London. 1888. The camera pans across the rooftops to the Thames and in a foggy street in the Whitechapel District, few venture forth. A horse and cart and the occasional local, a dog barking somewhere in the gloom. Hurrying through a narrow back-street, a woman looks behind her fearfully. Frantically, she knocks on a door. Crossing the street, a Constable walks his beat. And there is the carriage. Emerging from the nebulous haze, a masked coachman sits mutely as his passenger alights onto the damp flags...
The Royal Opera House; that most prestigious of venues for society's elite. Outside, the carriages of the nobility of Europe and prominent politicians await their masters. Tonight's performance is Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia. Inside, Sherlock Holmes taps out his pipe, remarking to his friend Doctor John Watson that there seems to be an excessive delay. Ruffled by his colleague's tone, Watson responds that they are waiting for the Prince of Wales and cannot begin until his arrival. Holmes, however, is not so impressed by title; 'Punctuality, my dear fellow – punctuality.' Watson cautions Holmes against criticising the future King. Never fellows to dwell on a disagreement, the two companions share a joke at Lestrade's expense. Finally, Princess Alexandria enters the Royal Box, to enthusiastic applause, followed by Albert Edward himself. The Prince's reception is not so warm, with the hoi-polloi in the gods booing and hurling abuse at the personage. Watson is appalled, but Holmes asserts that if the Prince wants more respect, he should conuct his affairs with more discretion. Staunch as ever, Watson claps and starts a cry of 'God save His Royal Highness!' which is taken up by the crowd. Eventually, the Royalists win, the socialists being out-numbered. The Prince signifies his gratitude with a small bow towards Watson. The Princess beaming her own thanks as the national anthem is played.
|CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER is SHERLOCK HOLMES|
His breath coming in excited gasps, the killer walks through the darkened streets looking for his prey. Stepping along into an alleyway between the tenements of this terrible slum, his footsteps echo on the fog. Pausing at a yard, he looks to the left before resuming his search. Time enough, no need for haste. Reaching the end of the alley, we see a glimpse of the killer's eyes, pupils narrowed unnaturally with enlarged irises of a dark and malevolent kind. It is a glimpse into Hell. He stands, waiting, beside a police poster offering a reward for his capture. A woman, short and frail walks to her front door. She dies at her front door; frenzied hands far stronger than she choking the life from her.
|DR.WATSON is played by JAMES MASON|
Two pamphleteers rush to meet the crowd leaving the Opera House; the evening editions have excelled themselves. The murder in Whitechapel sends ripples through the shocked crowd as they pay their pennies. Watson buys a copy and Holmes follows him out to hail a cab.* They take an open carriage, which prompts Watson to comment that no-body uses an open carriage in October and at night. 'I do.' Comes the amused reply. Watson notes this is the third murder; Annie Chapman, Polly Nichols and now this third, as yet unidentified victim. Pithily, Holmes remarks there's not been much chance to study the evidence; no-one has asked him. Watson is at a loss to explain why Scotland Yard have not followed their customary practice in perplexing cases and consult Holmes. Sherlock has also been pondering this very question.
*For some reason, he wears deerstalker and Inverness cape; somewhat incongruous amongst the top hats and evening dress of the other patrons.
The carriage drops Holmes and Watson off at 221b Baker Street, where they soon spot a group of apparent ruffians waiting for them. Upstairs, Holmes cautions his friend not to light the gas – better to observe than to be observed. Is this some case of Holmes'?. It is not. The bell rings and there are five, perhaps more of them outside. Watson volunteers to go down, but Holmes cannot resist a joke; are these outraged husbands, perhaps?. Going down, Watson does not see the funny side. Opening the door, Watson is politely asked if he is Sherlock Holmes. Calling down, Holmes invites the men up, at which the leader gives the nod for two men to remain on guard at the door.
