Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • When assorted people start having inexplicable delusions that lead to their deaths, a teenage Sherlock Holmes decides to investigate.

  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson meet as boys in an English Boarding school. Holmes is known for his deductive ability even as a youth, amazing his classmates with his abilities. When they discover a plot to murder a series of British business men by an Egyptian cult, they move to stop it.

  • Paired with the owlish, reticent young Watson, Sherlock Holmes embarks on the solution of a mystery that involves a hallucinatory and lethal drug, and a religious cult celebrating ancient Egyptian rites of mummification. They all enter and view, from a hiding place, an Ancient-Egyptian-themed cult, known as the Rame-Tep (also known as Rametep and Ramatep), performing a ceremony in which a young girl is hypnotized, wrapped in linen and killed with the pouring of boiling wax atop her body. The trio gets spotted, and are each hit by a thorn and experience their own horrific hallucinations in a graveyard, but eventually recover.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film opens in late 19th century London one evening. A hooded figure raises a blowpipe and shoots a dart into an older businessman named Bentley Bobster (Patrick Newell) outside a restaurant. He shakes the sting off thinking it an insect. After ordering dinner, however, he suffers a terrifying hallucination in which his dinner, a roasted bird, attacks him. He shakes this off, and returns to his third-floor flat. Another hallucination appears, however, leading him to believe that his apartment is on fire. He throws himself out the window and is killed when he hits the ground in an apparent suicide. The credits roll.

    The scene switches to a boy's school in London were the teenage John Watson (Alan Cox) is a new student at the Brompton Academy. As he moves into the dorm he finds the next bunk over is occupied by the teenage Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Rowe). The two become friends and Holmes introduces Watson to Professor Waxflatter (Nigel Stock), a retired teacher with rooms and a laboratory in the school's attic. Waxflatter is bit of a mad inventor who is constantly testing a human-powered flying machine. Holmes also introduces Watson to Elizabeth (Sophie Ward), Waxflatter's teenage niece who shares his rooms and has a budding romantic relationship with Holmes.

    As we follow Holmes and Watson we see them attend a fencing class. The teacher, Professor Rathe (Anthony Higgins), chooses Holmes as his opponent in a demonstration match. Though Holmes does well, Rathe eventually defeats him. Rathe complements Holmes on the match, but warns him that he lets his emotions get the best of him and it leads him to make rash moves and ultimately lose.

    We see a second attack take place: The hooded figure enters a church and shoots a dart into the sole occupant, the Reverend Duncan Nesbitt (Donald Eccles). The reverend hallucinates that the stained glass figure of a knight jumps from its window and chases him down the aisle. He runs through the front doors and out into the street where he is run over by a horse-drawn carriage and dies.

    One evening a suspicious character comes to visit Waxflatter and the professor asks the teenagers to leave the room. Holmes has noticed that Waxflatter has circled articles in the paper dealing with the mysterious deaths of the businessman and the reverend. He begins to suspect that the three things are connected. His suspicions are confirmed when Waxflatter, a few days later, seems to go crazy in a curiosity shop, grabs a knife and kills himself. Watson, who is outside of the shop immediately afterwards, is bumped by a hooded figure that drops a blowpipe. Watson picks it up and shows it to Holmes.

    Holmes wants to investigate, but unfortunately a fellow student has framed him for cheating and he is expelled from the school. With Elizabeth's permission, however, he hides in Waxflatter's old rooms and enlists Watson as his ears and eyes in the investigation as he must be careful about being seen in the area.

    Elizabeth connects Watson's story of a hooded figure with that of an incident earlier on where her dog chased a hooded figure through the school courtyard tearing a piece of cloth off its cloak. Holmes takes the cloth and analyzes it. He finds wax on it is made only by the firm "Froggit and Froggit" located in a less than reputable part of London. He and Watson also find out that the blowpipe seems to be Egyptian and related to a cult.

    The three travel to the firm and get inside the building. There they find a stockroom housing a pyramid several stories tall. Inside the pyramid is the reproduction of an Egyptian temple. A ceremony run by the secret Egyptian cult is beginning. While Elizabeth and Watson watch from the safety of a small hidden room that overlooks the temple, Holmes climbs down to gather evidence. The ceremony reaches a climax when a drugged teenage girl is wrapped up like a mummy, placed in coffin and covered with hot wax released by a priest wearing a headpiece that looks like the Egyptian god Anubis.

    Realizing the girl will be killed, Holmes tries to intervene, but he is outnumbered and he, Watson and Elizabeth are forced to flee from the building. They are chased by the members of the cult who manage to shoot darts into all three of them.

