Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Jack the Ripper is loose in London, and who better to go after him than Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson? Though there have been other imaginings of this dream-team scenario (most notably 1978's MURDER BY DECREE), this was the first, as far as I know, in book or film. It is also, according to other sources, the first work to posit that the Ripper may have been a highborn aristocrat. Though not really a horror movie, the amount of blood splattered throughout makes this a good segue into my upcoming October reviews (all horror and sci-fi). Things start right off with a brutal murder, a prostitute knifed through the neck, followed fairly quickly by another prostitute knifed and drowned in bloody water. Several "red herring" scenes follow with menacing hands and knives and jolting musical cues before the next murder, and by then, Holmes is on the case, his only clue a box of medical instruments sent anonymously; since the police are convinced that the killer has surgical talents, Holmes assumes the box is a clue and he's right. It belonged to an aristocratic young man who married a whore, vanished, and is now presumed dead. The wife is alive but her whereabouts are unknown. Suffice to say that both will crop up before the climax, set against a raging fire in a bedroom.

John Neville (Terry Gilliam's Baron Munchausen and The X-Files' Well-Manicured Man) is quite good as Holmes, falling somewhere between Basil Rathbone and TV's Jeremy Brett. Anthony Quayle as a doctor and Frank Finlay as Inspector Lestrade are good; Donald Houston is an OK Watson, serviceable but not memorable, and the same goes for most of the rest of the cast which includes the handsome John Fraser as the suspect’s aristocratic brother, and a young Judi Dench (pictured above with Fraser and Neville) as one of the few female characters who isn’t a whore and/or doesn't wind up dead. Robert Morley shows up for a blustery cameo as Holmes' brother Mycroft. The color design is garish in that 60's way, and the music is far too loud and shrill. Still, it's worth a viewing, and it makes me sorry that Neville never donned the deerstalker hat again. [DVD]

1 comment:

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