A Study in Terror is not the type of film I would usually watch; the only time I ever really watch films from as far back as the sixties is when I go round to my grand parents’ house and my Grandad has Channel 5 on on a Sunday afternoon (which is usually a standard John Wayne film). However, this one caught my attention as it puts together two of the most intriguing characters in British history: the great detective Sherlock Holmes and the infamous murderer Jack the Ripper.

This particular drama tells the story of Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) and Dr. John Watson (Donald Houston) who’s interest is peaked in the Whitechapel prostitute murderers when they receive an intriguing package through the post. And once in Whitechapel Holmes uses those famous skills of deduction to uncover, track down and apprehend Jack the Ripper who is loose on the streets.

In my opinion, the most important thing in a Sherlock Holmes adaptation is that the relationship is portrayed correctly by the two main actors and in this sense, it really is. You get sense of the friendship, comradery and respect that the two men have for one another although the homoerotic undertones of their relationship is scrapped from A Study in Terror (something Guy Ritchie’s most recent films have had fun with). Neville and Houston speed up the pace of the film once they arrive in London and it is much needed after a slow start; their dialogue is well written and well delivered even though it seems like most of it is Watson just asking Holmes how he figured something out and then Holmes just detailing how much smarter he is than everyone else over and over again.

Their are appearances from other Arthur Conan Doyle characters which is a nice turn up with Inspector Lestrade (Frank Finlay) and Mycroft Holmes (Robert Morley) showing up. It is interesting to see these fiction characters mixed up in real events with a young Barbara Windsor playing Annie Chapman, a real life victim of Jack the Ripper. Although when her character gets killed off their is a little part of you that is pleased because it means you don’t have to hear her squeaky, really really annoying, mouse-like voice any more!

And speaking of the killings, those are the most intense parts of the movie. For a film that was made in the 60s the violence is awfully real and the murders by Jack the Ripper are really quite horrible, with the fight scenes also feeling rather realistic so hats off there. Unfortunately though, the period of production does show through with the over the top acting and the really melodramatic feel to it all which is a flaw to a great concept. The murder mystery element is handled averagely as well, with twists and turns coming late on but some are rather too obvious to cause any great sense of revelation and it feels as though, at times, A Study in Terror is trying to feed you clues without actually wanting to. It’s all very conflicted.

Overall, a great idea with good characters at the centre of the piece but sometimes a bit slow and dull unfortunately. Worth a watch on a rainy afternoon if there is nothing else on.

My Rating: 5/10.

Advertisements