Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Murder By Decree

(Bob Clark, 1979)
Of course Christopher Plummer was born to play Sherlock Holmes - his amused self-regard fits the role like a deerstalker. But whoever devised the left-field casting of James Mason as Watson wins the prize, because he's an absolutely perfect, scene-stealing foil. Many of the supporting all-stars (Sutherland, Gielgud) are underwhelming, the slasher-style POV shots are out of place, and the earth-shattering revelation at the end is too big for the movie's britches, precisely because it might supposedly be 'true' - Holmes' precious logical games have always been a healthy arms-length from reality. But in unleashing the superdetective on the enigma of Jack the Ripper, this plot minimizes the character's stifling aristocratic baggage and casts its lot solidly with the floozies and (select) nutters; it may go awkwardly out of its way to discredit the 'radicals', but the details of the narrative go some way to supporting their argument. All of which merely builds the necessary good will for you to relax and enjoy two solid hours of breezy, witty fun, with Mason's arrant green pea the glorious tipping point.

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