Turning on the gas, Holmes illuminates that most instantly familiar of chambers; the walls lined with exotic artefacts and weaponry, bookshelves and pipes. On two levels, the table of chemical experiments sits below the consulting area to the front, the whole comfortably furnished as befits two gentlemen of professional stature. Selecting a calabash, Holmes greets his clients. Doffing his cap, the spokesman for the group introduces them as the 'Citizens Committee'. His name is Makins, the others are Lanier and Carroll. Holmes enquires about the others outside and Makins apologises for any upset. Lighting his pipe, the detective asks the purpose of the Committee. They want the killer stopped and brought to justice. Lanier adds that if it were the West End and rich women being attacked... Makins cuts him off to inform Holmes they all have shops in Whitechapel. It's ok if you trade on the main road, but otherwise? - no-one feels safe off the beaten path. Holmes can see the problem. Carroll speaks up, telling Holmes they might as well shut up shop until this bloke is caught and put away – which is never if they wait for the Police, according to Lanier. Distracted with his pipe, Holmes promises to consider taking the case and asks Watson to see the men out. Pausing by the door, Makins asks when they can expect to hear; 'Soon', promises the detective, asking them to leave an address where they may be contacted with Doctor Watson.
Alone, Holmes remarks on the reluctance of 'These merchant chaps' to advertise themselves. Watson, however is concerned with Holmes' lack of enthusiasm – finding his attitude almost rude. Finally, Holmes agrees to make a start in the morning. Finding one of his syringes bent, the Doctor berates his friend for using it to clean out his pipes, but Holmes is already lost in thought, pondering the problems and the possible solutions to the problem at hand.
Again the black coach traverses the streets. Lolling in a stupor, the woman is an unfortunate. Spotting a potential patron, she approaches him, only to be rudely rebuffed. Angrily, she calls after him as a coach draws up, the driver masked by his scarf. The passenger asks if she is alone and invites her in. It's not safe on the streets... the coach recedes into the fog, to be swallowed up as if it never was.
Meanwhile, at 221b, the sound of furious fiddling from the darkened front room as, trying to ignore the noise, Watson sits up in bed leafing through a book. Giving up the unequal battle, he blows out his candle and turns in.
Through the London fog, the dark horse is pulled up to allow the passenger to complete his grisly work. Hefting the body of his latest victim, he takes it to a convenient place to continue what he has begun, his hands already streaked with her blood.
Gently, Sherlock Holmes wakes his friend from his slumber. There's a cab waiting, the game's afoot with no time to lose. Blearily, Watson asks what is it – an anonymous message advising them of another murder.
Flashpowder flaring, the police photographer does his duty before Inspector Lestrade covers the body. Watching, his face set grimly, is Inspector Foxborough. A small crowd has already gathered when news of Sherlock Holmes' arrival is passed to the Inspectors. Indeed, both Holmes and Watson are amongst the throng, Holmes noting the interest of a young woman who appears both frightened and intensely preoccupied by his presence. Lestrade greets Holmes with evident pleasure, introducing Foxborough. Walking with Lestrade, Holmes observes Lestrade is having trouble with the case. The Inspector tells Holmes of the stories around the murders; people think he is in league with the devil, has the ability to appear and disappear and so forth. Inspector Foxborough warns Doctor Watson to brace himself, pulling back the sheet to reveal the victim's corpse. A medical veteran of Afghanistan has surely seen all there is to be seen of death and horror, yet Watson has to gulp back his abhorrence at the wretched sight before him. Through an iron effort of will, Holmes manages to remain focused on the details of the case. Was the body in this posture when found?. Yes. And the internal organs?. Watson wants no part of this, but the great detective must have answers!. The other body had it's throat cut, but no more, which Lestrade attributes to the killer being disturbed before he could remove the organs. Suddenly, Holmes' eye is drawn to something on the cobblestones and he picks up a grape stalk. Most curious...
Next comes the arrival of Sir. Charles Warren, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, churlishly demanding to know who called Holmes. Inspector Foxborough assumed Holmes was here at his invitation, but rudely the Commissioner declares he has no use for this sort of 'bloody amateur.' Pouring scorn on Holmes' self-professed status as a Consulting Detective Sir. Charles' boorish insults are as water from a duck's back. Holmes smoothly disengages himself, beckoning Watson to follow him in pursuit of the mystery woman. As they trail her, Watson asks who it was that just abused Holmes. On receiving an explanation he recalls the 'Bloody Sunday' Trafalgar Square riots of the previous year, adding that in his view Warren was as much to blame as the rioters. However, there is something far more pressing, if Watson could restrain his indignation.
