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Murder by Decree (1979)

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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:

Sherlock Holmes hunts his deadliest adversary... The madman known as 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

The Masonic signs Sherlock Holmes makes to the Chief Inspector are: the Duegard of the Entered Apprentice (right hand palm down over left hand palm up), the Sign of the Entered Apprentice (drawing the right hand from left to right across the throat), a variation of the Real Grip of a Master Mason (the handshake with the thumb and little finger extended), and finally the Sign of a Fellow Craft (drawing the right hand across the body from the left breast to the right hip). The Signs all refer to the penalties associated with the divulging of the Order's secrets to outsiders, for example, having the throat slit and the chest opened and the heart torn out. The Duegard refers to the gesture of holding the Bible during the initiation ritual in the left hand, with the right resting upon it. See more »

Goofs

During the fight with Slade, Holmes blocks the chain with his right arm, but during the meeting with the PM his left arm is in the sling. See more »

Quotes

Sherlock Holmes: [Reacting to the tardiness of the Prince of Wales] I suppose since, after all, he's only the Prince of Wales, we should not expect the same degree of courtesy.
Dr. John H. Watson: And since you are the Prince of Detectives, Holmes, I don't think you should presume to criticize a man who one day will be King of England.
Sherlock Holmes: [amused] Well done, Watson! You have cut me to the quick. Hmm! Only the Prince of Detectives, you say? Then who, pray tell, is the King?
Dr. John H. Watson: Lestrade, of course.
[Holmes laughs]
See more »

Connections

Version of Jack the Ripper (1976) See more »

Soundtracks

Onward Christian Soldiers
(uncredited)
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Arranged by Edrich Siebert
KPM Music Ltd
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper
24 December 2006 | by preppy-3See all my reviews

In 1888 London, Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) and Dr. Watson (James Mason) are asked by a citizen's group to find and stop Jack the Ripper. For some reason the police don't want Holmes to investigate. However he does and as the bodies pile up Holmes and Watson slowly uncover a trail that might lead to the highest reach of British government.

This was released and died VERY quickly in 1979. I'm probably one of the few people who saw it in a theatre. The critics almost unanimously praised it, it had a huge cast of good actors...but it just died. That's too bad because this is a very good Sherlock Holmes film.

It's atmospheric (LOTS of foggy streets), has exquisite production design and is beautifully directed by Bob Clark (I love the way the first murder is done--very effective). Also the acting is great. Plummer gives a very good, different interpretation of Holmes--he makes him more emotional than other actors have...but it works. Mason nicely underplays the role of Watson--he does not make him a bumbling fool like Nigel Bruce did back in the 1940s. In small roles Susan Clark, John Gielgud and especially Genevieve Bujold are excellent. Donald Sutherland, Anthony Quayle and David Hemmings unfortunately are not that good.

There are some problems with this movie though. It's too long (a long sequence involving Watson and some prostitutes could have been completely cut) and is needlessly convoluted. Also they throw politics in the plot which seems out of place. And, strangely, Holmes' deductive reasoning is almost never used. He comes across more as a protector of the people than a detective. Plummer's performance though carries it through. It's quite bloody too--not enough for an R rating but pretty strong for the PG it got back then (PG-13 wasn't a rating yet).

Reservations aside though, I think this is one of the best Holmes' film ever made. Recommended.


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