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Film / A Study in Terror

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Sherlock Holmes meets Jack the Ripper!
Here comes the original Caped Crusader!

A Study in Terror is a 1965 British mystery thriller film directed by James Hill, starring John Neville as Sherlock Holmes and Donald Houston as Dr. Watson, who find themselves on the trail of Jack the Ripper.

When Watson reads in the newspaper that two similar murders have taken place in a few days' time near Whitechapel, Holmes' sharp deduction is immediately stimulated to start its merciless method of elimination after observation of every apparently meaningless detail. He guesses that the victims must be street whores, and doesn't need long to work his way through a pawn shop, an aristocratic family's stately home, a hospital, and of course the potential suspects and (even unknowing) witnesses who are the cast of the gradually unraveled story of the murderer and his motive.

A Study in Terror provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The victims of the Ripper are all much younger (with the exception of Mary Kelly, the Ripper's victims were all their 40s) and prettier than they were in real life.
  • Affectionate Pickpocket: Polly lifts a purse from her mark while she is canoodling with him the pub. She is caught when he goes to pay for the drinks and can't find his purse.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with a mysterious hat arriving in the mail and Holmes launching into a series of deductions about it, while Watson stands by with a 'here we go again' expression on his face as the credits roll.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: The climatic battle between Holmes and the Ripper takes place in a burning building.
  • Blackmail: Angela Osborne and Max Steiner are blackmailing Lord Carfax: threatening to reveal that his brother Michael had married a prostitute, which would ruin the family name and possibly kill his father.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: Polly Nichols is shoved into a horse trough and held under before being stabbed. A shot from under the water shows the blood floating upwards to the surface of the trough.
  • Bookcase Passage: The Duke enters and leaves his library through a passage concealed behind a bookcase.
  • *Click* Hello: The Ripper approaches his final victim in her bed and raises his knife, only to find Holmes' revolver clapped against the side of his head.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Unsurprisingly for a film about Jack the Ripper, all the Ripper's victims are prostitutes. Although the Ripper's action strike fear into the hearts of the residents, the victims themselves are largely unmissed and unmourned. It takes Dr. Murray's rabblerousing to spark the government into action.
  • The Drunken Sailor: A pair of drunken sailors on shore leave attempt to solicit the services of Liz Stride for a night of fun. However, they are moved on by a policeman, and when Liz goes in search of another customer, she is murdered by Jack the Ripper
  • Food Slap: The singer empties a glass of beer over the head of a soldier during "Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-De-Ay!" number.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: All of Jack the Ripper's victims are dressed in outfits that are far too elegant (and clean) for a real East End prostitute.
  • Hand Wave: At the end of the film, Holmes is trapped in a burning building. They quickly cut to him back at Baker Street, explaining that he survived because, as everyone knows, he's indestructible.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade: All of the Ripper's victims are much younger and prettier than they were in Real Life.
  • Horny Sailors: Two sailors attempt to procure the services of prostitute Liz Stride, mentioning that have returned from a long voyage and want her for the entire night. A constable moves them on and Liz goes in search of another client and winds up becoming the next victim of the Ripper.
  • I Have No Son!: The Duke of Shires disowned his eldest son Michael for daring to study medicine against his wishes. As he puts it, no Osborne should ever sink so low as to pursue 'a trade'.
  • Jack the Ripper: The movie pits Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper.
  • Sherlock Scan: Par for the course for a Sherlock Holmes film. However, Sherlock performs an especially good example when he examines the case of surgical instruments and announces that they have come from a struggling pawn shop that faces south in a narrow street and is run by a foreigner.
  • Stab the Salad: When Annie Chapman enters the slaughterhouse, a knife is shown raised threatingly in the air and thrusting down suddenly. It turns out to be the slaughterman Chunky cutting open a pig.
  • Sword Cane: Sherlock carries one and uses it to defend himself when he and Watson are set upon by Steiner's thugs in an alley.
  • Two-Faced: Angela has had half her face scarred by acid. When she first meets Holmes, she sits in profile so he can only see the non-scarred half of her face.