A Constable treading his beat in Goulston Street kneels, his bullseye lantern shining on an object in a dark passageway.
It is a piece of bloody cloth, perhaps from an apron. Investigating further, he finds some graffito scrawled in chalk upon the wall.
THE JUWES ARE NOT
THE MEN THAT WILL BE
BLAMED FOR NOTHING
He never notices the two shadows sneaking away behind him. Later, the Constable shines his torch for Sir. Charles and Inspectors Foxborough and Lestrade. The latter is arguing vehemently for the graffito to be preserved. But the Commissioner orders it to be removed, claiming he is concerned Jews will be attacked as a result. Even Lestrade's idea to cover up the words isn't acceptable. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police grabs a handkerchief and erases the evidence of a murder himself, to the dismay of his Inspectors.
The crepuscular light of the early evening dimly illumines the Embankment and the famous view across the mist-shrouded Thames to the Palace of Westminster and the Clock Tower, a horse-drawn van jerkily crossing Westminster Bridge. The last light is above Baker Street too and a restless Holmes who walks over to the dinner table as Watson laments the newspapers will have the city in a panic. Holmes asks his companion if he noticed a woman at the (Catherine Eddowes) murder site. Watson is engrossed in his attempts to spear the last pea on his fork. There was, Holmes, recalls a singularly haunting quality about her, like some wild creature... cornered. Taking Watson's fork, he squashes the pea with it, ending his game. Sullenly, Watson states his displeasure at the demise of his pea; he likes them whole, so he can feel them pop in his mouth. A knock; Mrs. Hudson, the landlady with a telegram. The boy didn't wait for an answer. Opening it, Holmes finds an invitation to meet at the Elizabeth Wharf.
Water lapping gently, the lantern below the Wharf is hidden as the two adventurers arrive. Finding the place apparently deserted, they step onto the decking, Watson speculating this to be a hoax. Rowing beneath them, their informant speaks up; he couldn't commit this to a telegram. They spot the lantern below and the mysterious rower calls up the name Robert James Lees of The Elms, Riverside Way. No sooner have the words been spoken than a tinkle of glass alerts them to the possibility of an eavesdropper. Holmes signals to Watson to investigate, but he fails to spot the be-cloaked figure hiding in the darkness, a drawn sword-stick ready to strike. Holmes calls his colleague back, however, as the anonymous boatman pulls away. Left high and dry, so to speak, the friends discuss this odd occurrence. Holmes didn't recognise the fellow, but the voice was familiar. And does Holmes know of Lees? - indeed, yes; the man has a reputation as a medium. Watson asks is that all he had to say?, as the hidden man listens intently, Holmes reveals the man said something extraordinary and that a fascinating piece of evidence has been uncovered. There isn't a moment to lose, but a night watchman approaches, armed with a boat-hook and sees them off, unimpressed by their names. As they leave, the interloper emerges at the top of steps while the unheralded informer re-appears to tie up. Makins looks up to see his own death approaching.
|HOLMES & WATSON.|
Returned to Baker Street, Watson wonders about the ridiculous manner used to pass a message. Working with pestle and mortar at his experimental table, Holmes replies the man didn't wish to be seen and informs Watson that they have been watched since they took the case. As a matter of fact, they are watching right now. Peering through the window reveals nothing to Watson, a jocular Holmes informing him the watcher won't show himself. They shall leave via the back garden to avoid detection. The doctor arms himself with his revolver, Holmes throws his scarf at a glass flask, causing it to shatter. The scarf is weighted, an old Thuggee trick as Watson observes. As they leave, Holmes nonchalantly throws the scarf about his neck, smashing more glass.
The East End of London and a deliveryman's cart rolls along steadily behind his horse, a ships horn calling mournfully from the nearby river whose fog competes with that of the capital's myriad factories. The fog provides useful cover now for Holmes and Watson as they examine the scene of the Goulston Street discovery. The writing has been thoroughly erased – at least that is, to the casual observer. Taking a brush and a bottle acid of from Watson, Holmes brushes the fuming agent onto the wall, urging Watson to note the message before the plaster absorbs the liquid.
