Thursday, August 04, 2016

Ripper in Colour

Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper. How hasn't anyone thought of it before? Well, of course it has been thought of, more than once, but never with such jollity as 1965's A Study in Terror. I doubt there's a movie about a Jack the Ripper with a sprightlier tone. To say it undermines the tension and comes off extremely awkward would be an understatement. And yet, John Neville makes a delightful Sherlock Holmes and Anthony Quayle is wonderful in a supporting role.

I don't think I've ever seen Sherlock Holmes in anything so cheerful as this shiny, double breasted waistcoat. No grim and foggy Victorian London here, this movie dwells in bright colours and is quite charmed by its prostitutes.

Every prostitute is gorgeous with perfect skin and hair and with personalities like the quirky, promiscuous supporting character on a sitcom. Barbara Windsor plays Ripper victim Annie Chapman as a guileless sweetheart who's gently rebuffed by a few fellows at the slaughterhouse.

None of the murders are shown or described in much detail. Knowing anything about them going in--for instance, by having read From Hell--makes all the glee and disposable humour seem kind of manic. But it's hard not to respond to a twinkle in John Neville's eye and Anthony Quayle's moralistic Scottish police surgeon is oddly captivating.

The film comes up with an identity for the Ripper. The puzzle Holmes solves to find it out isn't as clever as anything Conan Doyle thought up but the film does use a pretty effective red herring.

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