James Hill | 91 mins | TV | 1.85:1 | UK / English | 15
“Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper” would be the easiest way to describe this pulpy ’60s effort. It’s far from the only example of this sub-sub-genre: Murder by Decree did it 14 years later, and goodness knows how many novels and short stories have attempted it. But I’ve not seen or read any of those, so I’m afraid I can’t compare.
Judged in its own right, then, it’s a decent Holmes movie, with an atmospheric rendering of Victorian London and a passably intriguing plot. However, the relatively light basis in the true story of Jack the Ripper may grate with some who approach it from that angle: there’s a Holmesian plot grafted onto a smattering of Ripper facts, as opposed to using Holmes to deduce one of the posited real solutions. As entertainment, though, that doesn’t hold it back.
That said, I didn’t feel it all quite made sense — someone sends Holmes a clue at the start of the story, with no explanation as to what it’s got to do with anything, and though by the end it’s explained who sent it, I was none the wiser what they’d been intending. And I watched the revelation scene twice too. Still, at least the important bit — who the murderer is ‘n’ all that — is quite neat.
Also watch out for Judi Dench in a small early role, and Barbara Windsor getting killed. Marvel, with hindsight, at which one’s got the bigger role and is higher billed.