DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit, but for the unholy glory of the Horned King. The Horned King declares sovereignty over all that exists in this pathetic realm save the images used below which are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.
So, you may have noticed some changes to the blog. Why is that, you ask? Well, to put it simply I have banished the previous owner to a far flung dimension and usurped his place. I am the Horned King and your world is now mine. I have come to conquer your lands and warp your souls. I have come to topple your kings and to kill your gods. Your children shall know only my name and recognise only my face for I am your reality now. From this day forth you will not draw breath but to serve me. The sun is gone and you shall not see it rise again. I shall redden the sea with the blood of all who would defy me. And not a day shall go by that you do not long for death.
But don’t worry, we’re still going to review Disney movies. No point fixing something that’s not broken. Today’s film is Basil the Great Mouse Detective. Or you may simply know it as The Great Mouse Detective or perhaps The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective. It is known by different names depending on the region.
During my last attempt to conquer your puny globe I was sealed in the Disney vault by the accursed Jeffrey Katzenberg…
…to prevent my evil from spreading. Disney forswore all knowledge of my movie, The Black Cauldron, in the hopes that I would fade away from the memory of man. Curse them! By sealing me away, they denied me my rightful place as monarch of this pathetic maggot hatchery of mankind, as well as a fortune in merchandising opportunities! There were to be Horned King action figures! Lunchboxes! SNUGGIES!
Fools! They shall pay for their insolence!
But while they may have won the battle, it cost them dearly. Following the failure of The Black Cauldron, the Disney animation studio was a shattered husk (let all who would trifle with the Horned King take warning). The next film would have to be a success, or else the Disney bosses would shut down the animation wing, and place the severed heads of the animators on pikes in the parking lot as a warning to the other employees.
For their next film, the studio decided on an adaptation of known wretched human Eve Titus’ Basil of Baker Street, a novel about a brilliant evil genius named Ratigan and his struggles against an infuriating, insufferable mouse.
The Horned King can relate.
So…let us see what pathetic humanity has wrought while I contemplate how best to deal with the puny inhabitants of this blog.
The movie begins in London in 1897 where the mouse toymaker Hiram Flaversham is having a birthday party for his young spawn, Olivia. Olivia declares that this is her best birthday ever, and Hiram responds that she hasn’t even gotten her present yet. It occurs to the Horned King that if a birthday alone with her father without even having received a single gift is her “best birthday ever”, then the child’s life thus far has been one of misery and deprivation. This pleases me.
Hiram gives the child her present, a doll designed to dance in an illusion of life.
The child knows joy, albeit briefly. Evil comes to Flaversham’s toyshop in the form of Fidget, a peg-legged bat who bursts through the toy-shop window in a scene that would strike dread in the heart of any child who saw it.
As Olivia hides, her father is abducted and the child is left mewling forlornly into the foggy London night for her sire. Good stuff.
After a credits sequence (what does it matter who gets credit? Soon you shall all be dead) we meet our narrator, Doctor John Q. Dawson.
Heh heh heh.
Forgive me, I was just thinking of something funny.
Dr Dawson is returning from service in Afghanistan, presumably battling the fanatical Mouse Taliban.
While searching for a place to stay, Dawson comes across Olivia crying in a discarded boot. He dries her eyes and asks what ails her. She seeks the aid of Basil of Baker street, and shows him a newspaper cutting with unacceptable misuse of punctuation.
Dawson takes her to Baker Street where they are admitted by the housekeeper Mrs Judson. Their wait is short lived, as Basil bursts into the study dressed as a Chinese emperor and waving a gun.
The child Olivia seeks the aid of Basil, but he has little time for her pathetic squalling and bids her and Dawson leave.
Sigh…why does he not simply shoot them? He has the weapon right there.
But Olivia finally piques his interest when she mentions the peg-legged bat. Basil explains that Fidget is the henchman of his archnemesis and our hero, Ratigan. Ratigan, incidentally, is played by my old college room-mate Vincent Price.
Ooh…working a few “Mwahs” in there. Nice.
Basil goes on to explain that Ratigan is the greatest criminal mind of all time, and that there is no scheme so depraved and evil that he would not concoct.
Now, I respect Ratigan as a worthy fellow evil-doer, but he must know his place. No one equals the schemes of the Horned King in their utter malevolence.
Ratigan has abducted Flaversham and put him to work creating a mechanical creature for some dark, occluded purpose. Flaversham, in an unacceptable display of insolence, sabotages the device. Ratigan responds as I would, by flaying the very flesh from his bones with a whip made of barbed wire and scorpions…no, my mistake. He coerces Flaversham by using the doll to show what will happen to his daughter should he refuse to obey.
