Former judge Justin Playfair (George C. Scott) lost his wife a few years back, and ever since he's thought he's Sherlock Holmes, determined to find his archnemesis Professor Moriarty, in this thoroughly charming tale of ma... more »dness and romanticism. Playfair (er, Sherlock) is about to be committed by his brother, who wants his money, when by serendipity he's teamed up with psychiatrist Dr. Mildred Watson, no less (Joanne Woodward). She finds him fascinating, being a bit daffy herself, and together they get involved in various intrigues, mostly aimed at evading the medical authorities, but which allow the two to fall in love. Though the farcical tone of the film keeps it a lighthearted comedy, the heavy-handed slaps at authority, who are set up for such abuse, seem programmed to succeed. To what degree is lunacy, charming though it may be at times, an appropriate reaction to complex times? "To the utmost degree!" says this film, though the viewer may enjoy it and still disagree. During a comic battle in a supermarket (reminiscent of a silent comedy pie fight), one patient chases her keeper with an oversized hypodermic to the rallying cry of "I hope the loonies win!" That expresses the sympathies of the film nicely. --Jim Gay« less
Kendra M. (KendraM) from NASHVILLE, TN Reviewed on 1/13/2008...
I was lucky enough to find a dvd of this film just the other day. Although it's not worth the inflated $200 it's selling for here (and higher), it is an excellent film. And, if you can find a copy at a reasonable price, it's worth having. The acting is wonderful, the scenes of 70s New York are so authentically gritty, and the movie is a whole lot of fun. Interestingly enough, my husband mentioned to me that he had never really wanted to see this movie before since he didn't think Scott would make a believable Holmes. Almost immediately into the movie, he admitted how wrong he was.
George C. Scott plays a delusional former judge. He believes he is Sherlock Holmes and it is likely that he became delusional after the death of his wife a year or so before. While a jurist, he always attempted to do good-- always attempted to make the world a better and safer place. Now, as Holmes, he attributes all the evil in the world to his nemesis, Moriarty.
Joanne Woodward is Dr. Watson-- a psychiatrist at the mental health clinic. She does good works, but her personal life is pretty much in shambles. She's lonely, drinks herself to sleep, and doesn't have too high of a self-image. Her signature is required on the papers needed to commit the judge to the institution so that Holmes' brother, one of the board members of the asylum, will gain legal control over Holmes' money which will enable him to pay off his blackmailers.
Holmes knows that there are people after him, and believes they are led by Moriarty. He spends his days searching for clues to Moriarty's whereabouts so that he and Moriarty can have their final showdown. Because Dr. Watson is eager to learn more about her new patient before signing commitment papers, she is drawn into his clue-finding endeavors.
With Dr. Watson tagging along, both she and Holmes scour the city for clues-- making friends with a variety of folks along the way. And, along the way, Watson and Holmes fall in love.
This is really a wonderful story about two lonely people who find each other within the loneliness and anonymity of the big city. Although Watson knows Holmes isn't "really" Holmes, she chooses to believe what he believes since he brings more joy and interest to her life in one day than she's had throughout her entire life.
As for the ending (no spoilers): Yes, the grocery store scene is here. I'm trying to picture to imagine the whole film without it, and it wouldn't have worked. So, it needed to be here, but it's too bad that the directors chose a scene like this in the first place and had no alternate to replace it with. However, it is what it is, and some others may appreciate it. Although I think this scene (and the marching scene) detracts a bit from the quality and feel of the entire movie, I don't think it ruins it.
If the ending does leave one scratching his head, as one reviewer wrote, just wait a second after the screen fades to black. Scrolling text will tie up the loose ends and confirm your suspicions about Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty on his horse.
And, then, after that. . . well, it's likely Holmes will be Holmes.
"Much madness is divinest sense..."
William Timothy Lukeman | 10/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An absolutely beautiful, thought-provoking film, with a poetic script and superb performances all around. Of course, it will never be a favorite among those people C. Wright Mills once called "crackpot realists;" but for those who aren't afraid to let their imaginations soar, this film will carry you to joyous heights. Funny, poignant, romantic, it will make you think about what's truly important in life, and remind you of all life's possibilities. Once seen, never to be forgotten, it casts a sweet spell over the willing viewer - a nightingale singing in the grime of the city. Highly recommended!"
A film that ponders, "What is insanity?"