Back at Baker Street, the message copied onto the blackboard, Holmes invites his ally to see what can be made of it. The Jews are responsible and will not be caught. Teasing out this line of reasoning from Watson, Holmes asks who wrote it. A Witness?; Watson's instinctive grasp of the obvious is invaluable!. Why not go to the police? - a man might use these crimes for his own purposes, some malign influence at work here. It is a two-pipe problem and Holmes would prefer to be alone.
|DONALD SUTHERLAND portrays ROBERT LEES.|
The next morning at the house of Robert Lees, a large villa in its own grounds, Holmes asks Mr. Lees what he knows of the Whitechapel murders. Followed anxiously by his wife, Lees settles his tall, lean frame into a chair before replying. His face gaunt with strain, Lees states he has seen the man known as Jack the Ripper. Watson rolls his eyes at this, but Holmes remains attentive. He was sitting here reading, when he was overwhelmed by a vision of a man and a young woman. He describes how he 'saw' the man reaching out to the woman, then the image shifted to a carriage. The man hurls the woman's mutilated body from the carriage. 'Did you not go to the Police?' Asks Holmes. Mrs. Lees replies they treated her husband as a lunatic. Holmes has seen stranger events. Mrs. Lees adds the following evening just such a murder took place. The woman's name was Annie Chapman. Watson scoffs, but Lees is not put off. He has seen the man again – this time in person!.
Robert Lees recalls how, in Abbey Street, he was on the omnibus with his wife. Being mid-day the streets were crowded with people and traffic, yet he had a feeling of unease. This feeling centred on a gentleman preparing to alight from the steps leading to the top deck. As the man exited the 'bus, Lees himself followed, compelled by some sixth sense. All that could be seen was the back of the man, in top hat, frock coat trimmed with fur and grey trousers as he hailed a cab. By now certain this was the Ripper, Lees hurried to where a Constable directed traffic. Not surprisingly, Lees was rebuffed. By the time Lees returns to where he saw the man, he is departing in a hansom.
Lees' account finished, Holmes is not satisfied, insisting Lees had seen more of the man. Before his host can reply, however, Inspector Foxborough breezes in informing Holmes Sir. Charles Warren requires his presence at once. Foxborough apologises to Mrs. Lees for the intrusion and Holmes thanks Mr. and Mrs. Lees for their hospitality.
Far from an interview in the comfortable surrounds of Scotland Yard, the Commissioner receives Holmes and Watson at the mortuary adjoining Whitechapel infirmary. The body of Makins identified, Sir. Charles challenges Holmes to deny he was in the man's employ. 'I am in my own employ, Sir – this man and others enquired after my services; I have given them no reply as yet.' This impertinence rouses the Commissioner to fury. 'Don't play games with me, Holmes – you're running with the foxes.' Smoothly, Holmes retorts that he was well aware Makins was a radical, a revolutionary. Watson is aghast, but Sir. Charles is triumphant; Holmes admits his part in their conspiracy!. Their treason!. 'Damn nonsense' exclaims Watson, asking the Commissioner to explain himself, Holmes, however remains sanguine. He infers Sir. Charles means to arrest him, to which Watson is astounded; arrest Sherlock Holmes for treason!. Not treason – murder.
Fortunately, the arrival of the dock watchman gives Holmes and Watson time to examine the fatal wound. Holmes determines it was indeed a swordstick. Watson asks why radicals would hire a detective to catch a madman. Why indeed?. Why deliver the information in such bizarre fashion? Also, who killed Makin and why?. Watson has another question; how did he know they were radicals?. Holmes made enquiries in Whitechapel, also Makin's false deference and Lanier's evident scorn for the wealthy gave it away. Foxborough interrupts them with the news they are free, but Sir. Charles wants them in his office at once. The Inspector warns Holmes not to provoke the Commissioner, then tips him the wink that Sir. Charles has many 'secret friends.'