    The three try to hide in a cemetery, but are overcome by hallucinations. Holmes ties Elizabeth up so she cannot hurt herself, but finds himself overcome with illusions concerning his parents. Watson finds himself contending with an illusion of dessert pastries that attack him and stuff themselves down his throat. Holmes manages to shake off the hallucination, but then sees an Egyptian with a sword about to attack him. At first he thinks this is an illusion too, but suddenly finds it is real and he is forced to defend himself. Fortunately the cemetery watchman, armed with a shotgun, intervenes and saves him.

    The three are taken before police Sergeant Lestrade (Roger Ashton-Griffiths). Holmes earlier tried to convince the detective that the three deaths were connected, but Lestrade dismissed his observations. Holmes tries again, giving Lestrade the three darts to be tested, but the detective throws the teenagers out. He is about to throw the darts out too, when he pricks himself on one of the points.

    The three teenagers head back to Waxflatter's attic. There Watson finds a drawing of a group of men in their 20s. Holmes recognizes three of them as the young Waxflatter, the Reverend, and Bobster. A fourth figure, a wealthy man named Cragwitch (Freddie Jones), is the mysterious stranger who visited Waxflatter. Holmes decides they need to talk to him.

    Before he can act on this Professor Rathe enters the room, followed by Mrs. Dribb (Susan Fleetwood), the school nurse. Rathe is angry at Holmes for disobeying the order to go home, and Watson and Elizabeth for hiding him. The boys are locked in a room until they can be sent away. Elizabeth is put in the care of Mrs. Dribb. The room does not hold Holmes for long and he and Watson are off to see Cragwitch. The man is at first suspicious and greets them with a shotgun. However, Holmes is able to convince them they are there to help and Cragwitch invites them in and spills the story.

    The men in the picture were part of a group that decided to build a hotel in Egypt. The project failed, but not before it had desecrated the cult's underground temple and destroyed the mummies of five young princesses held sacred by the cult. Husband and wife leaders of the cult were also killed and their small children ( a girl and a boy) vowed that when they grew up they would seek revenge on the men, rebuild the cult and replace the mummies of the princesses. All the men, except Cragwitch are now dead.

    As Cragwitch is explaining this a hooded figure hits him with a dart from the window. Holmes and Watson try to subdue Cragwitch, but he is about to kill Holmes when he is knocked cold by Lestrade who has arrived just in time. The detective decided there was something to Holmes's story after all when the pinprick of the dart gave him a hallucination and he nearly killed himself.

    With Cragwitch under police protection, Holmes and Watson head back to the school and are almost there when Holmes comes to the revelation that the cult boy must be the grown up Rathe and his sister is most likely Mrs. Dribb. He also realizes they intend to make Elizabeth into the final replacement princess mummy.

    As they approach the school they see a carriage containing, Rathe, Dribb and Elizabeth leave. They are unable to catch it and Holmes decides the only way to get to the warehouse in time is to use Waxflatter's untested flying machine. It works and the boys set down on the river near the warehouse.

    Observing the temple they see a drugged Elizabeth being wrapped. The boys are outnumbered, but Holmes decides that if he can attach a line from the chandelier at the top the temple to one of the support beams, he can bring much of the structure down by releasing the winch that keeps the chandelier in place. They do this and it leaves the temple in ruins as well as diverting the wax away from Elizabeth at the last moment. In the confusion Watson and Holmes race to Elizabeth's rescue. Holmes is caught in a sword dual with Mrs. Dribb that ends when her ceremonial robe catches on fire and she is killed. Holmes is knocked out, however, and left lying on the chandler as the temple burns around him.

    Watson gets Elizabeth out of the temple, but loses her to Rathe (who was the priest with the Anubis mask). Watson finds himself torn between rescuing Elizabeth or Holmes. Suddenly he gets an idea that will do both. Using a rope with a grappling hook he attaches one end to the chandler chain and catches the other on the rear of the carriage Rathe is using to take Elizabeth away. As the carriage leaves it pulls up the chandler and brings Holmes to safety. When the chandler can go no further, however, the carriage is torn in two stopping Rathe.

    By then Holmes is up again. He and Watson rescue Elizabeth and pursue Rathe back into the dock area. Rathe produces a pistol and tries to shoot Holmes, but Elizabeth takes the shot instead. As Watson attends to her Rathe and Holmes duel with swords, first on the dock, then on the ice. Rathe seems to be winning until the ice cracks beneath their feet. Rathe disappears into the water and Holmes escapes.

    On the dock Elizabeth is dying. She and Holmes exchange their love before she passes on.

    Back at the school Watson says goodbye to Holmes as the boy detective finally leaves for good. Watson notes that he expects this is not the last time he and Holmes paths will cross. The credits roll.

    As the credits roll we watch a sleigh traverse a snowy countryside. At the end of the credits a mysterious figure exits the sleigh and enters an inn. On the register he writes the name "Moriarty." The camera reverses angle and we see it is the smiling figure of Rathe.

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