Movie Review: The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Title: The Great Mouse Detective
Release Date: July 2, 1986
Director: Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, and John Musker
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Walt Disney Feature Animation | Silver Screen Partners II

Adapted from Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus, itself a pastiche on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, The Great Mouse Detective is a classic mystery in Victorian London starring mice and rats. There’s the great detective, Basil (Barrie Ingham), his new acquaintance-cum-sidekick, Major Dr. David Q. Dawson (Val Bettin), coming together to help an adorable young Scottish mouse, Olivia (Susanne Pollatschek).  Her father, the toymaker Hiram Flaversham (Alan Young), is abducted by the evil Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price, who steals the movie as well) and forced to work on his evil plan.

The movie is delightful with a lot of imagination and Rube Goldberg devices. I can’t help but wonder what this movie would’ve been like if it had been made a couple of years later in the Disney Renaissance era and given the tender-loving care it deserved.  New Disney CEO Michael Eisner cut the films budget and sped up the release date.  He also renamed the movie because he thought “Basil” sounds too British. Disney animators famously circulated a memo illustrating the bland and generic nature of the new title by renaming Walt Disney animated classics.  It may be past time for a Basil of Baker Street movie reboot (but not a “live action” version please!)

Rating: ***

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 28

Hit Parade :: The Feat. Don’t Fail Me Now Edition

The history of the “featured artist” credit on number one singles.

To The Best of Our Knowledge :: Jeff Kripal at the Edge of Belief

Unconventional thoughts about religion, science, and the paranormal.  Not that I necessarily endorse this, but it’s interesting to hear something outside of the typical.

Back Story :: Elementary, Mr. President

Robert Bork, Benjamin Spock, and Sherlock Holmes and their ties to American history.

Planet Money :: Yes in My Backyard

The radical and controversial solution to America’s housing crisis: building new housing in existing neighborhoods!

Book Review: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

AuthorAnthony Horowitz
Narrator: Julian Rhind-Tutt and Derek Jacobi
Publication Info: HarperCollins Publishers and Blackstone Audio (2014)

Horowitz follows up on his authorized Sherlock Holmes novel House of Silk with this mystery set in 1891 immediately after Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarity are believed to have fallen from Reichenbach Falls.  The narrator is Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton detective who travels to Switzerland seeking American criminal mastermind Clarence Devereux whom he believes will rendez-vous with Moriarity.  In the wake of the supposed deaths of Moriarity and Holmes, Chase joins up with Scotland Yard detective Athelney Jones who displays a skill in deductive reasoning. Based on the title, one wonders if Jones is Moriarity in disguise?  Or Holmes in disguise?  I won’t tell.  Chase and Jones return to London to continue the search for Devereux and find themselves pulled into the brutally violent underworld of expatriate American criminals.  It’s a gripping mystery with a lots of twists and turns, and a great companion to the Holmes’ canon.  The performance of Rhind-Tutt and Jacobi on the audiobook is particularly entrancing.

Recommended booksThe New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Martin Harry Greenberg,Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon by Larry Millett, and A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin.
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The House of Silk by Anthony Horwitz


Author: Anthony Horwitz
TitleThe House of Silk by
Publication Info: New York : Mulholland Books, 2011.
ISBN: 9780316196994
Summary/Review: I’ve read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about Sherlock Holmes and a fair sampling of Holmes’ adventures by other authors (many of which are as good or better than Conan Doyle’s weaker entries).  Horwitz’s novel is authorized by the Conan Doyle estate and is a worthy addition to the Holmes canon.  There’s a great fidelity to Conan Doyle’s style and settings while at the same time having a modern feel.  Anyhow, I don’t want to give anything away but this is a gripping novel and it’s enjoyable to see the mysteries unravel.

Recommended booksThe New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Martin Harry Greenberg, Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon by Larry Millett, and A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin.
Rating: ****


Book Review: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: Or On the Segregation of the Queen by Laurie R. King

Author: Laurie R. King
Title: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: Or On the Segregation of the Queen
Publication Info: Recorded Books (1994)
ISBN: 0788798782
Summary/Review:  This book is the first of a series in which Sherlock Holmes – “retired” to beekeeping in the country – meets the narrator/protagonist Mary Russell and takes her on as his apprentice.  Since Russell’s intelligence and powers of observation match Holmes the relationship seems to be missing something as they are both almost too perfect (King allows both her characters to make some mistakes to make them a little complementary).  Much of the early half of the book involves Russell’s long apprenticeship and training and drags.  There are a number of mysteries to solve and the novel becomes episodic as a result.  The conclusion actually tries to tie these mysteries together which doesn’t work for me.  I wanted to like this book but just found it a bit dull.  Still, I still see promise that maybe future installments could be better now that this backstory is filled in.

Recommended books: A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Martin Harry Greenberg, and Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon by Larry Millett
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin

Author: Mitch Cullin
Title: A Slight Trick of the Mind
Publication Info: New York : Nan A. Talese, 2005.
ISBN: 0385513283

Summary/Review: Mitch Cullin takes the very familiar literary character of Sherlock Holmes and puts him in the seemingly unlikely setting of 1947 post-war England.  The aged Holmes is long-retired from detective work, tending to bees, writing his memoirs, and beginning to lose his mental faculties.  His only companions are his housekeeper and her bright son Roger of whom Holmes begins to take on as a protegé with even some paternal feelings.  Three stories are intertwined – Holmes life at his rural cottage and growing mentor ship to Roger, flashbacks to a  recent trip to Japan after the atomic bomb attacks where he went to collect botanical specimens, and a his own written account of a case and a woman who continue to haunt him.  This is a very different Holmes than ever presented by Conan Doyle yet fitting seamlessly into the oeuvre.  It’s a sad account of a very human side of Sherlock Holmes that is reminiscent of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Recommended books: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon by Larry Millett.
Rating: ****1/2