MOVIE REVIEWS

Murder by Decree

ADD TO MY FAVORITES
7/10 PG 02 hr 04 min
Wikipedia

February 1, 1979

Share your thoughts. We appreciate it!

By John Chard January 28, 2017

Elementary my dear Ripper!

Murder by Decree is directed by Bob Clark and adapted to screenplay by John Hopkins from the novel The Ripper File written by Elwyn Jones and John Lloyd. It stars Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings, Susan Clark, Frank Finlay, Anthony Quayle, Donald Sutherland, Geneviève Bujold & John Gielgud.

Film pitches Sherlock Holmes (Plummer) and Dr. Watson (Mason) into the hunt for Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel, London 1888...

I've been exploited old fellow, by the very people for whom we are searching.

The greatest of detectives searching for Britain's most notorious serial killer, it's a killer pitch that had already had a film made in 1965 called A Study in Terror. That was a film that couldn't quite get it right, here, 14 years later, there's a bigger budget and "A" list gloss to help tell the tale. And boy does it work! In the cannon of Sherlock Holmes, Murder by Decree is to Holmes films what On Her Majesty's Secret Service is to the James Bond franchise. Appertaining to the great detective himself, it's the odd one out, a divisive picture, not because it's rubbish or technically shy, but because the main man protagonist dares to be human, a man of conscious; politically, socially and ethically. He's still the same charming, clever and complex character most have come to know and love, but Murder by Decree fronts him out as a human being, with Watson alongside him as a non buffoon bloke doing his bit for the case whilst remaining sensitive about the last pea on his plate! It's these characterisations, splendidly played by two actors of considerable talent, that are at the core of the film's success.

If she dies and you come under my hand? Expect no mercy.

Period production value is high, it has to be for a Jolly Jack based movie. Bring the dark, bring the smog and bring the Victorian costumes (Judy Moorcroft). Then play it out amongst shadowy lamp lighted cobbled streets and let the sets drip with slum London sweat and tears. All that is required then is to have a source story of compelling interest, of which Murder by Decree scores greatly as well. It's fanciful for sure, but the most spectacular of all Ripper theories. From a secret love child to the Freemasons, and up to Royalty itself, it's a potent notion put forward. That is of course conjecture as a solution, but the makers are to be applauded for taking that idea and successfully combining the Arthur Conan Doyle creations with historical reality, something that A Study in Terror fell considerably short on.

Rest of the cast is filled out with some quality as well, where Hemmings, Quayle, Finlay, Gielgud and Bujold don't disappoint, the latter of which gets to really perform with substance in the pivotal scene set in an Asylum. Only real let down is Sutherland, or more like what the makers did (didn't do) with him. His psychic Robert Lees crops up for a couple of small scenes for what we expect will be a telling contribution to the plot, but they aren't. It seems like just an excuse to do Sutherland up like he had just awoken from the grave, and to give the picture some ethereal sheen moments. For the finale and the big reveal of the Ripper, Plummer is simply magnificent. He holds court in front of his peers, including the Prime Minister (Gielgud), and unfurls the explanation with impassioned fortitude, it's then that we realise this was always a Sherlock Holmes movie, and not a Jack the Ripper piece. With that, it's one of the best featuring the Deer Stalker wearing fellow. 9/10

'Only the Brave' - The story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots falls short of a heroic tribute

'Only the Brave' - The story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots falls short of a heroic tribute

October 19, 2017

Josh Brolin plays Eric Marsh in the woefully inadequate firefighter tribute '...

The Foreigner – A Deep Action Film

The Foreigner – A Deep Action Film

October 19, 2017

Jackie Chan still has it and you definitely don’t want to push him too far.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women – A Slow Biopic

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women – A Slow Biopic

October 19, 2017

Now here’s a story that you probably haven’t heard of. At least I haven’t. Ev...

HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017) REVIEW

HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017) REVIEW

October 18, 2017

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! SO, I DON’T HAVE TO PICK UP THE PHONE!!!

Best new movies to see this month

Best new movies to see this month

October 17, 2017

Looking to see the best movies this month? Read Critic Reviews, Contributor R...

What Movie Should I Watch This Weekend?

What Movie Should I Watch This Weekend?

October 16, 2017

Looking for a movie to watch this weekend? Blade Runner 2049, Geostorm, Snowm...

Happy Death Day Review

Happy Death Day Review

October 16, 2017

From Blumhouse Pictures and the minds behind the Paranormal Activity franchis...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – A Smart Dysfunctional Family Dramedy

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – A Smart Dysfunctional Family Dramedy

October 14, 2017

Netflix has been hitting it out of the park this year with their original fil...