In his office at Scotland Yard, Sir. Charles is in abrasive mood, storming across to warn Holmes off, he stops short as Holmes engages in the most peculiar behaviour. Standing erect, left hand extended palm up he places the other across it, palm down. Next, he raises the edge of his right hand across his throat before extending the hand downward, thumb and little finger extended. Flummoxed, Watson can only look on as the Commissioner follows suit with the last gesture, hooking his little finger around Holmes', thumbs and knuckles touching. A Masonic handshake. Before Sir. Charles can react, Holmes snatches the signet ring from his little finger, apologising for the sleight of hand. Apparently of plain gold, the central panel of the ring rotates to reveal a Masonic emblem. What is this mumbo-jumbo?, Holmes answers Watson's question; both handshake and ring belong to the 33rd Degree of the Secret order of Freemasons.
Indignant, Sir. Charles takes back his ring, responding that they are not a secret order. Holmes doesn't see the distinction as while their existence is known, their rituals and membership are closely guarded. Which is why, he adds, the Commissioner removed the writing from the wall. Hiding behind his office, Sir. Charles insists he is responsible for the safety of the people of the city and their right to go safely about their business. His face tight with the effort of control, Holmes asks if that includes the right to murder and mutilate. This is too much for the Commissioner, who erupts. 'You fool!. Jews would have been slaughtered in the streets if I had not had those words removed.' Somewhat calmer, he asks Holmes if he knows the current fashionable theory of a jewish blood ritual, with prostitutes being sacrified to god. Jewish families and businesses were at risk from those words. Holmes is having none of it, stating the words had nothing to do with Jews. To the Commissioner's mounting horror, the detective reveals his knowledge extends to the rituals and lore of Freemasonry. The words were removed to protect freemasons, the 'Juwes' are from his own order of masons!.
Weakly, Sir. Charles protests that they are a benevolent society, but again Holmes makes a masonic sign including the drawing of the hand diagonally across the body from heart to appendix. Realising the calibre of man he is facing – a man intimately familiar with the most secret of signs and rituals – anger rises again in the Commissioner. He insults Holmes, telling him this is not the sort of sordid business he is used to meddling with, warning him he does so at great risk to himself and ending the interview with a terse 'Good day.' The Commissioner nods to Watson, who returns it and the two take their leave of Sir. Charles Warren. No sooner have they left than a man enters; none other than Home Secretary Henry Matthews. Sir. Charles says simply 'You see?.' and the two regard the door with expressions that do not bode well for a 'meddling detective.'
The mood at Baker Street is convivial. Pouring a glass of port, Watson hands one to Sherlock, remarking on the extraordinary gesticulations he made to Sir. Charles and noting at least it shut him up. Holmes remarks he doesn't know which concerned the Commissioner more; his knowing the secret signs or the fact he might have been a Mason. Perhaps superfluously, Holmes explains the signs are used by Freemasons establishing rank. But how are the Masons involved?. Rising, Holmes tells his companion whoever wrote that message was a Mason. Either that, or a man like himself who has studied their practices. Elucidating on this, he reveals the Juwes were three men who murdered the master builder of Solomon's temple. Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum. Presumably Jubilee couldn't make it. Watson is impressed at Sherlock's knowledge, the detective continuing the story. When brought before the great King, Jubela saying 'O that my throat had been cut across.' Jubelo said 'O that my left breast had been torn open, my heart and vittals taken and thrown over my left shoulder.' Jubelum, however wanted his body 'Severed, in the midst.' Grasping the significance, Watson realises the poor woman had been mutilated in just such a fashion. Assuming this indeed to have Masonic significance, in what way were the women involved?. Cryptically, Holmes responds; 'Well, ask them.' expanding that he means to ask their friends. For a moment, Watson feared Holmes was going the same way as Robert Lees. Smiling, Holmes tells Watson that he will be making the enquiries whilst Holmes ingratiates himself with Lees.
The chimney sweep trudging the alley alongside Riverside Way, bent beneath the weight of his brushes has the cough so prevalent among veterans of his trade. Hawking and coughing, he reaches The Elms and greets the Constable posted outside with a cheery 'Morning, Guv.' Opening the door to the filthy creature, the housekeeper tells him she wasn't expecting a sweep. He tells her to fetch the lady of the house, which request she refuses. It is to no avail as he pushes rudely past. Mrs. Lees appears at the stair and demands to know what is going on, to which Holmes – for it is he! - addresses her by name, apologising for troubling her in such a manner. Removing his false moustaches and nose, he reveals he adopted the guise to spare her husband further inconvenience. Mrs. Lees is outraged, but Holmes reveals it is her he came to see, and if she allows it, to speak briefly with her husband.
