From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
“The Great Mouse Detective: Mystery in the Mist Edition”
As Disney rushes to release as many films from its back catalog and vaunted vault as possible on Blu-ray, it doesn’t take a private eye to figure out which titles the studio prizes and which ones its doesn’t.
With the renewed popularity of Sherlock Holmes on the big screen (Guy Ritchie’s rousing blockbusters starring Robert Downey Jr.) as well as on television (the BBC’s excellent update “Sherlock,” CBS’ new modern version “Elementary”), it’s simple to deduce that the timing couldn’t be better for “The Great Mouse Detective” to make its high-definition debut.
But Disney doesn’t take any extra steps to capitalize on Sherlock’s recent reemergence with its “Mystery in the Mist Edition” Blu-ray, which features the high-definition transfer but no other upgrades. Although the 1986 film was made in an awkward phase for the Mouse House — the studio’s renaissance began three years later with “The Little Mermaid” — it boasts an entertaining family-friendly mystery, stellar voice talents and some truly revolutionary animation for the time.
Based on “Basil of Baker Street,” a children’s book series created by Eve Titus and illustrated by Paul Galdone, the mouse tale is set in an appropriately foggy Victorian London. Young Scottish rodent Olivia Flaversham (Susanne Pollatschek) is quietly celebrating her birthday with her talented toymaker father (Alan Young) when a villainous peg-legged bat named Fidget (Candy Candido) breaks in and spirits away the elder Flaversham.
Wandering the back alleys of London, Olivia encounters Dr. David Q. Dawson (Val Bettin), a physician just returning from military service in Afghanistan, who helps her track down famed mouse detective Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham). The investigator not only lives in the same house as Sherlock Holmes — voiced by the legendary Basil Rathbone in a brief cameo — but shares his human counterpart’s uncanny deductive skills as well as many of his personality quirks.
It turns out that Fidget is the primary henchman for Basil’s evil arch-nemesis Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price, who brings a wicked glee to the role), so the detective eagerly takes the case. With the help of Holmes’ hound Toby, the trio traces Ratigan’s latest sinister scheme from a human toy shop to a seedy waterfront pub to Buckingham Palace. The thrilling climax inside Big Ben marks the first time Disney combined computer-generated images with hand-drawn animation.
That landmark achievement gets just a quick mention in the skimpy eight-minute making-of featurette, one of just three Blu-ray bonus features, all of which have been recycled from the 2010 DVD release. It’s just elementary that “The Great Mouse Detective” deserves better.