A Study in Terror

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A Study in Terror
Study in terror43.jpg
US theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Hill
Produced byHenry E. Lester
executive
Herman Cohen
Michael Klinger
Tony Tenser
Written byDerek Ford
Donald Ford
Based onan original story by Derek & Donald Ford based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
StarringJohn Neville
Donald Houston
John Fraser
Anthony Quayle
Robert Morley
Barbara Windsor
Adrienne Corri
Judi Dench
Music byJohn Scott
CinematographyDesmond Dickinson
Edited byHenry Richardson
Production
company
Compton-Tekli Film Productions
Sir Nigel Films Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures (US only)
Release date
  • 4 November 1965 (1965-11-04) (World Premiere, London)

  • 10 August 1966 (1966-08-10) (US release)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget£160,000[1]

A Study in Terror is a 1965 British thriller film directed by James Hill and starring John Neville as Sherlock Holmes and Donald Houston as Dr. Watson. It was filmed at Shepperton Studios, London, with some location work at Osterley House in Middlesex.

Although based on Conan Doyle's characters, the story is an original one, which has the famous detective on the trail of Jack the Ripper. The story of A Study in Terror challenges Sherlock Holmes to solve these horrific crimes. This leads Holmes through a trail of aristocracy, blackmail and family insanity. Unlike Scotland Yard, and the real-life story, Holmes eventually discovers the true identity of the Ripper.

The film had its world premiere at the Leicester Square Theatre in the West End of London on 4 November 1965.[2] A Study in Terror presents the first film appearance of Mycroft Holmes.[3]

Plot[edit]

In the dark alleys of London, the notorious Jack the Ripper committed a series of gruesome murders. Holmes and Watson, already intrigued by reports of the Jack the Ripper murders, become involved when they receive a parcel from Whitechapel containing a case of surgical instruments with the scalpel, possibly the murder weapon, missing. By a family crest on the box, they come into contact with the Duke of Shires who admits his elder son Michael Osborne dreamed of becoming a doctor. His younger son, Lord Carfax, tells them Michael has disappeared. Holmes deduces the instruments were pawned to a broker, Joseph Beck, who tells them that he received them from an Angela Osborne, who gave her address as a soup kitchen run by Doctor Murray.

Holmes and Watson meet Murray, also a police pathologist, after convincing Lestrade to let them view the body of the most recent victim, Annie Chapman. Holmes convinces Watson to go to the soup kitchen and make a fuss of looking for Angela. A disguised Holmes then follows Murray's niece Sally when she goes to meet Carfax. They explain Carfax was blackmailed by a man who threatened to tell his father that Michael, who was helping Murray at the soup kitchen, had married a prostitute. Carfax now works there himself but Michael was gone before he and Sally arrived. The blackmailer, Max Steiner, now runs a local public house.

The Prime Minister asks Mycroft Holmes to convince his brother to investigate the Ripper case, unaware that he is already involved. Holmes and Watson nearly catch the Ripper when he kills another prostitute who invites him into her room. Holmes confronts Murray who explains that Michael had learned that Angela had assisted Steiner with the blackmail. During an altercation between the three of them, Angela was disfigured when acid was thrown in her face. Murray also reveals his crippled and mentally disabled assistant is Michael, the result of a brutal beating from Steiner. Holmes and Watson discover Angela in the upper room of Steiner's inn and she admits that she sent them the surgical instruments, having removed the scalpel herself, to get them involved. Holmes and Watson return Michael to his family.

During the night, Holmes discovers Carfax attempting to kill Angela in her room; he is the Ripper. The pub catches alight during a struggle; Carfax, Steiner and Angela are all killed in the blaze but Holmes escapes. He explains to Watson that Carfax had no way of identifying Angela so he killed every prostitute that he came across in the hope that one of them would be her. With all those involved dead, Holmes elects to keep the truth from the police.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Producer Herman Cohen originally wanted to title the film Fog but Columbia insisted on the title A Study in Terror to tie in with the Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet.[4] Cohen also recalled on its US release Columbia advertised the film as a then-popular tongue in cheek Batman-type film rather than a horror or detective film.[5]

The Monthly Film Bulletin gave a lackluster review saying "the film marks time lamely in the intervals between its conventionally shock-cut murders, while John Neville and Donald Houston uncomfortably mouth their lines as if suspecting that nobody will listen."[3] Variety felt that "though the mixture of fiction and fact doesn't entirely click...An excellent cast gives the production fill value."[3] The New York Times said "the entire cast, director and writers do play their roles well enough to make wholesale slaughter a pleasant diversion."[6]

Post-release history[edit]

In 1966, the film was made into a novel by Ellery Queen and Paul W. Fairman. The novelisation is unusual in that it adds a framing story wherein Ellery Queen reads a manuscript that re-tells the actions of the film. The framing story was written by Ellery Queen and the novelisation of the film itself by Fairman.[7]

The Holmes-Ripper idea was later taken up in Murder by Decree (1978), in which Frank Finlay reprised his role as Lestrade[3] and Anthony Quayle once again had an important part (though this time as Sir Charles Warren of Scotland Yard).

The film inspired the writing of Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds (1975), blending the story of Sherlock Holmes and the world of H.G. Wells' science fiction novel The War of the Worlds.[citation needed]

Soundtrack[edit]

A Study in Terror (1965) was composed by John Scott in his first feature film score conducting the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra (HSO 333).[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ John Hamilton, Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser, Fab Press, 2005 p 67
  2. ^ The Times 4 November 1965, page 2
  3. ^ a b c d Barnes, Alan (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 211–212. ISBN 978-1-903111-04-8.
  4. ^ Boström, Mattias (2018). From Holmes to Sherlock. Mysterious Press. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-8021-2789-1.
  5. ^ Weaver, Tom (2003). Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. McFarland. p. 76. ISBN 978-0786413669.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (3 November 1966). "The Screen::Burt Lancaster in 'The Professionals' Noisy Western Opens at 2 Local Theaters". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  7. ^ Picker, Lenny. "Screen of the Crime". Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. 1 (4): 22.

External links[edit]