Reviews

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2018.

Commentary

An awkward adaptation of Holmes to a contemporary mid-WW2 scenario with a bomb sight MacGuffin.

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Sequel:

The Woman in Green (1945) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2019.

Categorization

Rathbone.

Commentary

Stately and simplified to the point of boredom. It is curious how colours—green and red—play such a significant role in a greyscale film made this long after colour films were invented and popularized. The credulous use of hypnotism is unsurprising for a Doyle adaptation, except in the detail that believers congregate in a ”Mesmer House”, despite Mesmer himself having died and fallen into disgrace and some obscurity by the time the film is supposed to be set.

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Same source material:

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2016.

Commentary

It gets by on the charm of the actors. The set pieces are disappointing even for a children’s parody of Sherlock Holmes.

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Same source material:

Sherlock Hound (1984) IMDb

Creators

Miyazaki Hayao (director), Mikuriya Kyōsuke (director), Ōtsuka Yasuo (key animator).

Categorization

Children’s mystery TV series with lots of very non-fatal action. Not actually anything like Conan Doyle’s detective books. Six episodes (out of 26), spread evenly through the first half, are directed personally by Miyazaki. He and Mikuriya supposedly shared series direction.

Subject

Young Sherlock Holmes is an anthropomorphic dog, just like everyone else in Victorian England. He and the trusty Dr. Watson eat the very lovely young Mrs. Hudson’s cooking and always outwit dastardly Professor Moriarty, a purple wolf inventor with two clownish henchmen invented for the series.

Commentary

The first episode is unfortunately the worst, featuring sails that do not react to wind and huge boilers that can be repaired in half an hour after literally exploding. Miyazaki’s six are noticeably a cut above all the rest: I tested this on myself by not looking it up first.

The biggest systemic problem with this series is the total consistency of Moriarty as the villain past the very beginning, limiting the province of mystery to imagining steampunk methods of forgery and theft, as opposed to ever wondering who did it. Secondary perpetrators compete with Moriarty and do not last beyond the episode. It’s no wonder that Lestrade is always there with a dozen officers to hunt for him. There is nothing else happening in England. Partly as a result, the last handful of episodes feel like an ordinary Western children’s show. Great choices of music, creating a soft nostalgic frame. The anthropomorphism is well done. I assume the choice of it was influenced by RAI’s Italian co-producers.

References here: Ghibli movie titles, The Great Mouse Detective (1986).

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Same source material:

The Great Mouse Detective (1986) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2019.

Categorization

Anthropomorphism but on a naturalistic scale, hence subtly unlike Sherlock Hound (1984).

Subject

There exists a parallel society among London’s animals. There is a mouse Queen Victoria, threatened by Professor Ratigan’s steampunk robot, and a mouse Sherlock Holmes, named Basil, who lives in the human Holmes’s house.

Commentary

The human Holmes speaks with the voice of the dead Basil Rathbone, the apparent namesake of the rodent detective. The style of the adaptation does owe more to the Rathbone films than to Doyle, but its immediate basis is Basil of Baker Street (1958). Basil is somewhat neurotic in this version; perhaps a result of bowdlerizing his opium.

The film is largely competent in execution, especially the groundbreaking 3D CG clockwork scene towards the end, but the ideas are all empty imitations. From the opening scene, Fidget the bat is marked as evil by his peg leg, while Ratigan is marked as evil by his species, an obvious fact he’s very sensitive about. His henchmen are marked as evil by being working class. It’s the usual Disney morality.

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Same source material:

Sherlock Holmes (2009) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2013.

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