Wednesday, December 09, 2009

nostalgia necessities: THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (1986)

Judging by its relatively quick descent into obscurity after 1986 had lapsed, The Great Mouse Detective is one of those oft-forgotten movies that I just can't get out of my head. Thanks to repeat viewings growing up (and the magic of home viewing), this one is on regular rotation in my DVD collection. And why shouldn't it be? It has an exciting and at times surprisingly scary storyline, it features some stellar voice acting (thank you very much, Vincent Price!), and it includes a score from the great Henry Mancini (not to mention a catchy ditty from Melissa Manchester that - confession - I know all the words to).

What continues to surprise me each time I watch this flick, though, is how lasting some of the terrifying moments are. I mean, that creepy bat popping out of the baby bassinet is enough to cause significant scarring, but there's also the eerie dolls in the toy store scene, the jarring music that accompanies each scene that includes the faux-queen robot (yeesh!), and the transformation of Ratigan from "world's greatest criminal mind" to full-on street rat. But thanks to a goofy drunk scene with Dawson and a couple of silly Disney musical numbers, the dark and light factors balance each other out. (Although the band of Basil-lovers - adults, mind you - I recently watched it with seemed fairly on edge throughout the entire movie.)

So, to Ratigan! Though he may be a slimy, contemptible sewer rat (a moniker that my brother and I used to throw around at each other in honor of this very movie), he was a charming adversary to the able, if snooty, hero Basil of Baker Street. Probably overshadowed by its New York-loving follower, Oliver and Company, The Great Mouse Detective is a surprisingly strong ode to the British way of life. From the big-time importance of Big Ben to the distinguished mouse queen to the traditional Sherlock Holmesian attitude throughout (and is it always raining in London?) it's a delightful British romp.

Memorable Scene: Reminiscent of another childhood mainstay, the board game Mouse Trap, Basil and Dawson manage their way out of Ratigan's diabolical torture device through sheer cunning. Love it!

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