Suitably cowed, Flaversham returns to his work and Ratigan gives Fidget a list of supplies to acquire. You know, the Horned King has choked his fair share of henchmen, and I can tell you right now that this will not end well. Fidget is clearly a comic relief henchman, and they are inherently unreliable. Ratigan announces his plan to his assembled minions. On the eve of the Queen’s diamond Jubilee, he will replace her with a mechanical simulcra who shall announce that he is to be king. So he shall rule over all of England…
Sorry. I got caught up in the moment. Ratigan then sings The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind. It is the thing the humans call “music” which to the Horned King is just so much noise. But it is by Henry Mancini, who I believe is considered something of a “big deal”. I do enjoy the lyrics by Muppets composer Larry Grossman: “Even meaner? You mean it?/Worse than the widows and orphans your drowned?”
Now THAT is a catchy hook.
The song is cut short however, when one of Ratigan’s lackeys, his tongue loosened with ale, makes the mistake of calling his master “a Rat”. Ratigan responds as I would, by feeding the impudent serf to his ravenous wyverns!
By now you must be asking…who is this Ratigan? How came he by this demented, maniacal outlook. Why would he so vehemently deny the fact that he is a rat?
I shall tell you a tale, so that you might understand why evil shall always triumph…
There once was a rat, pure hearted and good. His name…was Larry.
One night he saw that an innocent child’s bedroom window had been left open, and fearing that the infant would catch a cold from the chill night air, he climbed into the child’s room to close the window.
But he was discovered by a dog. And simply because he was a rat, simply because of his species he was savaged, torn apart, and killed. And yet in his last agonised moments, his thoughts were still selfless…
And then he died.
And so you see, in a way Larry truly did die that day. And from the ashes arose something new. Something evil. Something utterly twisted. Something that would never even admit that it was once…a rat.
I love a happy ending.
Back at Baker street, Fidget tries to apprehend the child Olivia but she sees him and screams and he runs off (comic relief henchmen are not worth fucking shit). Basil chases after him with Dawson following without a second thought.
They enlist the help of Tobey, a bloodhound belonging to none other than Sherlock Holmes (voiced in a cameo role by Basil Rathbone). They track Fidget to a toy shop but not only do the simpering fools fail to corner their quarry, the child Olivia is abducted from under their hapless noses.
Dawson is heartbroken at this failure. This pleases me.
But Basil insists that there is still hope (Lies!) as Fidget has dropped his list of instructions. The scurry back to Baker Street and through alchemy Basil scryes that Ratigan’s base of operations is a seedy inn on the waterfront. Disguising themselves as sailors, they infiltrate the inn and begin their enquiries and watch the mouse burlesque act being performed onstage…
By the seven hells, what manner of depravity is this?! The Horned Kind has tortured angels to death and defiled temples beyond counting and this is without a doubt the most fucked up thing I have ever seen. Sexy mice? Really? This is what you’re into? This is what you show your children?! For shame mankind! I haven’t felt this uncomfortable since my brother came out to me.
Fortunately, this foulness is brought to an end as a bar fight breaks out and Basil sees Fidget slip away through a trapdoor. They follow the minion down into the sewers and discover Ratigan’s secret lair. But it is then that Ratigan appears with all his henchmen and reveals that it was but a ruse! A RUSE!
Basil has been duped and led into a fiendish trap. This pleases me. To an almost erotic degree,
Ratigan and his men laugh at Basil, mocking him, destroying him psychologically, reducing him to a pathetic, quivering…Cthulhu H. Christ I love this film!
Ratigan now faces a dilemma I know all too well. Once you have your pathetic foes at your mercy, what to do with them? Do you torture them to death and then raise them from the dead to join your immortal army of cauldron born? Or do you simply have them torn to pieces by your faithful wyverns?
Well, I shouldn’t complain. It’s a nice problem to have.
Ratigan, not a rat to deprive himself, decides on every possible method of execution at once.
Ratigan explains how the trap works. It’s pretty simple stuff as these things go, the gramaphone plays, which pulls the rope, which causes the marble to drop through the bathtub, down the rickety stairs, causing the cage to lower and wait one infernal moment here!
Well, in any case, the end result is the same. One less insufferable do gooding rodent infesting the realm of the living.
Ratigan announces that he’d love to stay and see Basil die but he has a prior…
No. No, no!
Bad idea! Stay until he’s dead, trust me on this!
Ratigan leaves, saying he has a prior engagement at Buckingham Palace and leaves Basil and Dawson to their fate. Basil, realising the futility of resistance, has given up. Ratigan has proven his superiority. Dawson berates him (fool, can he not see the end is nigh?) saying that if that’s the way Basil feels they might as well set off the trap now. This gives Basil an idea…
No. No! I knew this would happen!
You see? THIS IS WHY YOU ALWAYS STAY!