Mrs. Lees – 'You see the danger you have put him in –
and he has nothing to do with this.'
Holmes – 'Yes, and I will abide by your decision...
but I say one thing...
Mrs. Lees – 'I will not be swayed, Mister Holmes.'
Holmes – 'If your husband can help me find this man –
and prevent any more of these atrocious crimes -
do you have the right to deny me?.'
Mrs. Lees - (turns away to fetch her husband.)
In his chair, his wife's hand a comfort upon his shoulder, Robert Lees speaks. They were at dinner, at home when suddenly he knew the killer had struck again. He went to the police, who were more inclined to listen this time. He was able to give them details no-one could have known. The police asked him to track the murderer from the scene of the crime. He was taken by Inspector Foxborough to a site near a bridge, but could find no image of the man he was after there. They gave him a piece of a dress; again, he could find no sense of him. It was then the Inspector handed him something quite trivial. Astutely, Holmes infers this to be the stem from a bunch of grapes. Surprised by this, Lees asks how Holmes knows this, but the detective evades the question, stating that he was then able to sense the man.
Mr. Lees was indeed able to see him, as if he was there, even to follow the spectre. He led Foxborough to a grand house, a private coach waiting outside the front entrance. The Inspector remarked that it was impossible, but Lees strode forth anyway and Foxborough spoke with the owner of the property. This gentleman was, not surprisingly, unimpressed and suggested they leave. Holmes' keen insight has focused on the reluctance of his host to name the gentleman to whose house he went; Sir. Charles' influence, no doubt. Mrs. Lees explains that Sir. Charles threatened her husband, in his own home. Looking into Mr. Lees' eyes, Holmes face is kind as he states he cannot expect him to break his word. Lees then tells Holmes he has the strongest intuition concerning him, sensing some danger, close and threatening. His face becoming sombre, the detective admits he has some sense of this himself.
The streets of Whitechapel are thronged with tradesmen, workmen, soldiers and house-wives buying their produce and household goods. At the Christian Mission, the downtrodden and luckless of the borough queue for their meal. A group of demi-mondaines discuss the terror abroad in the area with the newspaper reporter – Watson – who claims to be writing about Polly Nichols. One of the girls warns him not to write anything bad about Polly, which he assures her is not the intent. It seems to him that a good deal more is written about the killer than the victims. Watching this from another table, is the young woman Holmes saw at the murder site. Another, altogether more unsavoury character is also looking on, a surly fellow who makes to leave.
As Watson asks if Polly was friends with any of the other women, the girls grow silent, apart from one talkative soul who advises him to talk to Mary – Mary Kelly. Asking where he can find this Kelly, the 'reporter' is interrupted by a coarse voice from an adjacent table, a woman who says he won't find her around here, calling Kelly a 'toffee-nosed slut.' She calls him over to tell more, but one of the other girls sidles past, elbowing her viciously and telling her to keep her mouth shut. Spotting a potential piece of business, the girl engages in a spot of advertising, assuring Watson she has all her own teeth and inviting him to inspect them. Her demeanour changes somewhat when she discovers one of her teeth is loose. Watson is fascinated by this display of harlot's dentistry and quite forgets his purpose for a moment. Fortifying his intentions, he attempts to resume the interrogation and ignore the hand wandering along his thigh. She tells him this isn't the place and they leave.
|A PUBLICITY SHOT OF CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER.|
On the busy streets, the woman leads Watson across to a tall wooden gate leading to an alleyway. She tells him if he wants Mary Kelly, she will take him to her. Foolishly, Watson agrees – the Doctor not being from the 'college of the streets.' Distracting Watson from any nerves he may be feeling at such an obvious trap, she tells him she reckons toffs come down here just to talk about the Ripper. Resuming his enquiry about Mary Kelly elicits a bored look as the tart admits she doesn't know any such person, whistling for her 'minder'. Sure enough, it's the surly fellow from the mission, robbery and blackmail foremost in his mind. The blackmail attempt is as sordid as it is predictable – pay up or I tell your wife. Unimpressed, Watson goes to see what the police make of it, blowing his police whistle loudly to summon a constable. The pimp makes a run for it, but Watson's days on the field have not been in vain and he tackles the brute, hurling him to ground to pin him by the throat with his walking stick. This is all to the disgust of the girl, who folds her arms and exclaims 'Oh, Danny...'. Two constables arrive and, quick as silver, the brassy hussy declares Watson is Jack the Ripper. They had best arrest him or she'll scream and bring a mob. Watson's life would be endangered and one of the officers warns her against such a course. However, they decide to take Watson to the station. As he is led past the girl, she can't resist jibing 'Serves you right, you old fart.' Her victory is, however short-lived as she is taken along too, followed by her would-be minder.
