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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.


Bob Clark


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





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


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


Sherlock Holmes unveils the secrecy of Jack the Ripper - clue by clue - murder by murder. See more »


Mystery | Thriller


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



UK | Canada



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 »


Box Office


CAD 5,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


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 »


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 »


References A Study in Terror (1965) See more »


God Save the Queen
Arranged by Ivor Slaney
De Wolfe Music Ltd
Played at the opera
See more »

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User Reviews

Well-made, well-acted and solid Sherlock Holmes outing
31 March 2013 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Murder By Decree may not be quite perfect. Donald Sutherland is both underused and out of place in scenes that felt somewhat thrown in, the ending is a little tacky and lacking in mystery and the pacing in the middle has a tendency to be on the stodgy side. It is however still a solid and entertaining film. Murder By Decree is a well-made film, the sets and costumes are very evocative, exuding a gloomy and quite chilling atmosphere, and the beautiful photography does nothing to detract from that. Bob Clark's experience in the realm of horror made for great use, his directing shows him in his comfort zone. The music is very haunting and effectively orchestrated without being overbearing, while the script- while occasionally getting bogged down by politics- is thoughtful and literate with some nice bits of humorous banter between Holmes and Watson, and the story is complicated yet suspenseful and engaging. Apart from Sutherland, the acting is excellent. Genevieve Bujold is the standout of the supporting cast in an eerie performance and John Gielgud, David Hemmings, Anthony Quayle and Susan Clark are also great. The leads are what make Murder By Decree, with Christopher Plummer a very human and commanding Holmes and James Mason perfectly cast as a subtly composed Watson. All in all, a solid and well done film, worth checking out definitely. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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