Murder by Decree Reviews
The final scene, where Holmes reveals his hand to the top agents of the government (who are all implicated) is overlong and simply dripping with melodrama. Holmes' heartfelt monologue about the now-dead mother separated from her child was especially excruciating.
The scene in the sanatorium however, marked a high point in the film, with Genevieve Bujold teetering between delicate clarity and madness and the other female patients going absolutely wild around her.
Donald Sutherland's character was a pleasure to watch, but was wholly unnecessary to the plot.
Great little thriller, well worth a rental at the very least.
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.
Avoid at all costs.