Murder by Decree (1979)

PG  |   |  Mystery, Thriller  |  9 February 1979 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.0/10 from 3,481 users  
Reviews: 87 user | 54 critic

Sherlock Holmes investigates the murders commited by Jack the Ripper and discovers a conspiracy to protect the killer.



(characters), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

$0.00 with Prime Video

5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Crime | Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson join the hunt for the notorious serial killer, Jack The Ripper.

Director: James Hill
Stars: John Neville, Donald Houston, John Fraser
Adventure | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

To treat his friend's cocaine induced delusions, Watson lures Sherlock Holmes to Sigmund Freud.

Director: Herbert Ross
Stars: Alan Arkin, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Duvall
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

The Mafia tries to take revenge against a man who testified against them in court.

Director: Bob Clark
Stars: Bo Svenson, Robert Culp, John Colicos
Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Sherlock Holmes investigates a series of so-called "pajama suicides". He knows the female villain behind them is as cunning as Moriarty and as venomous as a spider.

Director: Roy William Neill
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Gale Sondergaard
Adventure | Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

When a bored Holmes eagerly takes the case of Gabrielle Valladon after an attempt on her life, the search for her missing husband leads to Loch Ness and the legendary monster.

Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Robert Stephens, Christopher Lee, Colin Blakely
Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson investigate the legend of a supernatural hound, a beast that may be stalking a young heir on the fog-shrouded moorland that makes up his estate.

Director: Sidney Lanfield
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Richard Greene
Adventure | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson must protect a Swiss inventor of an advanced bomb sight from falling into German hands.

Director: Roy William Neill
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Lionel Atwill
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.4/10 X  

A soldier is forced to take estrogen and wear lingerie when he's blackmailed by a violent transvestite.

Director: Bob Clark
Stars: Leslie Marlowe, Wendy Roberts, Dorian Wayne
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

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.

Director: Roy William Neill
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Hillary Brooke
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

When a gentlewoman is found dead with her throat torn out, the villagers blame a supernatural monster, but Sherlock Holmes, who gets drawn into the case from nearby Quebec, suspects a human murderer.

Director: Roy William Neill
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Paul Cavanagh
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

The master sleuth hunts his archenemy, Professor Moriarty, who is planning the crime of the century.

Director: Alfred L. Werker
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Ida Lupino
Certificate: Passed Crime | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

During WWII several murders occur at a convalescent home where Dr. Watson has volunteered his services. He summons Holmes for help and the master detective proceeds to solve the crime from ... See full summary »

Director: Roy William Neill
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey


Cast overview, first billed only:
Sherlock Holmes
Chris Wiggins ...
Doctor Hardy
Tedde Moore ...
Mrs. Lees (as Teddi Moore)
Peter Jonfield ...
Roy Lansford ...
Catherine Kessler ...
Ron Pember ...


Sherlock Holmes investigates London's most infamous case, Jack the Ripper. As he investigates, he finds that the Ripper has friends in high places. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Can the genius of Sherlock Holmes stop the terror of Jack the Ripper? See more »


Mystery | Thriller


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

9 February 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sherlock Holmes and Saucy Jack  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


CAD 5,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Bob Clark had to do research to see if the word "fart" was in existence in 1888. It was. See more »


When Holmes is going to the meeting in the masonic lodge at the end, he first passes Buckingham Palace, which may have been on his way from Baker Street. He then seems to have crossed the Thames, because in the next picture he approaches Westminster Palace from the south side of the river, effectively re-crossing it. This detour hardly makes sense. 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.
Sherlock Holmes: [Assertively] You may take it to be true, sir!
See more »


Version of Seven Murders for Scotland Yard (1971) See more »


Abide With Me
Written by William H. Monk
Arranged by Edrich Siebert
KPM Music Ltd
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Vivid teaming of Holmes/Watson and Jack the Ripper
21 March 2005 | by See all my reviews


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).

21 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
The 'Pea' scene moviegoer36
The most human Holmes? wordbug
Soundtrack ajsc74
I watch it once a month... mcquestion
One of my favorite films on Jack luciefilm
where's the bluray at? tanyet
Discuss Murder by Decree (1979) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: