the movie are some impressive special effects.  The movie keeps having characters go into nightmarish visions when hit by the chemical.  There are a number of stop-motion characters that are so-so (the little demons and the attack of the killer pastries are fun).  The big special effect is the stained-glass window knight…which holds up surprisingly well in the way that it was produced and used.

Young Sherlock Holmes has its ups and downs but overall it is a fun movie.  The characters do a nice job as kind of an intro to Sherlock Holmes with an adventure that is not only a mystery, but has a lot of action.  While it is PG-13, there are moments that are surprisingly dark and despite kind of being marketed as an all-ages Sherlock, it earns its PG-13 rating at a number of parts.  Sherlock fans will probably actually enjoy this outing…even if it didn’t turn into a franchise as planned.

Related Links:

Sherlock—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Sherlock—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Sherlock—Season 3 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of Shadows (2011)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Sherlock Holmes on Screen:  The Complete Film and TV History

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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