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Murder by Decree (1979)
The Jack the Ripper Murders. Sherlock Holmes lifts the veil of secrecy, corruption and terror at the heart of the throne of England itself. Clue by clue... Murder by murder...
Director: Bob Clark
Crime
Mystery
Thriller

Sherlock Holmes is drawn into the case of Jack the Ripper who is killing prostitutes in London's East End. Assisted by Dr. Watson, and using information provided by a renowned psychic, Robert Lees, Holmes finds that the murders may have its roots in a Royal indiscretion and that a cover-up is being managed by politicians at the highest level, all of whom happen to be Masons.

Murder by Decree (1979)

Environmental Agency

The detective film is an essential component in how movies work. I‘m trying to abstract the components that work, what doesn‘t and why. And that is taking me through many detective films, and every Holmes film is a must.

Putting Holmes in perspective: he was just at that period where science was news, a period roughly from Darwin to Einstein. The caché was less the scientists as celebrities, but the tantalising notion that at some time there will be an explanation for everything including human behaviour. The author of the Holmes stories took this as far as his own science of spiritualism, complete with notions of the fourth dimension.

For these stories to work, then, we have to have two parts. We have the detective, the scientist. He has a collection of facts, a powerful ability to reason and an irrepressible desire to understand. This is not a detective that solves crimes by stumbling about valiantly, but one that collects facts and assembles them.

And we need, absolutely need, a second component, the world. Holmes tries to master an understanding of the world as it works naturally. He can deduce that a man is a one legged tailor because the world is so ordered that observations mean something. This world has to be following natural laws. People have to be doing what normal people do.

In other words, Holmes makes no sense in a world of unnatural dynamics, a world manipulated by powerful forces. There can be no conspiracy making things happen that naturally would not. You cannot have secret, all-powerful societies with grand plans that bend the laws Holmes works with.

This movie is based on just that premise. So Holmes cannot be the Holmes we know. He is PI Magnum, or Sam Slade or someone else. (Moriarty has complex plans, but he is a lone genius and all he — and Mycroft — add is the ability for Holmes to have someone like himself in the world he sees.

One thing they did do well, I believe. We are always getting the story that Watson writes after the fact. He is our representative in the story. They did well enough with this.

That story has to unroll in the way that Holmes and Watson encounter it. They didn‘t do this well.

Posted in 2015

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.

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