Film / Murder By Decree

"We've unmasked madmen, Watson, wielding scepters. Reason run riot. Justice howling at the moon."

A 1979 mystery film directed by Bob Clark, starring Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes and James Mason as Dr. Watson. This is the one where Sherlock Holmes hunts down Victorian London's most notorious killer Jack the Ripper, again.note 

London is in a state of panic. While Whitehall worries about radicals and anarchists threatening the established social order - a mysterious serial killer stalks the slums of Whitechapel going after prostitutes. Scotland Yard is baffled, so naturally they call in Sherlock Holmes except - they don't. The new Commissioner Sir Charles Warren is adamant that Holmes not be let anywhere near the case, much to Lestrade's frustration. Realizing something is seriously wrong Holmes and Watson take up the case regardless and uncover a conspiracy that may rock the Empire to it's very core.


  • Ambiguous Situation: How much involvement the Prime Minister and the Royal Family have in the Ripper murders. The Prime Minister is adamant that Queen Victoria was not involved in any way, and Holmes doesn't want to believe she was involved. As for the Government, Holmes doesn't know how directly they were involved - only that their Catholic prejudices egged Dr. Spivey on.
  • Band of Brothers: The Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, and Sir Charles cover up the Ripper murders because they feel obliged to due to the Ripper being a fellow Freemason.
  • Freak Out: The normally stoic Holmes is appalled at the abuse Annie Crook has been put through at the asylum to the point he assaults the chief doctor snarling at him to let her go!
  • Gentleman Snarker: Holmes and Watson. It's about the only way Watson can cope living with Holmes.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • Sir Charles Warren is made into an incompetent buffoon activley hampering the investigation. The real Sir Charles while a talented military officer was ill-suited for the job of police commissioner. And he was constantly criticized by the liberal press and even the Government to point he actually quit his post during the Ripper case.
    • Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister.
    • Prince Victor Albert. Maybe Queen Victoria
  • OOC Is Serious Business: The fact Sherlock Holmes hasn't been called by Scotland Yard to help with the Ripper case clues the Great Detective in that something is very wrong, if Scotland Yard refuses to have him consult on such a high profile case.
  • Public Domain Character: Naturally for a Ripper film. We have Sir Charles Warren - the Police Commissioner, Lord Salisbury - the Prime Minister, and medium Robert Lees. Oddly the actual detective who worked on the case, Inspector Abberline is nowhere to bee seen.
  • The Voiceless: Not once does the Ripper ever speak on screen.