Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sherlock Holmes Double Feature (1987 and 1993)

In 1987, there was a CBS TV movie made called The Return of Sherlock Holmes. It was about the master detective being put into suspended animation somehow and waking up in the 20th century. Later, in 1993 a movie was made called 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns. It was about the master detective being put into suspended animation somehow and waking up in the 20th century...Yeah, it's the same plot as the other movie!

Return is a very good SH movie, and 1994 was a remake, that fails badly!...

The Return of Sherlock Holmes opens up with a gunman breaking into a man's house. The crook forces the man (Barry Morse) to sign a check, which he does, but the man fights the crook and kills him. Then, the man just tosses a blanket over the body, pours alcohol on it, then sets it on fire! You don't even want to try and move the body, man?! MORON! (This does end up making some sense though, kinda).

After a title card, the film segues into Jane Watson (Margaret Colin), a private detective. She manages to save the marriage of a couple who both think the other is unfaithful. Jane is low on money, so she decides to sell her ancestral country home. She leaves for England, and when she arrives at the country house (with some awesome shots of what I think are the white cliffs of Dover), her family's chosen real estate company gives her a box from her ancestor, John H. Watson, which was given to the company to be given to the next Watson family member to enter the house.

Jane opens the box and reads a letter from John Watson, telling her to go down into the house's basement. Down there, she find a secret room with a strange mechanism. She reads the letter through, and Jane seems to take everything in stride, as she puts on a blacksmith's apron, and sets about getting this ancient complex mechanism to work! Umm, lady, if your ancestor's journal told you to set an orphanage on fire, would you do that too?

A container rises, and Jane sees a frozen body inside. She sets the machine onto 'thaw', and the man is resurrected-the man, Sherlock Holmes...

After properly reviving, Holmes (Michael Pennington) tells Jane the story of how he got frozen. After he dropkicked Professor Moriarty off Reichenbach Falls (try surviving that, Moriarty!), he got a box in the mail, which he opened. Inside the box was a spring poisoned with Bubonic Plague, which Holmes unwittingly pricked himself on. Also inside the box was a letter from James Moriarty, the professor's brother. And here's where the movie gets confusing! Professsor Moriarty's first name is James! And Sherlock here says that he had two brothers named James! Que?!

Holmes asks if there's a cure for Bubonic Plague nowadays, and Jane says that there has to be. Umm, no lady! Didn't the Black Plague die out some five-hundred years ago? There can't be a cure for it at all! But, I suppose it could be combated with some kind of antibodies, so I won't be too hard on the movie. What I will be hard on the movie about though is why Jane isn't horribly infected by being so close to Holmes!

Jane drives Holmes to a hospital ("What kind of a carriage is this?"), where she explains the case to a doctor, who promptly goes into the next room and calls an asylum. Soon, Jane sees a van with 'men in white suits' arrive, and she steals some 'vibramycin' and takes Holmes away. Back at her country house (I guess), Jane tells Holmes that she doesn't know how to use a syringe. Umm, lady, stick it in him and push! It's not that hard! So, because she doesn't know how to do something simple, Jane lets Holmes, the seriously ill, plague-ridden man inject himself! Luckily, Holmes has "had some experience wth these things"-Oh Holmes, I bet you have! You and your seven percent solution!

After Holmes gets better, he and Jane walk around London, which is entirely new to Holmes. Probably the film's funniest scene is when Holmes sees TV's in a shop window-"Television. Radio, with pictures." Jane helpfully points out-Holmes replies, "".

A little later, Jane gets a call from Mrs. Houston, her secretary. Jane's office has been trashed, and a note was left-'Your father is dead. First of the four. The others will soon follow. Small'. Jane is curious about the note, but has to do some coaxing to convince Holmes to help her investigate her father's possible murder.

They go to a plane and fly back to America, which disturbs Holmes (who'd definitely prefer his orginal theory that planes 'travel the plains'!), and into Boston.

