Murder by Decree

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Murder by Decree
Murder by decree poster.jpg
Original film poster
Directed by Bob Clark
Produced by Bob Clark
René Dupont
Written by John Hopkins
Elwyn Jones (book)
John Lloyd (book)
Starring Christopher Plummer
James Mason
David Hemmings
Susan Clark
Music by Paul Zaza
Carl Zittrer
Cinematography Reginald H. Morris
Distributed by AVCO Embassy Pictures
Release dates 1 February 1979 (Canada) 1979 (UK)
Running time 124 minutes
Country UK
Canada
Language English (romagnolo)
A still from Murder by Decree showing the Goulston Street graffito containing the word Juwes, which is portrayed erroneously as a Masonic term.

Murder by Decree (1979) is a British-Canadian thriller film involving Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the case of the serial murderer Jack the Ripper. As Holmes investigates London's most infamous case, he finds that the Ripper has friends in Freemasonry.

The film's story of the plot behind the murders is taken from the book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution by Stephen Knight. The original script contained the names of the historical suspects, Sir William Gull, 1st Baronet and John Netley. In the actual film, they are referred to as Thomas Spivy (Gull) and William Slade (Netley). This plot device was later used in other Jack The Ripper-themed films.

Production[edit]

The film was directed by Bob Clark. It stars Christopher Plummer and James Mason as Holmes and Watson, respectively, and presents a largely different version of Holmes from the Rathbone days, with the aesthete still prevailing, yet tinged with a humanity and emotional empathy. James Mason's Dr. Watson is also a departure. Although he may appear at first to resemble the bumbling Nigel Bruce version of the character, he soon shows his level head and scientific and medical training to be valuable assets. The supporting cast includes Donald Sutherland, Susan Clark, John Gielgud, Anthony Quayle, David Hemmings and Geneviève Bujold. Frank Finlay plays Inspector Lestrade, a part he had previously portrayed in the similar 1965 film A Study in Terror in which Quayle likewise played a supporting role. Plummer had earlier portrayed Holmes in 1977's Silver Blaze.

Reception[edit]

The film was nominated for 8 Genie Awards in 1980, of which it won 5, including Best Achievement in Direction (Bob Clark), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Geneviève Bujold) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Christopher Plummer).

Vincent Canby, writing in the NY Times in February 1979, liked the film very much;

The film, directed by Bob Clark, based on an original screenplay by John Hopkins, makes use not only of the theory that Jack the Ripper was actually the Duke of Clarence, son of Queen Victoria, but also of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who are apparently in the public domain, or at least available for assignments outside the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

With Christopher Plummer as a charming, cultivated Holmes, a fellow who reveals himself to be a man of unexpected social and political conscience, and with James Mason as an especially fond and steadfast Watson, "Murder by Decree" is a good deal of uncomplicated fun, not in a class with Nicholas Meyer's "The Seven Percent Solution," but certainly miles ahead of many other current films that masquerade as popular entertainment.

Mr. Hopkins's screenplay is funny without being condescending, more aware of history, perhaps, than Conan Doyle's mysteries ever were, but always appreciative of the strengths of the original characters and of the etiquette observed in the course of every hunt.[1]

Cast[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vincent Canby (February 9, 1979). "Murder By Decree (1979)". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2011. 

External links[edit]