Murder By Decree (1979)

One from the to watch pile…
Murder By Decree (1979)

The cover to the Australian Umbrella release of Murder by Decree


Film: This is one of those strange films that I am SURE I must have seen. Surely during the 80s or 90s whilst in a channel hopping mood I must have stopped on this film. I imagine I wouldn’t have just paused but instead stopped once I realised that what I was watching was not just a Sherlock Holmes film, but a Holmes vs Jack the Ripper film!!

Now that I am a more refined and educated film fan, I now would stop for SO many other reasons. First, this film has a screen play by John Hopkins, who also did the Bond film Thunderball. 

Next, directed by Bob Clark! Film fans should know this name as the director of Porkys!, but more importantly to horror fans, Deathdream, Black Christmas and Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things!

Then the cast; oh, the cast! the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Christopher Plummer, North By Northwest’s James Mason, Deep Red’s David Hemmings, Lifeforce’s Frank Finlay, Invasion of the Body Snatcher’s Donald Sutherland, Dead Ringers’ Genevieve Bujold and let’s not forget Sir John Gielgud!!! I imagine any director of the 70s would have been swooning over such an amazing cast!!

James Mason and Christopher Plummer


The film tells of 1800’s London, during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, when a group of concerned storekeepers approach Sherlock Holmes (Plummer) and his faithful, long-suffering cohort Dr. Watson (Mason) to assist in the hunt for the Ripper even though the police, including Inspector Foxborough (Hemmings) would wish him to have nothing to do with it.

Holmes continues the investigation regardless of the constabulary’s objections, and in doing so comes across all sorts of odd-bodkins, such as a psychic (Sutherland) and a conspiracy that leads all the way to the prime minister of England, and even royalty itself!!

There’s been many translations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character on TV, in comics and on the big screen but in my opinion this is one of the better ones. Christopher Plummer plays Holmes with an amazing sense of subtlety, not like more modern translations where he’s more a combination of of an idiot savant and a member of a boy band, and it’s a mature portrayal. His relationship with the far more sensible Dr Watson is understated and whilst frustrating for Watson, there is and underlying sense of friendship between the two that is played skilfully by our veteran actors.

The leads skill has a trickle down effect as the ensemble cast all play their parts with an equal amount of gusto, and it makes the story convincing and thoroughly engaging.

The Amazing Follicles of Donald Sutherland


Essentially, this film, even though not Sherlock Holmes cannon, it still really feels like a proper Holmes story, and the combination of Clark’s direction and the aforementioned cast’s convincing portrayals of the characters make this happen. If I am to criticise this film for anything it is a trifle overlong, and sags here and there.
Score: ****

Sir John Gielgud


Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Umbrella Entertainment region 4 DVD release of the film, which runs for approximately 124 minutes is presented in a clean, but average 1.77:1 image with a matching 2.0 audio track.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Absolutely none! Not even a menu screen!!

Score: 0

WISIA: The quality of the actors involved make this definitely a rewatcher.

Doctor Strange (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Doctor Strange (2016) Review


Film: Disney and its Marvel movies: that unstoppable juggernaut that is telling one gigantic tale. The series of films that as they go on, people who are behind need to spend even more time attempting to catch up. The series of films that some blindly follow as if they are the ultimate form of cinematic storytelling. The series of films that will eventually implode due to either the fact that no viewer will want to accept a replacement Tony Stark or Steve Rogers (when the actors get too old to play them), that the weight of how many films you need to watch becomes inconceivable or just cinema moves on and away from superhero movies.

… and don’t think that won’t happen: it has before! Ask all those failed superhero films that fell apart, or worse, failed at the box office, after 1989’s Batman. I still to this day wish that the Plastic Man film with Paul Ruebens had been made!

To their credit, I have enjoyed most of them, but noticed some of them have been shoehorned into the series for no reason other than to introduce the character, which I feel the first Thor was like, and others have had their inclusion in the Marvel Universe forced upon us, like the ‘Falcon’ scene in Ant-man. I do have to admit to getting a minor twinge of excitement when I watch them though, having been a lifelong comics reader.

Doctor Strange was one film I was quite interested to see how it would pan out. The visual style of the early comics, especially those drawn by Steve Ditko were going to be a MAJOR part of how the film should look, but they were so way out, and so revolutionary in their art design that I couldn’t actually perceive how it would translate to cinema.


Thankfully, they managed to pull that part of the design off, but I found another few problems within the film. Much like the movies, the comic of Doctor Strange, invented by comic legend Stan Lee and the aforementioned artist Ditko, was invented to show a more mystical side of the Marvel Universe after so much had been science based, like mutations, or radiation.

