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Murder by Decree (1979)

Christopher Plummer , James Mason , Bob Clark (III)  |  PG |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)

Price: $34.89 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings, Susan Clark, Anthony Quayle
  • Directors: Bob Clark (III)
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: January 21, 2003
  • Run Time: 124 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00007AJED
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,724 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Murder by Decree" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Behind-the-scenes still gallery
  • Poster and still gallery
  • DVD-ROM: Original screenplay

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Murder by Decree has the distinction of being not only one of the best Sherlock Holmes films, but one of the best pastiches (i.e., a Holmes fiction created by someone other than author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) featuring the late-Victorian Era detective. Christopher Plummer is very good as Holmes, and James Mason redeems the many mishandled screen portrayals of Dr. John Watson with a rare, insightful performance. The story may not be unique in post-Doyle Holmes adventures--the private investigator pursues Jack the Ripper during the latter's reign of monstrous murders in foggy London--but the script by John Hopkins (Thunderball) is keenly intelligent, developing concentric circles of power and evil with great subtlety. Before losing himself in Porky's, director Bob Clark did a masterful job of surprising audiences with Murder by Decree, convincing viewers they were watching one kind of drama but then unleashing something very different, very unsettling. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holmes and Watson; Plummer and Mason: An Excellent Film September 17, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
In my view this is one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies yet made, with a strong, literate story, an outstanding cast and great atmosphere. London prostitutes have been gruesomely slaughtered by Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes enters the case. The street women are scared to death but seem to be protecting someone. One, Mary Kelly, wants to help. Another, Annie Crook, has gone missing. The more Holmes probes and searches, the more it appears that some in high places are interfering with his investigation. Annie Crook is found and the secret discovered, but not before more lives are wasted and a secret which could shake the throne is uncovered. Justice more or less triumphs, but for Holmes and Watson it is a sad, bittersweet victory.

The movie features, in my opinion, outstanding interpretations of Holmes and Watson. Christopher Plummer gives Holmes not only brilliance but also humanity. He responds deeply to the terrible injustice he finds behind the Ripper killings. Mason plays Watson as an equal partner, with humor, wisdom and courage, and with none of the blundering and bluster that Nigel Bruce imprinted on the character. The cast features Genevieve Bujold as Annie Crook and Susan Clark (great in Night Moves) as Mary Kelly. David Hemmings, Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Frank Finlay and Donald Sutherland give a lot of depth to the movie.

As by way of a modest spoiler, the people who made From Hell by rights should have given a modest credit line to director Clark and writer John Hopkins. One other fascinating point concerns Clark. For some reason, this appears to be by far the best movie he ever made. Clark, shortly after Murder by Decree, gave us one of the broadest and corniest movies around, Porky's, and seems to have stayed more or less at the Porky's level ever since.

