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WITHOUT A CLUE (1988)
In this humorous 19th century mystery, Dr. Watson is the real sleuth, and Sherlock Holmes is in reality a formerly out of work actor hired by Watson to play the part. After a falling out, they are once again forced to work together on one last difficult case, where this actor as Sherlock faces a moment of truth, when Dr. Watson suddenly disappears in the middle of the investigation.
Directed by Thorn Eberhardt. Screenplay by Gary Murphy and Larry Strawther.
In this unique Sherlock Holme's tale, it is Dr. Watson (Ben Kingsley) who is the true detective who solves the criminal mysteries in London. About nine years earlier, it seems that an investigator at Scotland Yard was Dr. Watson's patient. Watson discovered his sleuthing gift when he had helped to figure out this investigator's current case, the Paxton murder. But Watson didn't give himself the credit for solving the case, but instead had said that a sleuth by the name of Sherlock Holmes had solved the case, because of the fact that Dr. Watson had applied to be on the medical staff of a conservative medical college, that wouldn't approve of his newly discovered talent.
When the public demanded to meet this Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson hired an actor, Reginald Kinkaid (Michael Caine) to play the part of this ace sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. Thus, all this time Watson had been giving Kinkaid a script to memorize, in order to play the part, making brilliant deductions and solving the crimes, that in reality were being solved by Dr. Watson.
Dr. Watson would then write these crime stories down in story form for a publisher, Norman Greenbourough (Peter Cook) who sold them to the public in the Strand magazine, giving Watson the royalties. These published stories gave Kinkaid all the glory and credit, making him a celebrity among the public. Unfortunately, Kinkaid has aggravating personal weaknesses, like over imbibing in alcohol, gambling and a love of the ladies, as well as a rather pompous attitude about his success which he displays in public.
The opening of the film has Dr. Watson and Reginald Kinkaid as Sherlock Holmes interrupting a robbery in progress at the National Museum, by the notorious John Clay. After Clay is arrested, Sherlock Holmes pompously declares the case to be closed, which illustrates the growing annoyance of Dr. Watson for Holmes' self-absorbed ways.
The last straw comes a little later. Mrs. Hudson (Pat Keen) finds Kinkaid's liquor cache. When confronted, Kinkaid says, "An occasional libation helps to stiffen my resolve." Mrs. Hudson: "Your resolve should be pickled by now!"
A heated argument ensues between Kinkaid and Doctor Watson, where Kinkaid further infuriates Dr. Watson by criticizing not only the scripts that Dr. Watson has been giving him, but Watson's magazine stories as well. "You would be well served by cutting down on all the twaddle, and spend more time on me, Sherlock Holmes, who the public loves."
Fed up with these "insufferable" behaviors of Kinkaid, Dr. Watson fires Kinkaid and tries to be Dr. Watson, Crime Doctor. But, this idea doesn't go over well with anyone because of this much believed charade, using Kinkaid as Sherlock Holmes. His publisher, Norman Greenhough (Peter Cook) also nixes this idea, in whom Dr. Watson confides to, telling the story of how he got in this predicament in the first place. Norman: "Sherlock Holmes is worth a fortune to the magazine."
Dr. Watson faces reality about having to rehire Kinkaid when he is refused entry by a policeman to the burned down paper mill, discovered by young Wiggins (Matthew Savage) and the irregulars, a group of street boys who work for Dr. Watson for coppers and shillings. The paper mill was burglarized and burned to the ground at the same time as the Clay robbery. The Clay robbery, it seems, was just a distraction, to keep the law busy.
When Kinkaid refuses to come back on the job as Sherlock Holmes (Michael Caine), Dr. Watson is in a dilemma when Lord Smithwick (Nigel Davenport) and Inspector Lestrade (Jeffrey Jones) come to see Sherlock Holmes with a pressing case, that threatens England's economy. The five pound printing plates were stolen from the Treasury, and the man who is in charge of them, Peter Giles, is gone. They scoff at Dr. Watson's claim to be a gifted sleuth, a "Crime Doctor!"
However, in the middle of the Smithwick and Lestrade meeting, Kinkaid makes a hasty entrance to Dr. Watson's place, because of two collection goons chasing him for the gambling money he owes. They agree to proceed together in one more case, as this case is a serious threat to the English government.
Outside in the dark, lurks Professor James Moriarty (Paul Freeman) in a horse-drawn carriage, secretly reveling in Dr. Watson's involvement.
Upon arriving at Peter Giles' home, Inspector Lestrade also appears to investigate, to pick up on any clues that Sherlock finds, hoping to get the jump on the sleuth, so his department can get the credit for solving the case. Dr. Watson tells Sherlock to take the good inspector on a tour of the house, so that Dr. Watson could do some investigation on his own. Sherlock, with an eager twinkle in his eye, says hopefully, "The whole treatment?" Dr. Watson gives a sly, knowing smile back. Despite their difficulties, these two men enjoy working together to get the best of the good inspector, who is annoying to both of them.
