Canon Thursday: My First Sherlock

Den of Geek posted this enjoyable article today about a movie called “Young Sherlock Holmes” that came out in 1985, which was the year of my birth. I didn’t see the film until more than ten years later, when my sister discovered it during her high school years.

Thinking back, I saw “Young Sherlock Holmes” soon after meeting the detective for the first time through the original stories. Properly speaking, my first Holmes was the one in my imagination when I read, but my first on-screen version of the detective was Nicholas Rowe, who played a teenaged Sherlock Holmes.

“Young Sherlock Holmes” is an alternate universe take on Holmes in which Holmes is sent to boarding school and meets John Watson, who turns out to be a loyal, if thick, best friend. Holmes also comes into contact with a girl named Elizabeth, who inspires him.

This movie isn’t quite a classic. It fails to fully execute a very promising idea, and it has weaknesses throughout. At the same time, there’s something about it. Maybe it’s because I saw it at such a young age, but there was an originality that grabbed me in an unusual way. In retrospect, I think that was mostly a result of Nicholas Rowe’s Holmes. In spite of the script being far afield from the original stories, Rowe’s performance is surprisingly canonical. His character develops through the story until the very end, when glimpses of the authoritative adult Sherlock Holmes become apparent.

According to Den of Geek, “Young Sherlock Holmes” was intended to be a franchise but didn’t perform well enough for that to happen. I like it the way it is, with the viewer leaving Holmes right at the beginning of his career and with a parting shot of a professor whose name just happens to begin with M.

I recommend checking out “Young Sherlock Holmes” if you enjoy taking in different versions of the detective (though not if you’re a strict purist). It’s a fun movie to watch, and I still have a little place in my heart that belongs to Sherlock Holmes as portrayed by Nicholas Rowe.

Who was your first onscreen Sherlock Holmes?

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5 thoughts on “Canon Thursday: My First Sherlock

  1. I LOVE this movie. I still have Holmes’s and Watson’s first conversation memorized. The one that starts when Holmes is about to smash the violin? This is still my favorite Holmes movie. 🙂

  2. I have the terrible suspicion that my first Holmes was … Basil of Baker Street. Because when you were a child in the 80s, your first Holmes was Basil of Baker Street. ^_____^ The film has its flaws, but Barrie Ingham’s amazing vocal work is not one of them. His character may have technically been, well, a mouse — but the excited, dignified lightness he brought to Basil was vintage Holmes. I can’t tell you what I’d give for some audiobooks or audioplays featuring Ingham as Holmes — I’d listen to those every DAY.

    Also, Vincent Price as a rat-ified Moriarty = WIN. 😉

  3. My first Holmes on screen was Basil Rathbone. At least once a week back when they put movies on around 4:30 PM instead of news, they showed A different Basil Rathbone-Holmes movie. I think I saw them all that way, and it was only a while later when I read the stories that I realized Watson’s character was not as played by dear affable Nigel Bruce. But I loved Basil Rathbone play the protagonist in such a role. Then I moved on to Peter Cushing, followed by Jeremy Brett.
    I think it could be interesting to have all the versions of the Hound of the Baskervilles done in a marathon-style, up against the original story!

  4. The first on-screen portrayal of Holmes I ever saw was also “The Great Mouse Detective”, which I’ve described before as a lovely little hidden gem of a movie.

    The first ACTUAL actor I ever saw play Holmes was…well, Robert Downey Jr., actually. And an excellent Holmes he was!

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