Through his magnifying lens, Holmes examines the stem of grapes, smoking his pipe as he does so. Snipping a sample, he places it beneath his microscope for further analysis. He consults a botanical text book for reference as he considers the origin of the grapes.
It is some time later the next day, when the door to Watson's cell is opened and Sherlock Holmes walks in with a laugh and a smile to relieve his friend of the tedium of custody. Thoroughly enjoying his charge's predicament, Lestrade is there to release the prisoner into Holmes' custody. He urges Holmes to take his friend home and ensure he doesn't get into further mischief. As they leave, Lestrade is laughing out loud. So too, in the carriage Holmes; unable to contain his jocularity at the indignant Watson. To the Doctor's dismay, Holmes simply cannot restrain himself from uproarious laughter. Back at 221b, however, the business of investigation resumes apace. Writing the name of Mary Kelly upon the board, Watson cannot help, but think the woman who gave him so much trouble had even heard of the former.
A rudimentary diagram has been set out attempting to link locales with victims. Although the crimes are relatively distant, the women all were habitués of a tavern in Dorset Street. Liz Stride, known as 'Long Liz' due to her height, was living with a man in Dorset Street. Surely this can be no co-incidence, women living so close and known among each other?. Beaming, Holmes praises this ratiocination, observing that Watson has excelled himself. Making to leave, Holmes has another task for his colleague; to find the house of the man indicated by Lees. He is sure the man is a physician – and has left a list of possible streets on his desk for Watson's perusal. Watson's protest at separating is met with the sound reasoning that, together they are simply too conspicuous. Holmes is to pay his last respects to Catherine Eddowes...
The bells toll at the Anglican chapel at the City of London cemetery as, led by piper and drummers, the hearse enters the grounds. The funeral paid for by the undertaker (for reasons unclear), the procession passes a familiar black coach and enters the chapel where Holmes is amongst the mourners. Following the coffin into the chapel are funeral banners; behind these the murdered woman's friends, themselves in funereal black. (For women suffering such abject poverty this can only have been at the grace of the undertaker.) Holmes spots the young woman at the same time as she recognises him and she departs hurriedly, the detective following. She runs up a side road, Holmes giving chase, both unaware of the muffled coachman preparing to follow on his black coach.
The hunt takes Holmes to Clink Wharf, where it appears the girl has simply disappeared. As Holmes looks about, a shadow is just visible moving in a doorway. He does not notice it, until a chance scraping noise alerts him. Moving cautiously over to the shadowy figure, he enquires 'Mary Kelly?.' She tells him she has a knife, her Irish accent taut with fear, but gently, he gives the terrified girl his name. Bravely, Mary agrees to talk. People are after her, yesterday some old bloke was asking about her. (Watson, of course!) Sherlock tells her she can trust him, but her nerve broken, she flees, stumbling at the kerb. Clearly torn, she wants to talk, yet the terror of retribution is a terrible threat hanging over her.