From a clue found in the fireplace, Watson and Sherlock head off for the Lake district, where they have an adventure or two. Despite circumstantial evidence suggesting that Giles and the plates wound up at the bottom of the lake, Dr. Watson has figured out that it was just a plan to throw the police and them hopefully off the trail, fooling them to close the case. Clues to this conclusion were given to the audience during our heroesâ stay at the Lake town. When told by Dr. Watson that Moriarty is behind this, Kinkaid freaks out, pulls the emergency brake on the train. Kinkaid gets back on the train only when he is soothingly assured by Dr. Watson that Moriarty knows that Kinkaid is an idiot, and that Dr. Watson is really the detective. Watson explains to Kinkaid: "Moriarty knows... I'm am the only match for his evil genius." Kinkaid (Holmes): "You mean he's not trying to kill me?" Watson: "No. He knows you're an idiot." Holmes: "Oh, thank God."
Knowing that Giles' daughter, Leslie, was supposed to come home on Monday, they wait for her. A young lady does show up, claiming to be Leslie (Lysette Anthony). When two thugs try to kidnap Leslie, a tussle ensues, with Kinkaid winding up with an unusual clue; one of the thugs' shoes. Leslie is invited to stay with Kinkaid and Watson, for the sake of her own safety. The plot thickens!
As they continue in their investigation, Kinkaid winds up surprising himself, when Dr. Watson disappears and is feared dead. Rallied to meet this challenge by a visit by Inspector Lestrade, who goads him a little, Kinkaid does an 180 degree turn around and confidently assures Lord Smithwick that the plates will be recovered by Friday, in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes.
With the moral support of Mrs. Hudson & Leslie, he tries to come up with some deductions. Despite trying to put on a chalk board what they know, they don't get very far until presented with a vital clue, found by young Wiggins down by the river. Kinkaid triumphantly puts two and two together. He, Mrs. Hudson and Wiggins go to check out the place that this clue points to, and arrive to see Moriarty arrive in a carriage. He heartlessly has the driver killed so the driver can't tell anyone anything. Kinkaid bravely goes in following the trail, and arrives just in the nick of time to save both Dr. Watson and James Giles, in spite of himself, which emboldens Kinkaid to duel with the evil Moriarty. Watson and Holmes truly work together to defeat Moriarty.
This hilarious rendition of a Sherlock Holmes mystery was cleverly written by Gary Murphy and Larry Strawter, who worked together on TV scripts for "Happy Days," "My Sister Sam," and "Malcom in the Middle." The twists and turns, exciting sequences and the comedic moments blended into this screenplay makes it a classic humorous mystery.
This well put together comedy was directed by the multi- talented Thorn Eberhardt ("Captain Ron," & "I was a Teenage Faust"), who himself has a "unique sense of humor," which influences his work in a supportive way. He skillfully got great comedic performances out of the talented Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine and others in this fabulous cast, who gave solid supporting performances.
Jeffrey Jones as usual gives a convincing, humorous performance as the frustrated Inspector Lestrade who is tired of being out-sleuthed by the brilliant team of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and wants to in the worst way solve a case before Holmes does. Jeffrey Jones is a talented stage and film actor that has been very successful in comedies, dramas, and fantasies.
The dastardly villains which give our heroes so much trouble were Paul Freeman as Moriarty, and Lysette Anthony as the lady masquerading as Peter Giles' daughter, Leslie. It seems that Giles' real daughter, who has some peculiarities, was also kidnapped.
Paul Freeman is very convincing as the black-hearted, psychopathic villain, Moriarty, who is up to no good, as well as wishing the demise of Dr. Watson. While active in the English National Theatre, Royal Court and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Paul also has played a variety of movie roles, excelling in villainous types, such as the part of Renee Belloq in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Young child actor, Matthew Savage does a fine job as Wiggins, the leader of the Irregulars who finds important clues and saves the day in the end. He went on to do some English Television work.
Knighted in 2001, stage and film actor, Ben Kingsley successfully stretches himself in this comedic mystery, playing Dr. Watson, who is also a brilliantly skilled detective that must put up with all the annoying habits and characteristics of actor Kinkaid one last time, as they work on this important case of missing 5 pound note molds and the missing printer, Peter Giles.
Knighted in the year 2000, Michael Caine does a wonderful job as well being the inept, flawed actor, Reginald Kinkaid, who plays the part of Sherlock Holmes. Despite his weaknesses, he rises to the challenges this case puts in front of him, and his thinking and behavior is transformed as a result of his adventure.
These two actors, Kingsley & Caine, together make the screenplay really enjoyable, as their electric chemistry that they have together, their humorous banter and the delivery of lines between these two talented men brings out every humorous nuance ever intended by the screenwriters and the director, which must of made them all insanely happy.
How they work together in front of others in the story is clever. Watson yells out: " Lord Mayor! Don't move until Holmes has searched the area for clues!" Holmes quips: "My GOD I've trained you well, Watson!"
My favorite sequence of scenes starts when Kinkaid triumphantly figures out the clue that Wiggins found, and their adventure begins as he finds the place, and does some burning, some rescuing, some dueling and discover some secrets in the nick of time. Holmes and Dr. Watson also have fun once again of getting the best of Inspector Lestrade after all the excitement, in a unique way.
The ending sequence of scenes make a happy, poignant ending to this unique comedy.
Henry Mancini composed the delightful music that kept the film's atmosphere comedic, yet the music also fit the action sequences as well. "Without A Clue" has a PG rating. Sensitive children may not like seeing a dead body briefly that was pulled from the lake, or watching the evil Moriarty have a man killed (no blood). Otherwise, this is a great family film.
Reginald Kinkaid to Dr. Watson: "I was once a figment of your imagination. But now, Sherlock Holmes belongs to the whole world."