They Might Be Giants (1971) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|Sometimes movies are just movies, and sometimes they are filmed literature. This is a case of the latter. On the surface it's just an offbeat little farce about a crazy judge who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes, a film prone sometimes to excessive slapstick and other forms of silliness. But lurking beneath that surface is an ennobling statement about the nature of goodness and compassion and hope.|
|This film came from the same creative team that produced the historical drama The Lion in Winter. Anthony Harvey directed both films, and James Goldman adapted two of his own plays to the screen. Goldman also wrote "Nicholas and Alexandra" and "Robin and Marian". After penning his four famous screenplays from 1968-1976, he went into virtual retirement, writing only one more theatrical film, "White Nights", in 1985. Writing talent ran in the family. His kid brother, William Goldman, wrote the screenplays for The Princess Bride, All The President's Men, and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.||
| I once wrote (I
should say "almost wrote", since it lies unfinished still) a
rather bad novel about the life of Merlin. In that I posited that the
people were able to recognize Arthur as the proper king even when he
wasn't pulling magical swords out of rocks and lakes. In my version,
Arthur was an uncomplicated peasant boy with dirty fingernails, and
Lancelot was a drooling muscle-bound simpleton, while Mordred was
brilliant, talented, cultured, educated, and handsome. Yet, to
Mordred's chagrin, people could look at him side-by-side with
Arthur and realize that Arthur should be king. When Lancelot led a
charge, every man would follow, but Mordred's leadership inspired
nobody. Some followed if they were paid well enough. The people knew
that Arthur and Lancelot were compassionate and pure of heart, and
those qualities inspired men to drop their plows and fight at Arthur's
side when necessary.
The characters in They Might Be Giants respond the same way to Sherlock Holmes. In their rational minds they know that he is loony, and that the forces of society are merely trying to restore order, but in their hearts people know that Holmes stands for compassion, human dignity, and respect for people. In short, for good. And people are quite capable of understanding that the choice between good and evil is more important than the choice between sanity and insanity. If sanity is harsh and painful and unforgiving, then there is no reason to stand and fight on its side.
|So it happens that Holmes, by
listening to people, studying them, granting them dignity, and trying
to figure out why they behave as they behave, touches them deeply, as
the "sane" members of society can never do. And when it came
time for Holmes to battle Moriarty, the people that he affected were
there to stave off the doctors and the police and let Holmes stand
toe-to-toe with his archnemesis.
Was there a Moriarty? Is there a force out there instigating people to act toward each other with evil and greed and injustice in their hearts?
Can you look at the world and say there is not?
If you like Don Juan Demarco and/or The Fisher King, I can just about guarantee that you'll like this gentle little gem of a movie with a perfect ending. In addition to perfect performances by George C Scott and Joanne Woodward, veteran character actor Jack Gilford does an eccentric turn as The Scarlet Pimpernel (well, in his heart, at least).
Worth watching just to see the moment when the crazy man realizes his new psychiatrist is named Dr Watson.
Return to the Movie House home page