The year is 1870, and young Sherlock Holmes (newcomer Nicholas Rowe) is at a London boarding school when he finds a new student has been allocated to the bunk next to him. It is young John Watson (Alan Cox).
Conan Doyle didn’t write about the youthful years of Holmes and the first meeting between him and Watson has always been known to have taken place when they were adults. But this film is an affectionate act of speculation about what might have happened if the pair had met as schoolboys.
The young Holmes is arrogant, brilliant, impatient and without any sign of self-doubt. But he also shows emotion, which was anathema in Doyle’s Holmes.
This young Holmes even falls in love and plans to spend his life with the lovely Elizabeth (Sophie Ward). It is his love for Elizabeth that leads to the solitary life he chooses as an adult.
The young Watson is a pudgy, rubber-faced lad, stewing in dreams of custard tarts and attending medical school.
He is, however, amenable to adventurous manipulation by his dominating new friend and soon they are investigating a series of mysterious deaths.
A group of ageing school chums are mysteriously shot in the neck with a drug that makes them hallucinate that they are beset by various demons – gargoyles come alive to seemingly strangle them, a knight from a stained glass window leaps out and chases another, a hell-hound statuette in an antique shop drives another mad. In their terror and desperation, each is killed.
One of the victims is Elizabeth’s uncle, so Holmes begins to investigate the crime. He detects a dangerous Egyptian sect that he compiles evidence against and sets about trying to vanquish in Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom style.
Young Sherlock Holmes was produced by Steven Spielberg and almost every scene bears his stamp. The movie’s title could easily have been Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Goons.
Some of the special effects are undeniably impressive, and the stained glass knight was the first appearance of a humanoid figure created entirely in CGI in a live-action film. The sequence was devised by Lucasfilm’s John Lasseter, who would go on to become Pixar’s CCO and direct their groundbreaking fully-CGI animated film Toy Story.
Rupert T Waxflatter
Det. Sgt. Lestrade
Reverend Duncan Nesbitt
Older Watson (voice)