Combustible Celluloid
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With: Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings, Susan Clark, Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Frank Finlay, Donald Sutherland, Geneviève Bujold, Chris Wiggins, Tedde Moore, Peter Jonfield, Roy Lansford, Catherine Kessler, Ron Pember
Written by: John Hopkins, based on a book by Elwyn Jones, John Lloyd
Directed by: Bob Clark
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 124
Date: 02/01/1979

Murder by Decree (1979)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Holmes Meets Jack

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This may be my favorite Sherlock Holmes movie, though Terence Fisher's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) comes close. Christopher Plummer plays the intrepid detective, with James Mason as an upright Dr. Watson. Directed by Bob Clark (Black Christmas), the film has a vivid period touch, with plenty of clever staging and some off-kilter angles, and even a little dark humor (such as the scene in which Holmes helps Watson capture the last pea on his plate). But the real selling point of this movie is the villain: Jack the Ripper. An excellent cast -- including Geneviève Bujold as a patient in an asylum and John Gielgud as a Prime Minister -- helps round things out. For some reason, this terrific movie never seems to have risen above cult status. Anchor Bay's 2003 DVD has gone out of print, but Kino Lorber re-issued it on Blu-ray in 2020, including Clark's excellent commentary track (he passed away in 2007), plus a new commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell, and trailers for this and four other films.

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