- May 29th, 2008
Sherlock Holmes was not a misogynist. He was a Victorian, dammit. I saw the Disney version of the "Basil of Baker Street" novel send-up aka "The Great Mouse Detective", and I'm actively considering breaking the Netflix disc in half.
As much as I despise Disney as a giant corporation -- my communist soul demands that I do -- it does not prevent me from enjoying, honoring, and respecting their wares. It's the same sort of love-hate relationship I have for Google and its useful crap and Starbucks and its yummy lattes. Basically, I'm a lapsed communist. Somewhere, Gorky is weeping.
I like Disney films a lot. This past term, I must have seen Robin Hood 10 times. I saw Captain Blood once, of course, as that's mandatory viewing for me, but Robin Hood was the supreme being this year -- and we're talking the one with singing and dancing foxes, not Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. GMD had Basil in a cameo vocal form, which was somewhat gratifying.
I finally got around to seeing "The Great Mouse Detective." Yep. 1986, Sherlock Holmes send-up based upon the novel series Basil of Baker Street. I thought I'd love this stuff to death. It had Vincent Price! My beloved Basil! Sherlock and Watson! Toby! Mice! Alan Young! Henry Mancini!
Oh, such fail. Such big, big fail.
I've never read the books. I might now just to see how much fail this picture was. The Basil in this film is a shallow impersonation of Sherlock Holmes. They did Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson far better justice than my hero. They took all the ugly characteristics of Holmes and crammed them into this character. It's like watching the Doors movie, but at least Val Kilmer running around half-naked (and acting his leather-clad ass off) was enough to distract me.
Dr. Dawson (the Dr. Watson) is a smart...mouse I suppose. Was about to say man, but really, this is Disney. Anyway. He is smart. He is kind, and he is a gentleman, most of all. He is not the dolt portrayed by Nigel Bruce in the serials, the one sticking point with me about the 1940s Holmes series. Dr. Watson is not dumb -- he's a grade above everyone else when compared to Sherlock Holmes. As the hero, Holmes ranks above them all, his only matches named in cannon to be Professor Moriarity (Rattigan here) and Irene Adler, the Woman. Yes, he has been beaten by two other men, but Watson never names them.
Watson can rein Holmes in and keep him civil when his temper would rule otherwise. However, Holmes is not some misogynistic, insensitive, boorish, self-centered prima donna.
He's a Victorian. He is two-faced and multi-faceted. He disapproves of drinking and drug to excess, but partakes of cocaine when driven to boredom and ennui. He understands the class system and enjoys his aloof position in it, but constantly ignores it when pursuing a case. He has friends all over and makes sure they do not mix -- it's not because he is embarrassed. It is because the social differences in Victorian England were enough to be other countries. To mix them would be unwise and unprofessional. The rich and the poor gap was fairly wide, despite the rising middle class. And he does not discriminate who he takes cases from. His fees are flat, unless he decides not to charge at all -- he gets paid enough to keep his mouth shut by the royals to do charity work at his discretion. If anything, the royals bored him and he'd refuse their cases, and yet spend weeks working on some poor person who would never pay him.
Holmes thinks women are overcomplicated creatures (as do I), but he would never disregard them or their problems right off. He is a gentleman, first and foremost. It is not because he thinks they are horrible or useless -- he's the eccentric genius and while charming in his own way, he's no Casanova. Let Watson deal with the niceties. He admits in Doyle's canon that he has never loved anyone -- but if he did, he would be in the same position as one of his clients, desperate to avenge his beloved's death. He is a consummate professional, and while his female clients can give him a good chase and an intriguing puzzle, once it is solved, they are not integral to his life. Neither are the men. He treats them the same -- non-entities after the job. Recognition, yes, but beyond that would be unprofessional.
Read the Veiled Lodger case, however. Of all the cases, this is the one where Holmes breaks the rules and touches a woman to comfort her. She'd gotten her face ripped off by a lion. Even Holmes cannot help but be affected by her. He feels compassion for her and is willing to help her. Irene Adler is the only woman to ever stir anything more than that passing, intellectual interest in him -- he keeps her dirty photograph in his private files. Even then, there are no hints that he ever pursues her, one way or another. As to his treatment of Mrs. Hudson, Holmes was always an ideal tenant -- minus horrible smells from chemistry, shooting VR into the wall, and tacking up his post using a knife in the mantle. However, he always repaired and paid for his misdeeds and never sassed the landlady.
Another thing. Basil doesn't seem to little the young girl in the film. I'm not going to say Holmes loved kids, but they had their uses (and not the ones you're thinking of, you sicko). Baker Street Irregulars ring a bell? In an era of well-meaning social reform, children were still uneducated and locked out of factories; school was too expensive now that there were only parents working in the factories rather than having the eldest three work in there while the youngest three got a basic education. Now nobody could work, and nobody could afford school. Boys became pickpockets and petty thieves. Girls, much the same, with the addition of prostitution. Holmes did spend time with his contacts in opium dens and other houses of ill repute, but he hardly endorsed the corruption of children. Holmes used the street children as informers and spies -- small size, inconspicuous in a crowded London street, and smart as whips, many of them. He paid them better than a John would, on the Victorian scale. It was better to be in Mr. Holmes' employ and find odd bits and bobs of information and get fed by Mrs. Hudson rather than be completely on the streets minus the point where the family would regroup.
The true Holmes would have listened to the child, and then immediately dumped her on Mrs. Hudson, leaving them and Watson in the dust while he donned another disguise. He would have only retrieved Watson close to the end, when he needed back-up. The Stradivarius would never have been yanked out in front of a guest; that was his private escape, and he wouldn't play it if he thought he was going to be interrupted. If he was, away went the violin. No question. No dismissal. One man's petty theft is another's grand larceny -- do not forget the class scale differences. When children and women were threatened, Holmes was generally pissed off.
Should someone get in his way during a case, yes, he'd bite and be an absolute jerk. Yes, he was intelligent and flashy at times, but despite his confidence and almost arrogance, he often let Scotland Yard take credit for the good he'd done -- better to have confidence in the police than in one man.
Sherlock Holmes himself was created because of a lack of confidence in Scotland Yard; he was birthed in the middle of the Jack the Ripper serial killings. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made the ultimate detective. A gentleman, a brilliant man, a man who was not corrupt or lured by prostitutes, a man who had no professional grudges and would not pervert justice for his own gain. He was the answer to the Jack the Ripper problem. Sherlock Holmes the myth was a powerful enough creature back in those dark times that almost immediately, post was directed toward 221B Baker Street in the hopes that Holmes would get it and save them all from this menace that walked among them. Saucy Jack knew their streets, their hours, their churches, and their children. He walked among them during the day, killed the women by night.
I could go on, but I have a 10-page paper on the subject. If you'd like it, message me for a read.
At any rate, loved Vincent Price as Rattigan. The music was utterly lackluster and uncatchy. If you're going to make the mice sing, then make them sing great. How can you bollocks up Vincent Price? Make him sing. Ugh. The movie was never as dark as it should have been. Everything suddenly becomes well-lit, despite the fact it's the dead of night in London. Foggy, smoggy, scary London. It should have a similar feel to the darker parts of the Lion King, Snow White in the woods, etc. It never got there.
Ok, vent finished. No more GMD.