Murder by Decree
Dir: Bob Clark
Star: Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings, Geneviève Bujold, Donald Sutherland
Cert / Year: 15 - PG / 1979
Format: VIDEO

This fantastic film came out in the mid 1970's and was the work of Robert A. Goldstein pictures, it is an interesting take on the Jack the Ripper legend and basically the later film From Hell starring Johnny Depp copied a lot of its material and its conclusions from this work.

The film is a Sherlock Holmes style story and gives the idea that if Sherlock Holmes had been real he could have and would have discovered the Rippers true identity. The storyline is that a former prostitute named Annie Crook (Genevieve Buchold) from the Whitechapel area has taken a job in one of the local shops and is befriended by a gentlemen named Eddie, the two have a love affair and even enter into marriage, the problems start when Annie becomes pregnant with Eddies child and gives birth to a little girl.

Eddie, is in fact Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale and the heir presumptive to the Throne. The palace hears about the child and Annie is quickly incarcerated in the Asylum and Eddie is warned off to avoid the scandal. Annie entrusts the baby to her friends and is tortured to try and find out where she hid the baby and who with. Annie is very strong and will not tell so the Palace sends out an undercover representative to find Annie's friends and silence them. The representative calls on the expertise of the Palace surgeon and the Rippers rein of terror begins.

Murder by Decree is superbly acted and although the names of the parties involved are changed, for anyone familiar with the ripper story it is not difficult to pick out who is who. The sets are superb and the lighting and effects are very clever in bringing to life the dimly lit streets of Victorian London. This stellar cast features some real heavyweight talent bringing this story to life. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are played by the marvellous Christopher Plummer and James Mason respectively. Frank Finlay as Inspector Lestrade, David Hemmings as Inspector Foxborough and the quintessential Englishman Sir John Gielgud as Prime Minister Gladstone. These are briliantly supported Sir Anthony Quayle as Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren and Donald Sutherland as Rober James Lees.

As with From Hell there is also the involvement of the Freemasons who through their members (all prominent members of Parliament and the Palace staff) quickly establish the identity of the ripper as one of their own and take whatever steps are necessary to protect them.

For people who have seen From Hell I strongly suggest that you should watch this film as it is far better and you will be able to see what the directors of From Hell failed to achieve. Indeed if you have read the original 'From Hell' graphic novel it is basically a cross between Murder by Decree and the Euston Films Jack The Ripper starring Michael Caine.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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