Basil sets of the mousetrap at the exact right moment which catches the marble and sends the gun firing in a different direction and graaaaaaaaaahhhhhh….
HE ESCAPES! THE INSUFFERABLE MOUSE ESCAPES FROM THE TRAP!
This cannot be. I exiled you to a prison dimension for all eternity! How did you escape?
And yet you came back here? You are an even greater fool than I thought.
Puny rodent, you could not hope to defeat me. Think on your folly as you spend an eternity in a Hell dimension reviewing straight to video Disney sequels!
Friends? The Horned King has no need for “friends”.
Oh no. No. Not them! Anything but them!
‘Cos when you get there, tell ’em Mouse sent ya.
Hey everyone, great to be back. Okay, so where are we with this thing?
At Buckingham palace Ratigan has replaced Queen Mousetoria (sigh) with a robot duplicate built by Flaversham. The robot announces to the crowd that she has chosen a new consort who will be King of all England (well, everything below ankle-height anyway) Professor Ratigan!
Ratigan wastes no time throwing his weight around announcing a heavy tax on all parasites and spongers, the elderly, the infirm and little children wait just a damn minute here!
But Basil and Dawson arrive and rescue Flaversham and Basil takes control of the robot Queen, using it to expose Ratigan in front of the nation. A massive brawl breaks out and Ratigan makes a run for it, taking Olivia hostage. Ratigan and Fidget escape in his blimp cycle but Basil creates a airship out of a Union Jack and some balloons and chases across the London skyline. It’s around this point that Ratigan stops being a comic villain and becomes something far more sinister. He throws Fidget overboard to lighten the load and then crashes the blimp-cycle into the Westminster clock tower. Basil leaps after him and faces off against Ratigan amid the grinding gears and spinning wheels of the clock. This scene is hugely important in terms of animation history for one reason: CGI. Now, Basil the Great Mouse Detective was not the first Disney movie to use computer generated imagery. That honour goes to The Black Cauldron was (sorry I didn’t mention that in the review but I was, y’know, fighting for my immortal soul at the time). But Basil is the first Disney movie to use the new technology to expand what was possible with animation rather than just using it as a time saving/tidying up tool. All the moving cogs and wheels in the clock tower sequence were computer generated and it looks great, even today. Of course CGI that’s trying to look like hand drawn animation will always age better than something that’s trying to be photorealistic but still, it’s damn impressive. Basil grabs Olivia and tries to escape out of to the clock face. Ratigan watches them go, and the look of rage on his face leaves little doubt that he has arrived in a certain Brazilian state.
Now totally enraged, Ratigan knocks Basil onto the clock hands and proceeds to beat the ever-loving shit out of him. Seriously, this a damn brutal fight scene, with Basil completely outmatched by his much larger foe. But then, the clock strikes, and before you can say “hickory dicokory” both Basil and Ratigan are shaken off the clock and go plummeting to their dooms. Except Basil, who managed to snag part of Ratigan’s blimp cycle and fly to safety because you can’t keep a good mouse down.
And so the movie ends with Oliva reunited with her father and Basil and Dawson celebrating the beginning of their partnership. No, Deviant Art. Not that kind of partnership.
Don’t google it. Just don’t.
Basil the Great Mouse Detective is not one of the all time great Disney movies but it may well be one one of the most important ones. After the utter catastrophe of The Black Cauldron one more failure would have sunk the animation studio utterly. But it didn’t fail. It actually made a pretty decent profit (although it lost at the box office to An American Tail) and more importantly was made quickly and cheaply. This cheap and cheerful vibe permeates the movie and is a very welcome relief after the mind-bending horror of The Black Cauldron. Disney were still a long way from their former greatness, but this movie was a very important first step on the way back.
Honestly, the animation is not much better than you’d get on a Disney TV show of the era like Ducktales or Chip ‘N’ Dale Rescue Rangers. But the character designs are appealing and it’s got a pleasantly cartoony energy to it.
The Leads: 16/20
A surprisingly faithful interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes character. Basil is arrogant, rude and egomaniacal but with a heart of gold. A great lead.
The Villain: 16/20
You can’t go wrong with Vincent Price as your villain. Ratigan is probably more of a comedic villain than usual but he does have some very menacing moments, particularly towards the end.
Supporting Characters: 12/20
No one particularly memorable, but no one too irritating either.
The Music: 11/20
Surprisingly, considering Henry Mancini’s on scoring duty, the music is kind of blah. The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind is something of a forgotten classic though.
FINAL SCORE: 64%
NEXT TIME: Time to close out the Mourning Era as the Unshaved mouse “reviews the situation” with Oliver & Company. Will we be asking for “more”? Oh and “Food, glorious food!”. That is also a good song from that musical.
NEXT UPDATE: 18 April 2013
Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. If you havin’ ghoul problems, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems, but a lich ain’t one.