Jack the Ripper is rampant in Victorian London. Who better to catch him than the greatest detective of all time, Sherlock Holmes?

Murder By Decree promises much, but sadly only delivers in patches. The prospect of the intelligence and layered intrigue of Sherlock Holmes, successfully blended with the Gothic horror and all-out mystery of Jack the Ripper, is tantalising. Instead of a cleverly constructed plot, slowly revealed, we have to make do with jumps that are just that little bit too big.

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Despite a plethora of acting talent on show, it's hard for anyone to step out of the shadow of a lumbering script. There are a few nice moments of interplay between Holmes (Christopher Plummer) and Watson (James Mason), but they don't bear comparison with the original stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Ripper's chosen identity - and particularly the conspiracy surrounding it - will pique the interest of anyone intrigued by mysteries, but by the time of the denouement, it feels like it's been too hard a slog.

Pump a load of fog into darkened Victorian streets and you can't go far wrong for atmosphere. The look and feel of Murder By Decree might be enough to paper over the holes for some; it certainly is its strongest feature.

Mood aside, the film disappoints, not by virtue of being bad, but because it's never quite good enough.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2003
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Sherlock Holmes sets out to capture Jack The Ripper.
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Paul Logan **

Director: Bob Clark

Writer: John Hopkins

Starring: Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings, Susan Clark, Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Frank Finlay, Donald Sutherland, Geneviève Bujold, Chris Wiggins, Tedde Moore

Year: 1979

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/Canada


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