A STUDY IN TERROR (director: James Hill; screenwriters: Donald Ford/Derek Ford/based on the characters of Arthur Conan Doyle; cinematographer: Desmond Dickinson; editor: Henry Richardson; music: John Scott; cast: John Neville (Sherlock Holmes), Donald Houston (Doctor John Watson), John Fraser (Lord Carfax), Anthony Quayle (Doctor Murray), Barbara Windsor (Annie Chapman), Adrienne Corri (Angela Osborne), Frank Finlay (Inspector Lestrade), Judi Dench (Sally Young), Charles Regnier (Joseph Beck), Cecil Parker (Prime Minister), Georgia Brown (Singer), Barry Jones (Duke of Shires), Robert Morley (Mycroft Holmes), Peter Carsten (Max Steiner), John Fraser (Lord Carfax); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Henry E. Lester; Columbia; 1965-UK)
“The horror/suspense tale looks good in Technicolor and art director Alex Vetchinsky creates an atmospheric smoky Whitechapel setting.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Sherlock Holmes (John Neville, accomplished stage and screen actor) and his associate Dr. Watson (Donald Houston) search for the Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper in this violent “adult” thriller. It leans to exploitation with all the bloody lurid shocking murders, as director James Hill (“The Kitchen”/”Lunch Hour”/”The Belstone Fox”) contrasts a competent cast with stilted dialogue in a somewhat awkward production that never becomes involving (there was no cause to care for the undeveloped vics). But the horror/suspense tale looks good in Technicolor and art director Alex Vetchinsky creates an atmospheric smoky Whitechapel setting.
It’s written by Derek and Donald Ford, a pair of Brit writers known for exploitation screenplays. They’re responsible for writing the atrocious ghost story The Black Torment (1964) and the exploitative The Yellow Teddy Bears (1963).The screenplay was not based on any of the Doyle stories
In 1888, we witness the gory murder of three prostitutes in the nighttime streets of the Whitechapel section of London (the red light district). The press dubs the unknown killer on the loose “Jack the Ripper.” Master sleuth Sherlock Holmes enters the case when he receives a package containing a box of surgical instruments from which a scalpel is missing. Aided by sidekick Dr. Watson, Holmes traces the instruments to the home of the Duke of Shires (Barry Jones) and learns that they were once belonged to the duke’s elder son, Michael Osborne. Holmes will eventually learn that the duke’s younger son, Lord Carfax (John Fraser), has been paying blackmail to surly Whitechapel pub owner Max Steiner (Peter Carsten) to conceal Michael’s marriage in order to preserve the family honor. The secret kept was that Michael, now an imbecile, was disowned for marrying a prostitute, Angela (Adrienne Corri). The disfigured whore in the third act is located by Holmes. In the conclusion, Holmes names the serial killer to Watson but not the public, as the killer is burned to death in a pub fire and Holmes sees no reason to drag the family’s name through the mud.
Overall I found the production ineffective, as it never came together as solid drama and fails to satisfy Holmes purists. Though some might get a kick out of Robert Morley’s portrayal as Sherlock’s politician brother, helping in the investigation.
REVIEWED ON 1/2/2010 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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