Murder By Decree has an all star cast and to be quite honest if I mentioned all the cast names I would be more of a name dropper than Tom Jones on The Voice…
Sherlock Holmes, assisted by his faithful sidekick Watson, are on the trail of the notorious Jack The Ripper, who has a desire to rid the streets of old London town of prostitutes (which as a serial killer myself I can relate to, because to be quite frank, the prostitutes of yesteryear were more infected than Malaria).
Is this purely due to the fact that he sees them as vermin? Or is there a higher motivation behind his mindless acts of violence? Why is Jack The Ripper targeting prostitutes only and not mutilating any woman he comes across? Is he a god fearing man or does he act for a higher institution far beyond the reach of the law of the land? Is Jack The Ripper one man, or is he many men?
These are the questions that come to mind when watching Murder by Decree. Sherlock Holmes played by Christopher Plummer (The Sound Of Music) righteously seeks out Jack The Ripper. His goal: to stop the needless killing of prostitutes in London.
Holmes seeks help from all sources, including Robert Lees, who pertains to be a psychic that has premonitions (played beautifully by Donald Sutherland). Lees is looked upon as a joke by Watson, but Holmes advises Watson to be more open minded. Lees also advises that he has seen Jack The Ripper face to face and we are shown the encounter. Lees tries to warn the Police that he knows who Jack The Ripper is, but they look upon him as though he is a madman. Sherlock clearly believing Lees, does anything he can to spend more and more time with him to acquire the information he needs to secure the arrest of the most wanted man in London. Does he manage to catch Jack The Ripper? Well, you’ll have to buy the DVD to find that out.
Murder by Decree has stood the test of time well and just goes to prove that the 70’s were indeed a golden age of film making in the horror, suspense and mystery genres.
It’s rare nowadays for a film to evoke chills just from the music alone, but Murder by Decree succeeds. Director Bob Clark (Black Christmas, Deathdream) uses slow motion effects, fog and darkness to re-create London during the Victorian era. You genuinely feel drawn into this gritty world and Bob’s direction to his actors is quite evident in the stunning performances that each gives.
It also makes you wonder how corrupt Victorian England truly was, as to be lead to believe that the murders were acted out for the reasons they were, is shocking enough, without the revelations we witness during the film and towards the end of the film. I felt sadness for Holmes as he clearly wishes for justice to be served, but there are wheels in motion which would stop him from achieving this.
I would recommend this film to all ages really as it is thought provoking, shocking, visually beautiful and eerie all at the same time.
If you like classic horror and don’t mind watching a film which is 2 hours long, then this is a film for you.