Murder by Decree - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Murder by Decree Reviews

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January 31, 2012
A stodgy uninteresting mystery starring Christopher Plummer and James Mason as the unforgettable legends Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson who match wits with the infamous Jack the Ripper. While Mason performs the role of Watson admirably, Plummer's Sherlock Holmes is conservative and altogether too proper for his eccentric role. The story while well told is simply not very compelling, and the whole thing overstays its welcome.
½ January 26, 2012
One of the best Sherlock Holmes films ever made. And yet it gets lost amongst the schools of dead fish flicks. A must see!
Super Reviewer
January 23, 2012
An intelligent well-plotted suspense thriller beautifully directed by the late Bob Clark, in which Sherlock Holmes brilliantly played by Christopher Plummer and his associate Dr. Watson, the late great veteran actor James Mason in a deliciously sly performance investigates the gruesome murders of Jack the Ripper in London circa 1888 and discovers a mass conspiracy to protect the killer. Notable supporting performances from David Hemmings, Susan Clark, Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Frank Finlay, Donald Sutherland and Genevieve Bujold in standout performance as Annie Crook. The period recreation is flawless. One of the best and most original Sherlock Holmes films ever made. Highly Recommended.
½ December 1, 2011
One of the best Sherlock Holmes movies ever, yet with one of the most incorrect portrayals of the great detective ever. Moody and wonderfully atmospheric, this 'Sherlock Holmes meets Jack the Ripper' tale is thick with Imperial Government conspiracy and boogedy-boogedy Masonic skulking about. A terrific cast -- David Hemmings, Donald Sutherland, Genevieve Bujold, Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud -- brings gravitas to the fanciful script, and creates interesting characters for Christopher Plummer & James Mason to interact with. Bob Clark -- yeah, the "Porky's" Bob Clark -- directs the shadowy goings-on with a sure hand and an eye for suspense and intrigue. James Mason makes a wonderfully stalwart, if a bit aged, Dr. Watson; one of the better cinematic portraits of the old soldier and renowned ladie's man. Christopher Plummer plays Holmes was a bit more warmth and humor than what Conan Doyle probably had in mind, but his steely intensity and righteous fury at the evil being committed grounds in a likably heroic mode. One false note, and an irritating one: Throughout the film, we see Plummer's Holmes in stereotypical 'Sherlock Holmes' costume, i.e. deerstalker cap, Inverness cape coat, and bent pipe. Even at the opera! In Victorian London, dressing in country wear like that would be like wearing a down vest and baseball cap in modern times, while conducting one's business (or pursuing one's pleasure) in the city. It's as if the filmmakers wanted us to know that, frame-by-frame, this is a SHERLOCK HOLMES MOVIE. An irritating gaffe -- actually, an amateurish one -- that robs the picture of an extra degree of greatness.
½ August 17, 2011
A film pitting Sherlock Holmes against Jack The Ripper, directed by Bob Clark of Porky's & Black Christmas? How in hell had I never seen this before?

Great little thriller, well worth a rental at the very least.
½ July 12, 2011
Christmas Story director Bob Clark's bloody crossover thriller takes what could've been merely a customary this-icon-meets-that-icon suspense thriller and furthers it toward something else. Whether that "else" is something duly Holmesian relies on the outlook of the viewer. Various fanatics grade this 1979 high-concepter among the premium Holmes movie takeoffs, welcoming its straight-faced, unpretentious take on the great consulting detective. Others recoil from Christopher Plummer's modest, emotional version, which conspicuously doesn't highlight the literary figure's unflustered deductive reach. That quality is my favorite of those which characterize the icon, but I am not disappointed in this film's depiction of Holmes and Watson, perhaps because of my partiality toward Plummer, as well as that James Mason gives us a refreshing no-nonsense Watson, though a stickler can plausibly contend whether or not the steadfast army surgeon would be so easily upset about his peas.

Whether or not Murder By Decree is consistently mindful of the assets of the original characters and of the propriety observed throughout each pursuit, Plummer and Mason together, if nothing else, make one of cinema's most tenderly felt Holmes-Watson duos. On the whole, Murder by Decree is a doting deference to the halcyon days of Hammer Studio, and a crafty alteration of Victorian Britannia to the back end of the anti-establishment 1970s. Clark unravels Rebecca's gaslit London streets and inspects them through his sometimes too self-conscious wide-angle lens for the somewhat ham-handedly warped POV of one Jack the Ripper. Coach, black horse and unrevealed top-hatted steerer emerge from the fog as if out of Dr. Caligari's cabinet, before Clark cuts to a counterpart world of regal pageantry, where reports of the butchery of wanton women are virtually dismissed.

The contrast with Holmes and Watson is what makes the merging of the two legends so interesting, rather than just a gimmick. Mason plays Watson in scenes with Sherlock as if they're an old married couple. "When will you be home?" But at work, he's effortless at self-defense despite his age and urbanity, with a smuggled pinch of Humbert as he discovers his finger snagged between a back alley hooker's teeth. Clark largely revolves his compositions around the cast, with Anthony Quayle and John Gielgud's colonial self-importance and David Hemmings' secret radicalism as the boundaries, flanked by the hushed anguish of telepathic Donald Sutherland and Geneviève Bujold's quivering in the asylum, which splinters the great detective's honored and important façade of reason into tears.

Sumptuous 1880s reconstructions barely hamper Clark's feelings of the primeval, a durable vision stamped when a razed victim is pushed out of the Ripper's stagecoach passing the camera, an almost concealed glint giving us the perpetrator's outline. And ultimately, in line with what I say above about Holmes, the climactic open letter, where he, no longer in the company of pipe, violin or crooked morphine syringe, switches his probing proficiency from distinctive crimes to public accountability, not only demonstrates a unique emotional turn, but also reminds us Murder by Decree was made in the decade of immortal conspiracy films. Indeed, somewhat like a Tarantino film, it's a pastiche of genres, ironies, styles and most of all characters to create a unique movie.
½ June 22, 2011
definte a well thoughtout thriller with such an iconic character
May 1, 2011
Wonderfully done Sherlock Holmes against jack the ripper...Plummer leading the way as Holmes was perfect. Although it did play on the royal can see where "From Hell" got most of it's cues from.
½ May 1, 2011
The concept is a great one, and the cast is stellar (Plummer and Mason, particularly, really nail their roles), but the eventual theory put forth regarding the Ripper's identity and motives leaves something to be desired.
½ April 3, 2011
WAPOS! Easily a candidate for worst Sherlock Holmes movie of the age. Terrible, predictable dialogue, nonsensical plot, shoddy attempts at humor, and why for god's sakes are he two leads wearing so much makeup??? And WTF was Donald Sutherland doing in that film...quaaludes??

Avoid at all costs.
March 19, 2011
Watching now, pretty good!
½ October 13, 2010
Abyssmally dull. They had all those great Holmes novels and stories to adapt- all expertly written and they chose a series of factual murders nobody has ever solved. i was asleep in the first five minutes.
½ May 9, 2010
This film has been sleeping on the shelf far too long! I'm calling it a classic. Christopher Plummer and James Mason are excellent as Holmes and Watson - but Donald Sutherland in the role of a psychic is positively amazing! And if you are a conspiracy-theory-Illuminati-buff make a BIG bowl of popcorn and set yourself down!
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2010
It was a fun watch. It reminded me of From Hell.
April 18, 2010
A tad slow in parts. The atmosphere is great. Dirty foggy victorian era streets. James Mason is a great Watson. Wise but also childish. Good ol' Bob Clark.
½ April 17, 2010
Well-acted take on the oft-filmed character, played most recently by Golden Globe winner Robert Downey, Jr. This one features the recently Oscar-nominated Christopher Plummer ("The Last Station") as Holmes and veteran actor James Mason ("A Star is Born") as Dr. Watson. Suitably dark compelling mystery involves the Jack the Ripper killings, and the unraveling of a conspiracy. Also features solid work by John Gielgud and Donald Sutherland.
March 16, 2010
Very well done Sherlock Holmes film in which Holmes pursues Jack the Ripper and uncovers a deeper scandal reaching perhaps to the British throne.
February 21, 2010
The idea behind this film is Sherlock Holmes, played brilliantly by Christopher Plummer, and Doctor Watson played by the amazing oh so sad he died, James Mason, solving the Jack the Ripper murders. It's dark and creepy and totally believable. One of the truly great Sherlock Holmes films.
February 13, 2010
Not really that good. Both From Hell and Sherlock Holmes are, inexplicably, much better.
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