On the remote Norwegian Bear Island, used as a submarine base by the Germans during WW2, U.N. scientist Larsen sends a distress signal using an emergency NATO frequency and is received by scientific vessel Morning Rose.
Sherlock Holmes investigates when young women around London turn up murdered, each with a finger severed off. Scotland Yard suspects a madman, but Holmes believes the killings to be part of a diabolical plot.
An American scientist is sent to Red China to steal the formula for a newly developed agricultural enzyme. What he is not told by his bosses is that a micro-sized bomb has been planted in ... See full summary »
Some of the film's movie posters featured the long preamble: "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...". See more »
In the final dialogue scene between Holmes and Watson after the Whitehall interview, Holmes is depicted using his right hand to bow four notes on the free-standing upright violin on the desk. He purports to play middle B, E and D followed by treble E on open strings - but it is impossible to play a B natural on an open A string. The A string's pitch must be raised to B by a finger stop for the dubbed sound to be physically possible. The open string pitches are tenor G, middle D, middle A and treble E. See more »
Prime Minister Lord Salisbury:
You have us at a disadvantage, Mr. Holmes. I think it might be better if you tell us your story in your own way and permit me to be the judge of whether it is true or not.
You may take it to be true, sir!
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Vivid teaming of Holmes/Watson and Jack the Ripper
MURDER BY DECREE
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Mono
London, 1888: Whilst investigating a series of murders committed by 'Jack the Ripper', Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) and Dr. Watson (James Mason) uncover a Masonic conspiracy which leads them to the very heart of the British Establishment.
During the summer of 1973, the BBC ran a six-part documentary series entitled "Jack the Ripper" (also known as "The Ripper File"), in which two popular fictional detectives (played by Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor) investigated the 'true' identity of Jack the Ripper, using all the evidence available to them at the time. Their conclusions form the basis of Bob Clark's all-star period thriller MURDER BY DECREE, which condenses vast amounts of information into a single digestible screenplay. The film's lavish recreation of Victorian London (extravagant opera houses, cobbled streets and miles of gloomy Whitechapel alleyways populated by hundreds of costumed extras) belies its modest $4m budget, and for once, the starry supporting cast - including Anthony Quayle, David Hemmings, John Gielgud and Donald Sutherland - seems perfectly suited to the material.
A combination of Gothic thriller and historical whodunnit, John Hopkins' comprehensive screenplay outlines the social and political divisions which prevailed in England at the time of the Ripper murders, hindering the police investigation and prompting a number of conspiracy theories which persist to this day. However, the script also contains a number of memorable character touches (the episode of the 'errant pea' is most prized by fans) which prevents the narrative from surrendering to mere facts and figures. Plummer and Mason are ideal as Holmes and Watson, though Genevieve Bujold almost steals the film during a heartbreaking sequence in which Holmes looks for clues in a crumbling asylum. You may not agree with the film's conclusions - the same evidence was re-evaluated by author Stephen Knight in his popular non-fiction account 'Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution' (1976) and David Wickes' excellent TV movie JACK THE RIPPER (1988) starring Michael Caine - but MURDER BY DECREE is generally acknowledged as one of the best Ripper/Holmes movies ever made.
Incidentally, the film's PG rating seems extraordinarily lenient. While MURDER BY DECREE doesn't exactly revel in violence, it conveys the grislier aspects of the Ripper's crimes with enough potency to warrant a PG-13 (unavailable at the time of this film's initial release).
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