Quick, Watson - to the Cinny!

Pursuit to Algiers (1945) is the twelfth entry in the Rathbone-Bruce series and a pretty weak one at that. Not entirely without interest, however.

The script is based on a throwaway line in The Norwood Builder. Well, based is perhaps too strongly put.

"At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for some months, and I, at his request, had sold my practice and returned to share the old quarters in Baker Street. A young doctor, named Verner, had purchased my small Kensington practice, and given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that I ventured to ask - an incident which only explained itself some years later when I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes's, and that it was my friend who had really found the money. Our months of partnership had not been so uneventful as he had stated, for I find, on looking over my notes, that this period includes the case of the papers of ex-President Murillo, and also the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives. His cold and proud nature was always averse, however, to anything in the shape of public applause, and he bound me in the most stringent terms to say no further word of himself, his methods, or his successes - a prohibition which, as I have explained, has only now been removed."

Holmes and Watson are about to go on their hols. But of course duty calls, the kingdom of Rovinia needs Holmes desperately. The king has been assassinated and now Holmes must see to it that the young prince, who has been abroad studying, doesn't meet the same fate but gets safely home. Holmes and the prince take an areoplane and leave the sulking Watson, as stupid as ever or maybe even more so, to make his trip on board the Dutch steamship Friesland.

Friesland seems absolutely brimming with shady characters. Some of the passengers just lurk in their staterooms. On the radio Watson hears a shocking piece of news: the plane Holmes and the prince were in has crashed. No survivors.

But, turns out that Holmes and the prince have been aboard the ship all along and the aeroplane was simply a ruse. And obviously the assassins too are on the ship, ready to pounce.

At the dinner table Watson recounts the strange adventure of the Giant Rat of Sumatra. And of course the camera zooms away and only returns for his very last words. Better that way. At least in this movie.

Really the most interesting thing about the movie is the trio of assassins - Mirko, Gregor and Jodri - who bring life to the otherwise trite movie. Two of them seem to have escaped from The Maltese Falcon: Mirko is a rather clumsy but amusing Joel Cairo and Gregor is an inflatory and less witty and scathing Gutman. But as assassins they are quite hopeless. It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to beat these chaps.

Of course the villains still get the upper hand, even if they are hopeless, and they kidnap the prince. But it's all right, the prince isn't the prince at all but a dummy. The real prince has been masquerading all along as a steward. Rah-rah. Case solved. Oh and Holmes also stumbles upon some very valuable jewels with no connection to anything at all that only recently have been stolen in London. The end.

Oh dear. One has to ask: what the devil has any of this to do with Sherlock Holmes? The mind boggles at this remarkable stupidity. Really, Rathbone, you ought to be ashamed of your participation in this unadulturated idiocy.

Young Sherlock Holmes (1986) didn't please me much when first I saw it almost a quarter of a century ago. Now I saw it for the third time and found it surprisingly pleasant. It is a quality production: the acting is fine, the settings work, the plot is not bad at all. It seems like a cross between Harry Potter and Young Indiana Jones: good humoured and quite clever.

This time, to my surprise, I immensely enjoyed the movie. It was exciting, funny, and a bit sad. Anthony Higgins makes a splendid villain and one can't get a better narrator than Ralph Richardson. Even if he is a bit schmalzy.

I do, however, still have reservations about the script. Great reservations. It's simply to pat. At one stroke, literally, the boy Holmes meets Watson, Lestrade and acquires his deerstalker, Inverness cape and his briar - and becomes immune to women. All the cliché trademarks. And his teacher Rathe turns out to be Moriarty really.

This last detail escaped me previously as it comes after the credits. So I'd never seen it. Can't say that I'm too impressed. Far too pat. It just won't do to explain away simply everything.

But the movie is great fun and worth a dozen Rathbone films.

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