Sunday Matinee: Murder By Decree

I wanted to add this to this year’s 31 Days of Horror but it just didn’t quite fall into the horror category. This British/Canadian production by director Bob Clark has Sherlock Holmes going after Jack the Ripper in 1979’s Murder by Decree.

Christopher Plummer stars as Holmes and James Mason is Watson. It’s 1888 and Jack the Ripper is on the loose in the streets of London. A citizen’s group ask Holmes to investigate the crimes.

Holmes and Watson dig into the murders are soon faced with a massive conspiracy. The story was taken from The Ripper File by Elwyn Jones and John Lloyd. Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, by Stephen Knight also influenced the story. Alan Moore would use The Final Solution as his basis for his comic book series From Hell.

Sir William Gull and John Netley names were changed to Thomas Spivy and William Slade for the movie. Plummer is excellent as Holmes as is Mason’s Watson who is played seriously and not for laughs like many previous Holmes and Watson film versions. Donald Sutherland co-stars as the psychic Robert Lees and Geneviève Bujold is Annie Crook.

The movie is excellent with the right amount of tension and atmosphere. This wasn’t the first time that Sherlock Holmes faced off against Jack the Ripper. 1965’s A Study in Terror had a John Neville Sherlock Holmes trying to stop Jack the Ripper. It’s not nearly as good as this movie.

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