Courtesy of AIFF
Not much is happening in “The Doctor’s Case,” a new film that just made its way to the Adrian film festival this past weekend. On paper, the film is adapted from a short story by Stephen King (I did not read it) but judging by the films brief 65-minute run-time the filmmakers hardly took any liberties with the material. Director and writer James Douglas tries to do so much with so little, he attempts to sprinkle some Agatha Christie in this old fashion whodunit and it never sparks the way it should, because, by the time any real action starts to heat up - poof - the movie’s over.
Kudos for trying though, as Douglas has enlisted a savvy cast to tell this story which presents Sherlock Holmes (who else?) and Watson with a perfect “locked room mystery.” As the prologue will tell you, the time is November 1889 (the film doesn’t give us specific dates) and we're tuned into a family gathering in which I'll spare you the details of about seven characters in this scene, because they don’t really do anything. What you need to know is a very wealthy man named Lord Albert Hull (Andrew Hamilton) has been found dead inside his locked office: a knife to the back. The film then springs forward fifty years and Denise Crosby is playing a nurse who is helping evacuate the manner during WWII. Unfortunately, the now older Doctor Watson (played by “X-Files” alum William B Davis) is injured and can’t be transported just yet. I also love how Watson, apparently, no longer has an accent.
The early scenes between Crosby and Davis are paced exceptionally and feature two pros at the top of their game. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is essentially just that: two veterans cashing easy paychecks as they sit down and reminiscence about how Watson solved the murder and Holmes stood by idle (do you see the potential for a gripping story?) The younger version of Watson is played by Michael Coleman and Homes is helmed by J.P. Winslow who, by contract, must say “The hunt is afoot!” Except, the hunt never really goes anywhere beyond a small room, with even cornier flashbacks that convolute the story more so than help it. It’s all bark and hardly any bite, a weird thing to note when Stephen King’s name is all over the picture. I suppose if you like people just standing around and talking without so much as an intriguing conflict or action, then perhaps you might be able to find some enjoyment.
After all, the movie does have some style and manages to look halfway decent. It wants to be a bigger movie, and that’s the problem. But what’s even cheesier is “The Doctor’s Case” has the absurdity to throw in a last second twist after the closing credits, that’s neither inspired or clever. I suppose it’s an indication of the direction Douglas wanted to take this film, but you can easily tell he was restrained by his surroundings. The good news is the film is only, roughly, an hour (if you subtract the unnecessary opening credits sequence than it’s shorter) giving off the vibe of a re-run of “Law and Order” than a feature-length film. You can tell their hearts are all in the right place, but even if the film is a low commitment I still can’t warrant a viewing of “The Doctor’s Case” - it needs more and the filmmakers never give us the goods.