Disney Classics #26: The Great Mouse Detective

I have been writing these Disney Classic blogs in order, but it’s slowed the whole thing up, so I thought I’d write about the movies as I rewatch them, meaning that I jump from The Jungle Book in 1967 to this film, almost twenty years later.

This movie comes right in the middle of what is widely regarded as a weaker era for Disney, with a string of lesser works being produced. I have to admit, this movie wasn’t one I loved as a kid, I dimly remember seeing it as a little kid, but it didn’t make an impact, and if we had it on video it wasn’t dusted off often.

gmd poster

I think the problem was that I saw this movie at the wrong time, had I seen it when I was a bit older, I would have got a lot more from it, even if it is a bit weak. When I was around ten I started reading the Sherlock Holmes stories, and loved them, similarly I would discover old horror movies and Vincent Price, but seeing this as a kid, neither Holmes nor Price meant anything to me, and thus the movie didn’t connect with me. Had I watched it knowing more about the star and the fictional sleuth it might have worked better for me.

Like The Rescuers, this film takes place in a world where rodents have their own society beneath mankind, often reflecting and mimicking the human world. Here, we get their version of Sherlock Holmes, Basil (Barrie Ingham), who is renowned as a great detective although he has never been able to stop Ratigan (Vincent Price), the master criminal.

Basil meets Doctor Dawson (Val Bettin), who has returned from Afghanistan and is looking for a place to live. The kindly Dawson finds the distressed and lost child Olivia, who’s father has been kidnapped by Ratigan’s henchbat Fidget. Dawson takes her to Basil and joins the hunt, trying to work out what Ratigan is up to and why he needs a toy maker.

gmd basil dawson

Ratigan’s plot is bonkers, involving a clockwork replica of the mouse queen in order to take over Britain, and the Empire. Even for a film about a mouse sleuth this is daft, and there’s not a lot of mystery solving needed. Basil is shown to have Holmes’ knack for deduction, but the case doesn’t need a lot of it, and his pomposity is irritating.

As a result the movie is stolen by the glorious vocal work of Vincent Price, who’s distinctive tones elevate the evil Ratigan. It’s the standout of the film, and the heroes appear dull in comparison.

gmd ratigan

The action is okay, but the whole film is throwaway and the brief running time doesn’t help develop any of the characters. Still, it has a certain goofy charm and passes the time well enough. But it definitely doesn’t measure up against the great animations, and the rather prosaic animation means that this is definitely a lesser entry in the ranks.

Disney score: 4/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

One thought on “Disney Classics #26: The Great Mouse Detective

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