After Holmes accidentally insults Mrs. Houston (Lila Kaye), and after Holmes chooses a pseudonym, Holmes Seagerson (which he used back in the day), a woman arrives at the office. The woman, Violet Morstan (Connie Booth), lives near Jane, and her mail frequently ends up at Jane's address. The 'Small' message is actually meant for her-her father, Carter Morstan, a former FBI agent, was murdered recently-he was shot and burned into a crisp (or was he? He wasn't. It's not much of a mystery, you can see who gets killed and burned in the prologue).

Holmes and Jane go to the FBI offices and ask for help with the case. They leave, and Holmes veers off to go to a bookstore to get a book on 20th century history-Jane: "Uh, Homes, that's an adult bookstore."-Holmes: "I'm an adult."...

Later, Holmes is looking around a toy store...for some reason, a guy (Nicholas Guest) who's been following them introduces himself to Jane as Tobias Gregory. He saw Jane in a program about private investigators, and as a computer programmer, he offers to help Jane with the case.

Holmes and Jane find out that Tobias is really with the FBI, and they end up finding more clues, coming closer and closer to solving the case. The killer always seems to be one step ahead though...

The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a very good Sherlock Holmes movie! The acting is all good-Michael Pennington makes for a great Sherlock Holmes, Margaret Colin is good, and the rest of the cast are good too. Not a bad performance in the bunch.

Return is a very funny movie times, thanks to bits I've already talked about, and this line, when Tobias is trying to convince the FBI. head to help Holmes and Jane-FBI Head: "We're the FBI for god's sake, we're not here to help people!". There are other funny parts all throughout.

The film does have a few weird things about it. Weren't radios and dictaphones both invented before 1902, when Holmes was frozen? Why doesn't he know what they are? Another strange thing is how Holmes guesses Jane is from California when he first meets her. He deduces this because she has a tan. Umm, that's not the only hot state in America, and Holmes, you can get tanned in a snowy area, so long as the sun is shining! And when Jane mentions that Florida is hot too (and all 48 other US states!) Holmes seems surprised that Florida is habited-Huh?! Florida was uninhabited until 1902?! This movie is strange! And seemingly obsessed with Watergate, as it gets mentioned repeatedly (that does get a payoff though, a payoff that could have been done less clunkily-But then again, what is there to hate about a scene where Sherlock Holmes asks a hooker what the Watergate scandal is).

There are Sherlock Homes references aplenty for the keen-eyed. There's Tobias Gregory (Tobia Gregson was a main character-one of Scotland Yard's-in Study in Scarlet), there's Carter Morstan (Mary Morstan was Watson's wife), Bart Sholto (Sholto was Lestrade's first name in a book series starring him written by M.J. Trow), Holmes keeps calling Mrs. Houston Mrs. Hudson, and the last, and the best in my opinion is the security company that appears midway through the movie, called Milvertronix! Another thing I almost missed wasn't a Sherlock Holmes reference, but a Murder, She Wrote one! Look closely at the above screeenshot and call on your memory from M,SW (or scan wikipedia, for those not in the know).

I really would have liked to see The Return of Sherlock Holmes as a TV series. Michael Pennington is Holmes, Margaret Colin is the Watson equivalent, Tobias Gregson could have been their sidekick, who uses his FBI position to get information for the duo's cases, etc., and Violet Morstan could have been a love interest for Holmes (something the movie slightly gets into).

Now to answer the question you've all been waiting for...Yes, Sherlock Holmes DOES sit in a bar while a band plays Louie Louie!

...Now onto 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns...

So, you've all now read about the fun Return of Sherlock Holmes-now it's time to read about its imperfect clone!

1994 Baker Street opens with a terrible voice-over actress talking about Ronald Hunt, a jogger who's running around the city when he sees a tiger, and is attacked and mauled by it. He's taken to hospital, where he's treated. Doctor Amy Winslow (Debrah Farentino) talks with a detective, and wonders how this tiger mysteriously appeared and disappeared.

Winslow is invited to her friend Mrs. Hudson's country estate. Hudson (Joy Coghill) shows Amy a strange steam machine. When Mrs. Hudson's father got the house, there was a contract stipulation forbidding the turning off of the power, and if that happened, the Hudson family would be immediately evicted. While the two are talking, there's suddenly an earth tremor...which Amy and Mrs. Hudson apparently forget exists the moment it stops.

