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Murder by Decree
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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wanted more Mason and Sutherland, otherwise it was some fun!Published 16 hours ago by Gary Swedberg
It was okay up till the ending and that seemed to take longer than getting there.Published 21 hours ago by John R. Kingsland
Plummer and Mason provide believable personalities to Holmes and Watson which leads to buy in to the story by the viewer. Read morePublished 21 hours ago by Hornman47
Good story but hard to understand some of the characters in the movie.Published 22 hours ago by Gerri E. Gordon
Christopher Plummer, James Mason, and Genevieve Bujold work like dogs in this 1979 movie. There are arresting cameos from Donald Sutherland and John Gielgud and others -- but it's... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Stanley Crowe
I've seen it before and was happy to revisit it with beloved stars.Published 1 day ago by SisterSue
I say it was a good "who done it" based on the Sherlock Holmes scenario. Well acted. Great intrigue based on what has been suggested by some as the "ripper"... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Bob Saenz
|Topic||From this Discussion|
|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
|We want 'Murder by Decree' on Blu-ray!||
this is indeed a great holmes movie ,it belongs on blu ray with dolby 5:1 .the enhancement would bring this movie its proper place . its a great holmes film ;one of the best if not the best.
Jan 19, 2015 by dr. paul a. kaufman | See all 5 posts