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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Alas, I Really Tried to Like It More

Author: skoyles from Calgary AB Canada
7 September 2003

I am a lifelong fan of The Great Detective; I yield place to no one as a fan of Edward Woodward. I even believe I understand why Mr Woodward would wish to play Sherlock Holmes; I too would like to play Sherlock Holmes. I recuse myself from the role (even though no one has asked me to perform as the Wizard of Baker Street) since I bear no resemblance whatsoever to Sir Arthur's descriptions of Holmes. Nor does Edward Woodward, and it is simply too great a stretch to see a burly Holmes. Woodward would make a fine radio Holmes. Hillerman is as solid a Watson as any, which is in itself amazing as Hillerman is from Texas. Perhaps this presentation suffers most when compared with the British series starring Jeremy Brett. In short, despite its good points, not for Sherlockians.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Enjoyable tosh

Author: drharper from United Kingdom
18 November 2007

Very derivative, with odd bits of various Holmes stories stapled together. I would agree that Edward Woodward is an excellent actor, but not Holmes. Anthony Andrews is, however, an excellent Moriarty. Once again Mycroft is rather too thin for the role, and I would agree that being snuck up on by a large Thug who has to lever open a casket to do so is pretty improbable. The main problem for me is that the time lines simply do not hold together- having missed the announcement of the date at the start I was looking for clues. So.... last public execution in England, 1863 (and not a multiple hanging at that). Victoria in widow's weeds, after 1861, before 1902. All looking good, except the bit where Oberstein pulls a gun not manufactured until 1893... oh well!

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An Interesting Curio

Author: Ephraim Gadsby from USA
11 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Edward Woodward is Holmes and John Hillerman is Watson. Anthony Andrews chews the scenery as Moriarty. Mycroft Holmes is kidnapped to help break a secret code to give Moriarty the key to British intelligence.

The makers of this original story try to give Holmes Holmesean things to say, so dialog is lifted from "The Greek Interpreter", "The Bruce-Partington Plans" and other Holmes tales by Arthur Conan Doyle. Their research is oddly inadequate in other places, for going by the number of the _Strand_ Watson displays, it's during the period when both Holmes and Moriarty are dead. Of course, Sir Arthur wasn't always careful about these things himself.

The rather silly story telegraphs most of the major plot twists well ahead of time. It ends with a chase in hearses that reminds one of the 60s comedy "The Wrong Box". Throughout, the dialog is obvious, especially one unintentionally humorous scene in the middle where Holmes and Moriarty both have each other at gunpoint and no one shoots.

Moriarty is a genius of evil yet he surrounds himself with the sort of henchmen Austin Powers' Dr. Evil would be proud of. Perhaps no one would look quite adequate compared to Moriarty (there is mention that he is a mathematical genius who wrote a work on asteroids), but these guys are such obvious losers one wonders what the job market for crooks looked like in the 1890s, if this was the best he could hire.

In contrast to the wonderful Granada series where Watson was perfectly portrayed as a surgeon who performed under fire (and was wounded, twice or so) in Afghanistan, and who possessed the courage, intelligence and patriotism of the ordinary Victorian gentleman who simply isn't up to Holmes' massive intelligence, John Hillerman's Watson is a slight reversion to the old days where Watson was portrayed in the first stages of senility. This Watson is not truly dumb (like, say, Nigel Bruce or Bernard Fox) but he's incredibly gullible. In the midst of a tense case where Watson knows Moriarty is roaming free and he's out to get the Holmes brothers and he's already abducted Mycroft, someone rushes up to Watson and says, basically, "Come with me, somebody's sick," and Watson dutifully tags along. But Watson does come through competently in the end. Curiously, Hillerman's Watson is sporting a beard. Perhaps that's why his wife has thrown him out of the house and he's living with Holmes at a time when none of them should be at 221B Baker Street.

It's difficult to understand why Mycroft Holmes, who is conceded to be, even by Sherlock, the sharper of the two brothers, was abducted so easily. It was a trick Watson might've fallen for, but Mycroft should've seen through it in an instant.

Woodward's Holmes is waspish and irritable and Hillerman's laid back Watson makes a extreme contrast. As usual, too much is made of Holmes' recreational cocaine use. No one divulges what sort of sedative Watson is on, but Hillerman never seems to raise his eyelids all the way up. Lestrade is simply a loud-mouthed jerk. The excessively loud music cues ones emotional responses, so all one has to do is watch and never really think or feel.