The house's electricity shorts out, and while Mrs. Hudson checks out the fusebox, Amy goes int the wine cellar and finds a secret door leading into a room containing a strange machine. The machine opens just as Mrs. Hudson comes down, and out comes...AAHHHH! ZOMBIE JESUS!

While recuperating on the floor, the crazy guy (I'm NOT calling him Sherlock Holmes until he stops looking like a zombie hobo!) says that he was frozen in 1899. He says he was kept in suspended animation because he froze his body, and 'used brandy as an antifreeze'...Righ... righ...I bet the writer knocked this script off in a couple of hours! This iteration of Holmes by the way, is a prick. Not a Benedict Cumberbatch-style lovable bastard, but the bastard that you just want to knee in the face until they die! He suspended himself not because he was dying of plague, but simply because he was bored with 1899!

The story gets even stupider when Holmes says that his chamber was knocked open in the 50's by a thief and teenage accomplice, who tried to steal his tinder box. The thief was killed in a scuffle with Mr. and Mrs. Hudson and the kid ran off with the box. All of this Holmes describes with pinpoint accuracy, down to the fact that Mrs. Hudson clubbed the thief with a wine bottle, which is damn impressive, considering he was UNCONSCIOUS! Holmes then shows Amy and Mrs. Hudson marks and stuff in the dust involving the struggle...which Holmes could not have noticed, since the only time he was in that room, he was recuperating from ninety-four years of being frozen! This Holmes is full of shit!

Holmes finds and reads a letter from his brother Mycroft, which makes Holmes realize that the man who was clubbed and killed by Mrs. Hudson was Henry Moriarty, James' brother. I thought this was just this Holmes being an apparent psychic, due to the levels of things he knows which he absolutely shouldn't, but this time it actually makes sense, as the letter is coded.

Then, half an hour into this movie, it gets a genuinely funny line! It's when Holmes sees a car for the first time-"Interesting! Mr. Benz was experimenting with self-propulsion in my day. I'm rather surprised he didn't settle for electricity rather than petroleum. Seem any thinking person would've.". Be warned, that's one of the film's few high points...

Holmes is taken into San Francisco, and stares in wonder at the city in a montage. Really, I don't know why Holmes is so astounded at what the Golden Gate Bridge looks like, considering the Brooklyn Bridge was finished nearly twenty years before Holmes froze himself! Next Holmes will probably have no idea what a rifle is!

The two arrive at Amy's house (at Baker Street), and Holmes makes an annoyingly long deduction stream about Amy's life, thinks she's a coke addict, and he even deduces her pet's name! The hell how?! Amy gets angry and ditches Holmes outside. She calls Max (Phil Hayes), her ex-husband, who she thinks arranged Holmes as a prank. As for Max, he's probably the type who'd actually set up a prank like this-while talking, a half-naked chick is putting and licking off cream on his arm! Time and a place dude!

While outside, Holmes learns of a new murder-an esteemed criminologist was thrown into a piranha tank and eaten alive. Come nightfall,  Holmes approaches a gang of car radio thieves and questions them about Moriarty, then, when they attack him, he goes mental on them! He slams one kids head into a car, and hurls another over his shoulder and onto the pavement, and deals with the rest just as brutally! Our hero! Holmes gets distracted by Amy and is knocked down by the teens, who run off.

Amy takes Holmes back in, believing him now, and he tells her the reasoning behind all of his wild deductions about her. Then, afterwards, Amy corrects Holmes' mistakes. As for Holmes, he seems shocked to discover that Amy, a nurse, was caught in a military skirmish years prior-umm, writers, NURSES DID WORK ON BATTLEFIELDS AND IN WARZONES IN HOLMES' ERA! And why the hell did Holmes just instantly assume that the white powder on her desk was cocaine, rather than sugar, salt, flour, or any other white powder. In fact, it DOES end up being sugar! This Holmes is a stupid arsehole! And he's a sexist prick too, kinda. Again, our hero!

Holmes and Amy leave and got to city hall, getting a list of all the Moriarty's in the city. Holmes eventually has luck when he talks with a Moriarty priest, who tells Holmes of his cousin, James Moriarty Booth.