Our story introduces us to pompous blowhard surgeon Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who whilst driving, and picking and choosing which medical case he should help to further his career, has an accident which destroys his hands.

He spends his fortune on trying to get them rebuilt so they can be used again, but instead finds salvation in a place that a skeptical man of science wouldn’t: spiritualism.

He meets a man who’s irreparable backbone is seemingly fixed and he attributed it to the teachings of the citizens of Kamar-Taj, and so Strange journeys to Kathmandu hoping for a quick fix, but what he finds is that the teachings of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) do much more for him than just fix his hands.

Strange is a quick and cheeky student and quickly is caught up in a skirmish within Kamar-Taj’s ranks when renegade student Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) steals pages from a mystical book so he can destroy the barrier between the astral planes letting the ancient being Dormammu (also played by Cumberbatch) take control.

Strange, along with disciples of the Ancient One, Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong) band together to try and stop Kaecilius, but will they all survive the time-bending will of this being from another dimension? Only the end of the film will know for sure!

This being a Marvel film, don’t forget to stray for two post credit sequences, one which reveals this film’s link to the rest of the Marvel films, and also a revelation as to whom may be Strange’s villain in a sequel, should it come about…

I had high hopes for this film as Strange has always been an amazing comic, so visually exciting that I couldn’t wait to see how it would be executed. The initial trailers depressed me as all I could see was a visual rip off of Inception, but I’m glad to say that those thoughts were abated by the actual film. 


There was a lot to like in this film. The cast, for the most part, play their parts well, and the production design is fantastic, and I have to say that to not have the ending being a gigantic slugfest, but instead something more cerebral was a nice change for a superhero film. The inclusion of Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, one of the three main characters from a brief seventies comic called Night Nurse, is pretty cool. Mads Mikkelson and Benedict Wong both deserve a mention too as their performances are excellent.

The special effects are particularly amazing. I love how Marvel films push the envelope and really explore every technical thing they can do, and can’t do yet, to get the visual comic-ness happening in the film.

My criticisms of this film lies in only one area, but it repeatedly took me out of being ‘in’ the film: Cumberbatch’s American accent. My wife used to be a big fan of the TV series House, but I couldn’t stand it for one reason: Hugh Laurie’s awful American accent, and I feel Cumberbatch’s accent is similar here. It feels like a parody of the accent rather than an ‘actual’ cinematic American accent. That may seem petty, but every time he opened his mouth I was reminded that he was a British actor playing an American, and being removed from the roller coaster ride of a film so regularly makes it difficult to enjoy. That inability to maintain my suspension of disbelief made the film somewhat of a chore to watch. That may seem petty, but it was like being repeated interupted during the film, and I just had trouble investing my full attention into it due to that.

Overall I enjoyed the story of the film, but I couldn’t get INTO it due to the accent factor I mentioned above. I like to be absorbed by a film, and this didn’t do it for me.

Score: **


Format: As one would expect from a modern film on bluray, this looks magnificent. This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray, which runs for approximately 114 minutes and is presented in 2.39: 1 image with an outstanding DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: As expected on a Marvel Studios disc, there’s more extras than you can poke a stick at!

There’s a bunch of featurettes including which explore the creation of the film: A Strange Transformation (which looks at the character of Doctor Strange himself), Strange Company (an exploration of the co-stars), The Fabric of Reality (looks at the costuming and production design of the film), Across Time and Space (more production design but now with the more dimensional aspects of the Strange world) and The Score-cerer Supreme (obviously, about the score to the film as created by Michael Giacchino). These featurettes can be watched separately or as a whole, which I think is a far better way to watch it.

Marvel Studios Phase 3 Exclusive Look explores where the Marvel films have come from, their impressive ability to make one story from different titles (which, like I mentioned, could also be there downfall), and where they are going to upon entering phase 3.

Team Thor Part 2 is an amusing look at what Thor has been doing whilst ‘off duty’ which is basically being a bum and torturing his flat mate in Australia.

Deleted and Extended Scenes features 5 scenes not seen in the film, my favourite being Strange meeting Daniel Drumm, who Marvel fans will not as being the brother of Brother Voodoo, the 70s horror character, and one time Sorcerer Supreme. Typically, none of these scenes move the story forward so the film is better or without them.

As using there is a Marvel gag reel, which is professional actors screwing around. Hilarious.

We also have a pretty cool commentary with Scott Derrickson, the director of the film, and it’s one of those interesting commentaries where the director is quite invested in the project.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ll probably only watch it again if I binge watch the entire Marvel catalogue, otherwise, probably not.