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Murder by Decree (1979)

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4:16 | Trailer
Sherlock Holmes investigates the murders commited by Jack the Ripper and discovers a conspiracy to protect the killer.

Director:

Bob Clark

Writers:

Arthur Conan Doyle (characters), John Hopkins (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Christopher Plummer ... Sherlock Holmes
James Mason ... Dr. John H. Watson
David Hemmings ... Inspector Foxborough
Susan Clark ... Mary Kelly
Anthony Quayle ... Sir Charles Warren
John Gielgud ... Prime Minister Lord Salisbury
Frank Finlay ... Inspector Lestrade
Donald Sutherland ... Robert Lees
Geneviève Bujold ... Annie Crook
Chris Wiggins Chris Wiggins ... Doctor Hardy
Tedde Moore Tedde Moore ... Mrs. Lees (as Teddi Moore)
Peter Jonfield Peter Jonfield ... William Slade
Roy Lansford Roy Lansford ... Sir Thomas Spivey
Catherine Kessler Catherine Kessler ... Carrie
Ron Pember Ron Pember ... Makins
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Storyline

Sherlock Holmes investigates London's most infamous case, Jack the Ripper. As he investigates, he finds that the Ripper has friends in high places. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Can the genius of Sherlock Holmes stop the terror of Jack the Ripper? See more »

Genres:

Mystery | Thriller

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | Canada

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 February 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sherlock Holmes and Saucy Jack See more »

Filming Locations:

Greenwich, London, England, UK See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

CAD5,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

All the 5 victims portrayed in the film (Annie Chapman, Mary Ann Nichols, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly) did really exist, as well as Annie Elizabeth Crook and her daughter Alice Margaret Crook. See more »

Goofs

When Watson questions the ladies in the Black Horse Tavern a Salvation Army band is playing "Onward Christian Soldiers" in the street. But the tune "St. Gertrude" was not composed and published by Sir Arthur Sullivan until after the purported time setting of the film (1888). See more »

Quotes

Sherlock Holmes: Watson, what are you doing?
Dr. John H. Watson: I'm trying to corner the last pea on my plate.
[Holmes squashes the pea]
Dr. John H. Watson: You squashed my pea.
Sherlock Holmes: Well, now you've got it cornered.
Dr. John H. Watson: Yes, but squashing a fellow's pea.
Sherlock Holmes: Just trying to help.
Dr. John H. Watson: I didn't want it squashed, I don't like it that way - I like it whole so that you can feel it pop when you bite down on it.
Sherlock Holmes: Sorry, I wasn't thinking.
See more »


Soundtracks

Cottage Industry
(uncredited)
Music by Paul Lewis
De Wolfe Music Ltd
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Vivid teaming of Holmes/Watson and Jack the Ripper
21 March 2005 | by LibretioSee all my reviews

MURDER BY DECREE

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

London, 1888: Whilst investigating a series of murders committed by 'Jack the Ripper', Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) and Dr. Watson (James Mason) uncover a Masonic conspiracy which leads them to the very heart of the British Establishment.

During the summer of 1973, the BBC ran a six-part documentary series entitled "Jack the Ripper" (also known as "The Ripper File"), in which two popular fictional detectives (played by Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor) investigated the 'true' identity of Jack the Ripper, using all the evidence available to them at the time. Their conclusions form the basis of Bob Clark's all-star period thriller MURDER BY DECREE, which condenses vast amounts of information into a single digestible screenplay. The film's lavish recreation of Victorian London (extravagant opera houses, cobbled streets and miles of gloomy Whitechapel alleyways populated by hundreds of costumed extras) belies its modest $4m budget, and for once, the starry supporting cast - including Anthony Quayle, David Hemmings, John Gielgud and Donald Sutherland - seems perfectly suited to the material.

A combination of Gothic thriller and historical whodunnit, John Hopkins' comprehensive screenplay outlines the social and political divisions which prevailed in England at the time of the Ripper murders, hindering the police investigation and prompting a number of conspiracy theories which persist to this day. However, the script also contains a number of memorable character touches (the episode of the 'errant pea' is most prized by fans) which prevents the narrative from surrendering to mere facts and figures. Plummer and Mason are ideal as Holmes and Watson, though Genevieve Bujold almost steals the film during a heartbreaking sequence in which Holmes looks for clues in a crumbling asylum. You may not agree with the film's conclusions - the same evidence was re-evaluated by author Stephen Knight in his popular non-fiction account 'Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution' (1976) and David Wickes' excellent TV movie JACK THE RIPPER (1988) starring Michael Caine - but MURDER BY DECREE is generally acknowledged as one of the best Ripper/Holmes movies ever made.

Incidentally, the film's PG rating seems extraordinarily lenient. While MURDER BY DECREE doesn't exactly revel in violence, it conveys the grislier aspects of the Ripper's crimes with enough potency to warrant a PG-13 (unavailable at the time of this film's initial release).


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