They Might Be Giants (1974)

Article 4528 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-8-2014
Directed by Anthony Harvey
Featuring George C. Scott, Joanne Woodward, Jack Gilford
Country: USA
What it is: Odd comic romance

A female psychiatrist by the name of Watson takes on the task of treating a man who is under the delusion that he is Sherlock Holmes, and, towards that end, she follows him in an adventure where he seeks the whereabouts of his enemy, Moriarty.

James Goldman originally wrote this as a stage play, but after its initial production, he withdrew the play, feeling that he never quite got it right. The fact that he wrote the screenplay for this movie version does seem to indicate that he didn’t quite give up on it. Still, I can see what he means; there’s something about this meditation on Sherlock Holmes as filtered through the sensibility of “Don Quixote” that doesn’t quite come together. Whatever its flaws, however, the acting is not at fault; both George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward are wonderful in their respective roles, and there are some wonderful moments here. Two of my favorite moments include a scene where Scott’s character manages to make a non-speaking mental patient finally open up and talk, and the wonderful, if ambiguous, ending where he finds what he’s looking for. The theme of the madmen being saner than the supposedly normal people of the world isn’t particularly novel, especially in the anti-establishment countercultural world of the early seventies, but I find myself wondering if that was the theme of the original play from ten years earlier; nevertheless, Scott’s acting abilities give it a fascination and a depth that make the theme resonate. The fantastic content is a little tougher to pin down; we do have the theme of madness here, and the ending may lend itself to a fantastic interpretation. At any rate, I’ve developed a definite love for this movie, and I’d like to read the play version, if I ever get a chance.

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