If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes along with first-rate acting, I think you'll like this film. The DVD transfer is very good.
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78 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best movies ever made! December 31, 2002
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I love Sherlock Holmes movies in their many incarnations, especially Robert Stephens version in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (PLEASE RELEASE ON DVD in Billy Wilder's original LONG FORM PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!).
However, I must think Christopher Plummer is the best Sherlock ever. He brings so many textures and depth to his Sherlock, for once, making him a living, breathing man. In Private Life...Robert Stephens gives you a brilliant, heart-wrenching performance - at the point he realises he was been betrayed, and with no words he conveys SO MUCH it nearly tears you apart. Plummer gives you a similar heart-shredder, as he find Annie Crook in Bedlam, tortured, no longer sane, having retreated from the horrors around her and inflicted upon her, and in the following scene on the train ride back to London. In a masterpiece of blocking, you don't even see Holmes, you just his reflection in the train window while he talks about Annie. Compelling, heartbreaking, utterly BRILLIANT, demonstrating Plummer is one of the BEST actors ever to grace the screen.
The story line of Sherlock Holmes meeting Jack the Ripper was first explored by Ellery Queen novel. In it, Holmes identified the wrong person as the Ripper, hence the one Holmes story never published. It is brought to Queen and he must solved the 100 year old case. In Study in Scarlet, with John Neville as Holmes (another superior version, but cannot compare to Decree) the Ellery Queen beginning and end was dropped and the middle part of Holmes chasing Jack was turned into the movie in the 1960s. Neville is a marvellous actor, but pales by comparison to the virtuoso performance of Plummer. This version of the Ripper vs Holmes, follows the Stephen Knight book exposing the Annie Crook connection.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best Holmes movie ever made January 25, 2003
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The New York Daily Post referred to this movie as the "greatest Sherlock Holmes movie ever made" and who am I to disagree with their esteemed reviewer. Well, I write reviews for a large metropolitcan newspaper also, but I have to say I can find no qualms with their opinion.
I grew up watching the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies on quiet Saturday mornings on BBC2 in my native Scotland, so I am probably always going to enjoy sitting down to a couple of hours with my longtime detective friend and his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson. Although for me Rathbone will always be the definitive Sherlock Holmes (never really cared for Jeremy Brett)I have to admit to finding Christopher Plummer as an entertaining, if somewhat unusual, Holmes in this late 1970s movie.
Based not on one of the Conan Doyle books but on a notion that the Baker Street detective investigated the Jack the Ripper murders (much like in the lesser production "Study in Terror" a decade earlier) this sceenplay moves along at a fair speed and examines the actual evidence collected at the time to weave together a theory not unlike that of the more recent Johnny Depp movie "From Hell."
What really makes this movie stand out is the quite incredible cast that Clark (yes, incredibly the same guy behind "Porky's") put together in this Canadian production. Alongside Plummer is none other than James Mason as Watson. We also have Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Donald Sutherland, Susan Clark, Frank Finley and Genevieve Bujold. Put these actors in a handsomly presented production design (quite incredible actually) and combine it with the intriguing and fast paced script and you have what (I would have to concur with the Post is the best Holmes movie ever put to film.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting group of actors
Interesting to see this group of actors in one film... each on their own commanded leading roles during their time.
Published 1 day ago by George Van Laethem
2.0 out of 5 stars OK Version
I enjoyed this somewhat. Plummer gives a good performance as well as watson. Story line is pretty good by adding the ripper as a conspiracy. Read more
Published 3 days ago by A. Milligan
3.0 out of 5 stars Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper
That was a scary story written by Robert Bloch and it came to mind while watching this movie. It's a shame that this movie wasn't anywhere near as scary or entertaining as the... Read more
Published 3 days ago by David Purcell
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Pre-Brett Holmes and Watson
The combining of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper has nearly become trite and cliche. But before it became that way... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Michael Kleeberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Suspense
A suspenseful movie with top acting by Plummer and Mason. There were a lot of layers of society to wade through, all at the expense of poor unfortunate but brave women.
Published 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars For Holmes fans to complete the collection
I love Christopher Plummer, although I don't feel this was the best Sherlock Holmes adaption. But it completes our "alternate Holmes" collection so I was pleased to find it... Read more
Published 8 days ago by jk202
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent movie
It is fine for light entertainment, but it is not nearly as good as the newer versions with Robert Downey, Jr.
Published 8 days ago by Mike
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh Lordy
Well, if you have knitting or patch work to do
put this on..it is plodding and very self indulgent
and needs editing like crazy but that ship has sailed
. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Cat
4.0 out of 5 stars Intrepid sleuth Holmes solves the Ripper murders
"Murder By Decree" is a 1979 film that posits the theory that the Ripper killings was a conspiracy. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Z Hayes
4.0 out of 5 stars An Illustrious Client
Purchased to add to my S.H. collection. The Plummer series and Peter Cushing series are very good and sometimes difficult to aquire.
Published 12 days ago by Howard J. Bennis
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We want 'Murder by Decree' on Blu-ray!
Murder by Decree was one of the best Holmes films out their I mean come Holmes Vs Ripper Fight of the decade! It demands Blu-ray!
Sep 1, 2013 by Atabyss |  See all 3 posts
English Subtitles or Closed Caption?
I have the copy made by Anchor Bay in 2003, it's captioned.
Apr 11, 2010 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 3 posts
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