Bob Clark had a strange eclectic career from directing everything from Black Christmas to Porky’s to Baby Geniuses. But who would have known that he would tackle a dark, atmospheric horror drama centred around one of the most infamous figures in British history?

In the East End of London 1888, a killer known as Jack the Ripper is horribly mutilating women. Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) and Dr Watson (James Mason) are approached by some shadowy figures to take on the case. Although police inspectors Foxborough (David Hemmings) and Lestrade (Frank Finlay) more than welcome his assistance, the rest of Scotland Yard’s high-ranking officials do not. Holmes meets the psychic Robert Lees (Donald Sutherland), who provides him with clues that uncover that this case could be part of a bigger conspiracy, than anyone would have known.

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With an all-star cast and a creepy, foggy look, Murder By Decree should have been a great addition to the Sherlock Holmes series of films. Unfortunately, the over complicated plot and plodding pace make this chapter of the world famous sleuth rather dull and frustrating.

Even some of the star names appear to be miscast, especially Donald Sutherland who gives a strange performance which does not fit well with the rest of the film.

There are some saving graces, however, including the fact that Plummer and Watson work fantastically well and have great chemistry together. Clark directs with a suspenseful eye, which gives more tension to the overall piece, by using the camera as if we the audience are looking through the eyes of the killer.

That said, it is hard to see a young audience watching this after being treated to Guy Ritchie’s highly entertaining Holmes series. Even the story has been used to better effect in the Hughes Brothers' From Hell.

Reviewed on: 03 Apr 2012
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Sherlock Holmes sets out to capture Jack The Ripper.
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Keith Dudhnath **1/2

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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From Hell