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 05/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What does it mean to be insane in a world that doesn't make sense? Movies have revisited that question in a host of films over the years, from MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN to HARVEY to A THOUSAND CLOWNS to THE RULING CLASS to HAROLD AND MAUDE to CATCH-22 to OFFICE SPACE. THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS is one of the more compelling films in this genre. The film concerns the former Justice Playfair, who upon the death of his wife, loses his mind and believes that he is Sherlock Holmes. His brother becomes enmeshed in a blackmail scheme, and to gain control over his brother's estate to pay off the blackmailers, attempt to have him committed. To that end, he approaches the Strauss Clinic, whose head is anxious to commit because of the sizable amount of cash that Playfair's joining them will bring. But they need to have their resident psychologist, Dr. Mildred Watson, sign the commitment papers, and before she is willing to do this, she insists on interviewing Playfair. Our hero is resistant to her investigating him until it strikes him that she is truly Dr. Watson. Perhaps not the male he was anticipating, but a Dr. Watson nonetheless. So, the game is afoot, with the initially sceptical and resistant Watson following Playfair/Holmes in his investigation of a series of clues left by his great nemesis Moriarty. What makes it easy for her to believe in Holmes is the fact that he is such a remarkably compelling Holmes. His deductive powers are extraordinary, even Holmes-like. Like Holmes in the novels, he can look at a person an deduce an extraordinary number of details about them.
The title is taken from the greatest story of an insane individual in an insane world ever created, Cervantes's DON QUIXOTE. Holmes explains to Watson that Quixote took it too far: "He thought that every windmill was a giant. That's insane. But, thinking that they might be, well . . . " As he explains later, one thing that shows how extraordinary human beings are the enemies arrayed against them, which is what Moriarty comes to represent. Holmes comes to represent the quixotic aspects of human nature, which nutty everyday life violently opposes. The film's title, by the way, inspired the founders of the group They Might Be Giants.
This is one of George C. Scott's finest roles. He was such a powerful, unique actor, that it is natural to think that he had a greater career than he did in fact. The truth is that he made perhaps a half dozen truly great films, and many of those in supporting roles, such as ANATOMY OF A MURDER, THE HUSTLER, and DR. STRANGELOVE. It is bizarre, in looking at his career, to realize that he managed far fewer great roles than his talent should have merited. THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS came out a year after Scott's greatest screen role in PATTON. This role as Playfair/Holmes was perfectly suited to his talents, and in many ways parallels his performance in Patton. Both Patton and Holmes did not quite fit in the world in which they lived. Both were idealists. Both were in fundamental conflict with the society as a whole. Part of what makes THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS work is the passion with which Scott sells the central role. Joanne Woodward is marvelous as Dr. Watson. Like Scott, she is someone who has been underutilized in her career. Scott is a powerful presence, but Woodward manages not to be overwhelmed by his strong acting style. The rest of the cast is a good deal less talented than the two principals. You can, if you pay careful attention, recognize a very young F. Murray Abraham as the usher in the movie theater. And I'm not certain of her name, but I've always felt grateful to the character actress who delivers one of my all time favorite surreal movie lines. In their search for Moriarty, Holmes and Watson end up in the balcony of a theater, where a Western is showing. We are not really shown what is happening on the screen, but at one point the woman who is the object of my gratitude leans forward in her chair, and reacting to what she sees in the film, utters passionately, "God bless you, Barbara Stanwyck.""
Sherlock Holmes as You've Never Seen Him Before
Stephen Kaczmarek | Columbus, Ohio United States | 01/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The late, great George C. Scott does a fine turn as a widower judge who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes in "They Might Be Giants," a film that proves Scott easily could have played the fictional detective in a straight adaptation of Conan Doyle's mysteries, too. The film takes great delight in lampooning the establishment of the day--no surprise, as it debuted in 1971--with particular attention on cutting down to size the burgeoning mental health industry. Joanne Woodward is charming as a psychiatrist and social misfit, appropriately named Dr. Watson, who teams up with Scott to track the nefarious Moriarity, only to discover love and destiny instead. Along the way, they are joined by a battalion of New York City's cataways, including laconic Jack Gilford, a young M. Emmet Walsh, F. Murray Abraham with an afro, and even Paul Benedict, the fellow who would go on to fame as "Mr. Bentley" of television's "The Jeffersons" fame. Though it has an atypical but beguiling score by John Barry and some very tender moments courtesy of screenwriter James Goldman (Gilford's affinity for swashbuckling and Watson's doomed attempt at a romantic dinner among them), "They Might Be Giants" sometimes suffers from a lack of thematic focus that rivals the mania of its main characters. A slapstick scene in a grocery store seems tonally wrong in a film that otherwise takes the high road of satire rather than the low road of farce. (Apparently, it was originally excised from the film, only to return in a later version, though I recall seeing the film on TV as a child in the 70s, and the grocery store scene was intact.) Commentary by the film's director, Anthony Harvey, is worth noting, though the man interviewing him dodges the most obvious question burning in the mind's of viewers--exactly what is one to make of the film's ending?"
Makes you think...
Stephen Kaczmarek | 10/04/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie because I was a huge fan of the band "They Might Be Giants." I must say I was awestruck at the end. It was very powerful and somewhat disturbing. The romantic elements weren't there too much, but the acting was superb and humourous. I heard about the cut-out scene from the supermarket without which the movie made no sense, but I think that the most crucial scene is the scene in the taxi when Gearge C. Scott talks about the fact that "they might be." I like this idea. I'm frantically hunting for a text of the play."