Murder by Decree - 6th November 2010

Based loosely on Jack the Ripper - the Final Solutuion, a book published in the mid-70s that also would act as inspiration behind the graphic novel and subsequent movie From Hell, this big name starring Sherlock Holmes mystery is a bit all over the place in plot and tone but does offer up some odd comedic gems in James Mason's grumbling banter from his flappy cheeked, proper British gent but fairly dim bulb of a Watson and Donald Sutherland's sunken yet bulging eyes and ridiculous, bordering on monstrously ludicrous moustache.
You'd think with names like Christopher Plumber, James Mason, Donald Sutherland and John Gielgud that the studio making this picture would have sprung for a more convincing studio set, for example cobbled streets do not sound like creaky wooden floor boards! Also you'd think that they would've done a few re-writes because none of it really makes a lick of sense as it's going on (even if, as I did, you know the rough conspiracy theory they use as a basis of the mystery) and in the end they have to resort to a big denouement where Holmes tediously goes over the whole thing in the vain hope that the audience leave the cinema happy.
Seeing the name Bob Clark come up as I was watching this I knew it rang a bell and when I looked him up, it made sense as he has dabbled in everything from low-rent horror ("Children shouldn't play with dead things" and Black Christmas) to famous teenage sex comedies (Porkys and Porkys 2) all the way to family friendly nonsense (A Christmas Story and Baby Geniuses) and his films all share that haphazard, slightly cheap and rickety quality about them. Actually when I consider that this film falls between his horror career and his so-called comedic career it makes perfect sense as, despite a serious, sometimes spooky, sometimes gory and dark tone to the proceedings, just occasionally these oddball little scenes and lines crop up that have no place really in a film of this kind but lend the whole thing a sort of surreal and charming quality. For example there is a whole scene with Watson mumbling about a pea on his plate that had me in fits of laughter. 
Check it out here : Sherlock Holmes - Murder By Decree Pea Scene
"Yes but, squashing a fellas pea..." 
Don't you just love YouTube sometimes?
There are a couple of things that really bothered me about the whole thing, firstly the supernatural elements (the black eyes, Sutherland's 'psychic' character) were never explained and in Holmes novels traditionally, even when dealing with supposedly weird and other worldly things, they are always revealed to be a hoax and clever trickery in the end, even if the explanation is a little thin. Secondly, the script, specifically in the characterisation of Holmes, seems to portray him as a bit of cocky smug bastard with a vaguely ernest streak when it comes to nut cases and he never really seems to do any actual detecting. Although it's a cliche I always liked the scenes where Holmes would explain that a man had recently returned from India, owns a ginger pussy cat, likes billiards and had Wheaty Crunch for breakfast all because of the observation of some slightly reddish dirt on the cuff at the bottom of his trousers, if you take that out of the equation and, like this film sadly does, always have Holmes running off from Watson, why make him Sherlock Holmes at all?
So it wasn't as joyous or interesting a viewing as I had remembered the film being in my childhood, where any mention of Mr.Holmes would have me bouncing in a flurry of excitement and From Hell, apart from Heather Graham's unforgivable accent, is a better examination of the conspiracy theory in general but the movie does have its moments. The spooky horse and carriage through the mist scenes are particularly evocatively shot, the humour and stilted acting are fantastic, it was good to see some actual gore used a little and the over-all, boys own adventure nature of it all was fine. Also, Donald Sutherland has never been more ridiculous looking and therefor more perfect.
6 out of 10 plates of blasted peas
Points from The Wife 5 out of 10 plates of blasted squashed peas

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