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Murder By Decree
cast: Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings , Genevi�ve Bujold, and Donald Sutherland

director: Bob Clark

118 minutes (12) 1978
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Momentum Take One DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Victorian London. A mysterious figure is murdering prostitutes in Whitechapel. Local tradesmen, worried about the effect on their businesses by the panic, call upon the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) to try to solve the mystery of the serial killer nicknamed Jack the Ripper...
   A British/Canadian co-production made in 1978, Murder by Decree has an oddly timeless feel to it, which for a period piece can only be to the good. Technically it could have been made a decade before, as Canadian DP Reginald Morris' (a Bob Clark regular) camerawork displays the somewhat overripe colour of the late 1960s. And some obvious matte paintings, rear projection and studio-bound London streets aren't really characteristic of a turbulent period in Hollywood history that emphasised grainy realism. However, this does mean that the film has hardly dated, and it remains one of the best big-screen excursions into the world of Conan Doyle's famous sleuth. Having a fictional detective solve a real-life crime (and the solution is consistent with some Ripperologists' theories) could be an excuse for postmodern winks at the audience but commendably Clark and his cast play it straight. There are lapses in the pace, but a rich Victorian atmosphere, thick with permanent pea-soup fog, makes up for this. Plummer and James Mason (as Dr Watson) make for a very enjoyable double act, and they are backed up with a very solid cast of mostly British character actors. Only Donald Sutherland looks out of place as psychic Robert Lees, but fellow Canadian Genevi�ve Bujold is impressive in a one-scene role as an asylum inmate who holds the key to the entire plot. As Holmes finds out, the Ripper murders hide a conspiracy that reaches very high up indeed.
   Bob Clark is hardly a fashionable name to drop, seemingly fated to be dismissed as the director of the first two Porky's movies. He consistently in work though, obviously preferring to keep busy, but every now and again he makes a good movie. There's the influential (pre-Halloween) stalk-and-slash movie Black Christmas (1975) and the delightful family film A Christmas Story (1983). And there's Murder By Decree.
   Momentum's DVD has an anamorphic transfer in the correct 1.85:1 ratio. The soundtrack is in the original English-language Dolby digital 2.0 mono, with optional mono dubbed versions in German, Spanish and Italian. There are menu screen options in all these languages, plus subtitles in German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Portuguese... but (surprisingly and regrettably) not English. The only extra is the theatrical trailer.
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