For the Holmes completest, it's a necessary curio. For the typical viewer whose knowledge of Holmes is rudimentary at best, it's an undemanding time-killer that's a cut above most other TV-movies (they went all out on interior decoration). Why it's called "Hands of a Murderer" isn't explained, but it's a suitably lurid title.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Hands of a Murderer

Author: Tim Cox from Marietta, OH
18 June 1999

Woodward is a vibrant Sherlock Holmes; Hillerman, a subdued Watson and Andrews, the best part of the picture, is an ominous Moriarty. The story rings familiar from some of Doyle's works and it is given good treatment by the cast.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Holmes vs Moriarty in cosy TV drama

Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
21 April 2012

An odd, one-off television movie involving Sherlock Holmes vs Professor Moriarty in a battle for state secrets. The strangest thing about HANDS OF A MURDERER is the casting of the rotund Edward Woodward as Holmes. Now, as fine an actor as Mr Woodward was, I don't really think he's anyone's first choice when it comes to playing the almost cadaverous Holmes. Watching a movie in which Holmes is bigger than Watson is rather odd.

Of course, Woodward handles the acting of the part well, and along with the excellent John Hillerman as Watson, he helps to hold the movie together. He needs to – the script for this one is a patchwork mish-mash of various Holmes stories and Victorian mystery conventions, with contrived escapes from the gallows, mysterious disappearances and an arch-villain at large. The film is far from perfect and could have been a lot worse, even if the thrills are subdued by the cosy, TV-production style atmosphere.

As Moriarty, Anthony Andrews is delightfully hammy, chewing up and spitting out the scenery at every opportunity. He makes the other actors look sedate, and the film benefits a great deal from his energy. The lovely Kim Thomson also makes for effective support as a femme fatale. There isn't much in HANDS OF A MURDERER to impress or thrill, and elements of actual detection do seem to be in short supply, but fans of the fictional detective should find a few elements of interest here.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Holmes meets Professor Moriarty again

Author: helpless_dancer from Broken Bow, Oklahoma
1 February 2000

Good production with lots of good props and settings which looked like the 19th century, except for a couple of phony looking moustaches. In this story the evil James Moriarty endangers Holmes brother, who works for the British government, by trying to gain access to some classified documents so he could use them for his own profit. A good treatment by all the performers, especially the character Moriarty's actor. For the Professor to be so brilliant, he did a very stupid thing at the movie's end which I thought was a little out of character. 3 stars.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Sherlock Holmes no class

Author: ctyankee1 from United States
17 February 2015

The man that played Sherlock, Edward Woodward was to old and too heavy and did not look the part of the Sherlock Holmes of the past in other movies. He also was very arrogant for a character that was usually has some class. Mycroft his brother was way to old as well.

The man that played Dr Watson-John Hillerman was good. It seemed this Sherlock kept getting fooled by Moriarty who escaped being hung with the help of his girlfriend.

It was very violent in parts. The crowd at the hangings were cheering and waiting in anticipation for a number of men to be hung. They reminded me more of ISIS terrorist which kill people on camera an celebrate. I don't believe these actors were like that even though they presented them in that way. Christians were also in the crowd and presented kind of stupid. But then again the creator of Sherlock, Arthur Conan Doyle was involved in the occult not religion. I don't know if he wrote this story though.


The man that plays Moriarty is much younger than Sherlock so it does not seem like he could be Sherlock's enemy for many years. The movie is long and draggy. There are many characters and lots of running in the dark or riding in a horse drawn carriage in the dark. Holmes fight with Moriarty and others was way to long.

Anyway I did not like it.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Yet another sub-par Sherlock Holmes film.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
20 March 2013

Sherlock Holmes is the most commonly featured fictional character in film history--so there are tons of versions of the man. Most, unfortunately, aren't very good. One of the biggest problems I usually notice is that the writers often think Conan Doyle didn't do a very good job with his stories and begin embellishing them. Considering the stories are among the most popular stories on the planet, this does seem a bit arrogant. Another problem is that too often, the writers keep repeating mistakes again and again until the public THINKS this is what the author originally wrote. Here is a huge example from "Hands of a Murderer": Moriarty and Lestrade are major characters in the film even though both rarely were mentioned in the original stories...rarely. Also, Sherlock's brother, Mycroft, is rather stupid in this film--something you would never say about him if you read the Conan Doyle stories (where, in many ways, he's shown as being SMARTER than Sherlock).

Now you'll obviously notice that I am an Arthur Conan Doyle purist. I love the original stories and hate to see anything but the originals (such as the way they made the wonderful Jeremy Brett films). So, if you are NOT 100% nuts about Holmes, you may be a lot more forgiving of this movie. It is interesting--provided you don't mind that much of the film is based on a stupid premise--that a lady has Svengali-like powers of hypnosis that can make men to ANYTHING!! Ask any trained hypnotist--this simply isn't possible. Heck, I have training in clinical hypnosis and if I COULD use these powers to control people and make them do my evil bidding, I certainly would have used this a long time ago!!

Apart from all my complaints, the film isn't bad. Holmes never wears that stupid deerstalker cap or says 'elementary my dear Watson' (thank God)--and so he does act more like Holmes than in many other films (especially in regard to his drug use). And, the actors are nice--Edward Woodward, Anthony Andrews and John Hillerman are all good actors. And, the sets are nice as well. But the story is a bit lacking at times--especially at the end when it all fizzles out.

My suggestion--read the original stories and watch the Jeremy Brett films. You'll thank me for this, I am sure.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Doesn't get too big of a hand

Author: hte-trasme from United States
24 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This one-off Sherlock Holmes film for television starts in quite focused, dynamic, and dramatic fashion with a scene of Professor Moriarty escaping his hanging in quite a clever fashion. Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn't really maintain this standard, and it descends into what is for the most part a laughable, though interesting, muddle.

The plot first. On the whole, it doesn't seem to make much sense, and I couldn't tell quite whether the filmmakers were trying to cleave to the Sherlock Holmes canon (they included many rehashed incidents and lines of dialogue from Arthur Conan Doyle) or strike out on their own (this certainly resembles no particular story), but what they do come up with is mainly vague hints of danger and a bit about a disgraced actress with unexplained superpowers of hypnosis. It doesn't really hold the attention nor does it come together cohesively.

Edward Woodward notoriously looks nothing like Sherlock Holmes, but I got past that quite quickly. He actually does a very good job with the part. His Holmes is in the Jeremy Brett mold and while he certainly not as good as Brett's masterful performances as the detective, he is very worth watching. His Holmes is appropriately spiky and irascible but with a sense of humor, and he manages to make the exaggerated dialogue written for him to show how loyal he is to his brother Mycroft believable.

Mycroft as played by Peter Jeffrey is very much the creature-of-habit civil servant, and important element of the the Mycroft Holmes character that we don't often see. However, after the scene lifted from "The Greek Interpreter" in which the brothers have a deduction contest through the window, we don't get the slightest hint that Mycroft is is supposed to be the intellectual better of the world's greatest detective -- or even of higher than average intelligence. Many scenes of Mycroft being tortured for information pile up and become repetitive as well as exploitive.

Moriarty here, and most of the scenes he appears in (as well as that in which mystery-hypnotist-woman puts her lover in a trance) are so overplayed that they become complete unintentionally funny cheese. Anthony Andrews overacts completely as the professor; his only character work seems to consist of "I am utterly evil." The villain is portrayed as sashaying around an office full of Egyptian mummies, while apparently keeping a poisonous snake in a cigar box just so he can kill people by asking them to get a cigar.

John Hillerman is largely adequate as Watson, though a little shallow in his constant semi-bewilderment. To top it off, most of the dialogue is quite cliché-ridden and content-free. There's a certain interest to this film as another interpretation of Holmes and an apparent attempt to "darken" the detective for the 1990s, but it mostly comes off as misguided and silly.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Bloody terrible!

Author: dalekilovedyou from United Kingdom
17 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Everyone above must have watched a different film to the one I had the misfortune to sit through last night. This is not just the worst Holmes film I've ever seen but one of the worst films I've ever seen. The writing was pitiful. Everything's solved by someone drawing a gun! Turgid, simplistic and riddled with holes. For instance, why does Moriarty sit there gurning while Holmes spends 14 years grinding down his chains, or jump out of the carriage, as Holmes does? I thought the bloke was supposed to be a criminal mastermind? Oh, I could go on forever, but I'll never get back those minutes I lost watching that rubbish, and I don't want to do the same to you, whiffling on here. One final word: Avoid. Like the plague. (Sorry, that was three more.)

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