There have been many portrayals of Sherlock Holmes on stage, TV, radio and on the big screen. Indeed, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation remains one of the most popular and recognisable figures in popular British culture. Some of the most memorable performances as the great sleugh have come from Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch. However, for my money no one beats Christopher Plummer in Murder by Decree.
A succession of prostitutes are murdered in Whitechapel but the police are fairly disinterested and getting nowhere with their enquiries. Holmes (Plummer) and Watson (James Mason) take up the case after being approached by members of the local community. Their investigation leads them into danger as they strive to uncover the truth. While the old bill, led by Inspector Lestrade (Frank Finlay), struggle to make any headway Jack the Ripper continues his reign of terror.
Whilst Murder by Decree isn’t based on any of the Conan Doyle books, it is one of the best Holmes films that’s been made. Much of its success can be attributed to a great cast. Whilst Plummer is phenomenal, there are also great supporting turns from Donald Sutherland, John Gielgud and David Hemmings. However, it’s undoubtedly Bob Clark’s brilliant direction and Reginald H. Morris’s beautifully inventive cinematography, which uses some of the tricks the pair employed on Black Christmas, that makes it so memorable. Conjuring up danger around every corner in a depiction of Victorian London in all it’s fetid glory.
- New: Audio commentary with Film Journalist Kim Newman and Crime Fiction Historian Barry Forshaw
- New: Interview with Film Journalist Kim Newman
Murder by Decree is released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital as part of the Vintage Classics collection on 28 June.