Just For Jolly

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Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer) and Dr. Watson (James Mason) hunt Jack The Ripper in what may have been the first movie to tackle the Royal Family/Freemason conspiracy theories surrounding the case. It was certainly the last of the gritty, scary, black-humored movies Bob Clark (Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Deathdream, Black Christmas) made in the 70’s before turning to mostly light comedies in the 80’s. (Porky’s and A Christmas Story are of course classics…but I’m still trying to block Rhinestone out of my mind). Plummer and Mason are perfectly cast and have the dry wit, comic timing and rapport required to play the iconic sleuths. Murder By Decree delves so deeply into the conspiracy that it’s almost more of a political thriller than murder mystery or horror film (although it’s certainly moody and terrifying in the right places. It is about Jack The Ripper, after all.) and Plummer’s impassioned speech at the end rivals the filibuster in Mister Smith Goes To Washington. Genevieve Bujold is haunting and heartbreaking in a pivotal cameo. I wish Clark had continued to make films like this…but he made the films he wanted to make and did the best he could whether working independently or with major studio suits breathing down his neck and I respect that…

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