With Amy's help, Holmes goes to Moriarty's heavily fortified home, and he is immediately captured the moment he walks in. Moriarty (Ken Pogue) recognizes Holmes from seeing him years ago, and the ID photos from the stolen tinder box. Moriarty burns the photos, which by the movie's logic mean that there is now no proof that Holmes is from 1899...Even though all they'd prove to any smart person is that Holmes is 'descended' from 'Holmes'.

Holmes goes to the police station to help indite Moriarty, but he is refused and forced out. Just as he leaves, Holmes overhears two cops talking about a third murder. Homes and Amy realize that all the vctims are friends of Ortega (Eli Gabay), a cop who has evidence against Provon, a gangster whose brother, El Tigre, was killed in a gunfight with the police. Soon, Ortega is kidnapped and only has hours left to live...

1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes is not a good movie at all! It has bad writing, a confusing plot, an annoying main lead, and a villain who does barely anything! (More on that later).

1994's plot is pretty stupid too. How much cash does Moriarty have to do this tiger theme? He sets loose a tiger in the city and gets it back, he uses tiger piranhas, a car-full of tiger beetles, and a tiger snake! Is he really willing to spend THAT much money on tacky murders just to get on the good side of Provon? Couldn't he just gun them all down? He'd get the same effect across!

The plot is also kinda depressing. By the end, four of Ortega's best friends are dead! That's a downer!

Speaking of Moriarty, he does barely anything in the movie until the very end! It's only in the final ten minutes that it's revealed that HE, not Provon has been orchestrating the tiger murders  (that's not a spoiler for the poor people who see this movie wondering why Moriarty is doing nothing).

And how Homes incriminates Moriarty is beyond stupid! He plants a box of his antique wine bottles (from Mrs. Hudson's house) in Moriarty's car, and because they have cocaine in them, Moriarty is arrested. But that illegal way off getting him arrested was pointless, since Holmes then gives the police a 'damning recording' of Moriarty and Provon! Holmes, you moron, you just wasted your coke stash! One thing's for sure though, I bet Amy feels lucky that she never got a chance to have some of the wine, considering it had an 87 percent solution of cocaine!

And isn't Amy a doctor? If she is, she's probably fired, because she hasn't set foot in the hospital for days now!

There are a few other stupid scenes in 1994. Holmes and Amy arrive at the house of one of the cops, and see he was killed by a snake. Homes sees the snake behing Amy, and tells her to be still. He uses an umbrella to knock the snake (as well as everything else) off its perch. Amy falls in surprise on Holmes, and the two have a romantic moment. All you did was knock the snake off the table, he's obviously still alive, dumbasses! Have your romantic moment later! Another weird animal moment is when Holmes and Ortega escape Moriarty's boat after letting the tiger out, which starts attacking one of the henchman! I can guess what happened to him! Our heroes!

Onto Sherlock Holmes, played by Anthony Higgins. As you've read from my review so far, you'll know what I think of him! Higgins' Holmes is irritating, overly Holmsesian to the point of annoyance, he's arrogant, and NOT in the lovable way, and the worst thing is his reasoning behind having himself cryogenically frozen. Rather than to save his life, like in Returns, Holmes' reason for being in suspended animation in 1994 is incredibly petty! I'd dropkick this guy back in that machine and cut the electricity off forever if I was Amy!

Debrah Farentino as Amy is good, although her narration sometimes leaves something to be desired. She did get the movie's second funny scene though-"Oh my god, I've been hanging out with you too much!", she says when she makes a Holmes-like deduction stream.

Something the film does well is it's inclusion of a makeshift Baker Street Irregulars team (well, it only becomes a full team at the very end).

While watching 1994 Baker Street, I thought to myself, this film's Sherlock Holmes might be an annoying prick, but at least he never dressed up in drag like Robert Downey Jr.'s Holmes in the awful Game of Shadows-I was wrong...

So, in conclusion, watch The Return of Sherlock Holmes, and skip 1994 Baker Street!...


  1. You're absolutely correct. I love the 1987 movie - well written and Pennington and Colin are great together - and the 1994 movie is rubbish.

  2. I'm glad you agree!

    Thanks for the comment!