A Study in Terror
Henry E. Lester, Herman Cohen (executive) for Compton Films, Sir Nigel Films
directed by James Hill
starring John Neville, Donald Houston, John Fraser, Anthony Quayle, Barbara Windsor, Robert Morley, Peter Carsten, Adrienne Corri, Frank Finlay, Judi Dench, Barry Jones, Charles Regnier, Cecil Parker, Georgia Brown, Dudley Foster, Christiane Maybach, Kay Walsh, John Cairney, Edina Ronay, Avis Bunnage, Barbara Leake, Patrick Newell, Norma Foster, Terry Downes
screenplay by Donald Ford, Derek Ford, based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle, music by John Scott
Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper
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Jack the Ripper is terrorizing Whitechapel - and Sherlock Holmes (John
Neville) receives a case of surgical instruments with one knife
strategically missing from an anonymous adressor. Of course, it takes him
no time at all to find out that the case belonged to Michael (John
Cairney), the disowned son of the Duke of Shires (Barry Jones), and that
it was probably sent to him by Angela (Adrienne Corri), Michael's wife who
was also a prostitute. He also has no problem to deduct that Michael and
Angela were probably part of a scheme to blackmail Michael's brother, Lord
Carfax (John Fraser), a scheme that had to do with Angela's very
profession. Thing is, Michael and Angela have vanished from the face of
the earth it seems. Holmes' investigations lead him through the seediest
parts of town, and he makes the acquaintances of, among others, Murray
(Anthony Quayle), doctor of the poor, and Max Steiner (Peter Carsten), a
shady pubowner, who all act mighty suspicious. But it turns out that
Murray has actually given abode and looked after Michael, who has turned
into an imbecile after his wife got disfigured in an acid attack, and
Steiner has taken good care of disfigured Angela, a woman he has honestly
loved all these years as it turns out. So neither Murray nor Steiner,
neither Michael nor Angela are the prostitute killer ... so who is?
Michael's brother Edward of course who has learned to hate all prostitutes
after his brother married one, which might taint the family name. In the
finale, Edward dies in a fire and Holmes decides to not reveal the
identity of Jack the Ripper ...
Donald Houston plays Holmes' sidekick
Watson in this one.
Given that the first Sherlock Holmes
stories appeared at roughly the same time Jack the Ripper
was roaming Whitechapel, it's not exactly far-fetched to have the
detective investigating these murders - even if Arthur Conan Doyle never
wrote a story to that effect. However, combining the lores of these two
characters seems to be full of possibilities - but Study in Terror only
succeeds in disappointing its audience: The story is unnecessarily
convoluted and leads away from the Ripper murders to an extent that they
take backseat, the murderer in the end is pulled out of the hat rather
than logically deducewd, his motives are laughable at best, and when he
dies in a fire in the finale, that's a narrative shortcut rather than
anything else. Also, the directorial effort is bland and lacks action as
well as atmosphere to carry the movie, and John Neville and Donald Houston
never pick up steam as Holmes and Watson, and also lack anmy chemistry
between them so important for the duo to work. A few of the supporting
players, first and foremost the always dependable Robert Morley as Holmes'
brother Mycroft, are great at least, but that's hardly enough to save the