Mary continues down the passageway and, as yet unseen, the sinister coach comes menacingly into the roadway behind them. Holmes construes that whatever this secret, she told Polly Nichols. Mary asks if he knew her, but when he presses the point she denies having known her. It is a transparent falsehood, born of fear. Sobbing, she admits that, indeed Polly was with her often. The whinny of a horse renews her dread; they must have seen her. They? - who are they?. Consumed with anguish, Mary proclaims that she knows where the baby is. A woman named Annie Crook gave her the child, to look after her. Annie was then taken away. Babbling now, Mary mentions a lover of Crook's named 'Eddie'. This last personage would not let 'them' kill her. By now, the coach is travelling at speed, hurtling towards them. Carefully, Holmes asks the whereabouts of Annie Crook. She was at St. Christopher's, but then moved. The sound of racing hooves reaches them and, convulsed with fright, Mary drops to the flag stones beseeching Holmes to help her. It is a piteous spectacle and, rarely moved, Holmes offers her his protection. However, the coach comes tearing around the corner and is upon them. Dashing for their very lives, Sherlock and Mary take flight, but the legs of human beings are a poor match for those of a horse. At the last possible instant, Holmes flings her to one side, throwing himself against the wall of a warehouse to land heavily, his senses shaken by the fall. The coach roars past, missing them both by an inch. In a valiant effort, the dazed detective attempts to regain his feet, but through blurred vision he sees the shape of Mary being hauled away by a burly figure. Consciousness slides away and Holmes falls back to the pavement, out cold.
Slowly, consciousness returns and Holmes finds himself in the familiar surroundings of 221b, attended by Watson and Foxborough. Recognising his closest of friends, Holmes finds himself unable to recall anything. Watson observes this may be due to a slight concussion. Sherlock recalls a woman – what became of her?. Acerbically, the Inspector observes that Lestrade told him to prepare for something dramatic, but not quite so stupid. Holmes recognizes Foxborough as the Inspector informs him an attempt was made on his life. Struggling to regain his faculties, Holmes remembers Watson had discovered something of import, that three of the murdered women frequented a tavern in Dorset Street. The Black Horse?. Foxborough's speculation is indeed correct. Watson recalls being told to speak to a Mary Kelly – this triggers something in Holmes' memory and the recollection of his meeting with Kelly. The Inspector determines to set his men to searching for her at once, but Holmes is clearly recovering his powers of reasoning and asks that the search be left to Watson and himself. That Foxborough accedes to this request gives Holmes pause for thought... either the Inspector is averse to finding the girl, or he has an ally in Warren's camp...
Holmes rushes out, leaving an indignant Watson to complain he's forever rushing off without enlightening him on the details. Holmes calls back they are off to St. Christopher's hospital to look for a woman named Annie Crook. En route, Holmes asks if Watson had any luck with the medical directory; too much if anything. He found the names of no less than a dozen physicians in the immediate area, producing his list. Only a dozen? - Holmes jokes he expected at least a hundred. Doctor Watson expresses his opinion that no-one from his estimable profession would be connected with these atrocious crimes. With an expression that borders on devilment, Holmes instructs Watson not to allow professional loyalty to prevent discovery of the truth. After a brief glance at the list, Holmes drily remarks 'Well, illustrious names indeed.'
Striding along a corridor in St. Christopher's, the Doctor in charge apologises to Watson for the lack of positive information. Watson assures him he has been most helpful, when a nurse hurries up summoning to Doctor to the aid of a patient in distress. Glumly, Watson informs Holmes of what he already knew; Annie Crook is not here. He told the Hospital authorities she was a family servant and that he had promised his elderly mother he would look her up. Brusquely, Holmes demands to know where she is, the two halting briefly as a Sister halts them to take a patient past on a stretcher. Watson finally gets to it; Crook was taken to a hospital near Reading, more like an asylum. Asking if she is still there, Holmes is told the poor woman is insane and unlikely ever to leave. Her Physician, is by the way... Holmes finished the sentence for him; Sir. Thomas Spivey. One of the Court physicians. Watson is taken aback, but Holmes reminds him Sir. Thomas is on his list. He has, himself compiled his own list – there is a specially imported species of grape, for those of the most discriminating of taste. Spivey is on the list of customers for this choice variety and, as such is the only man on both lists. It seems they are being exploited, by the very people for whom they search. Holmes declares it time to turn the tables...
The whistle shrieks as the train rushes along the tracks, locomotive hurling steam up from it's stack. From the station, the intrepid pair journey by carriage, a pale moon illuming the sky. From his research, Watson has ascertained Annie Crook suffered an accident rather similar to Holmes'. Initially deemed superficial, things took a turn for the worse at which Sir. Thomas decided to have her committed. Asking why this woman is so important to Holmes gets Watson the reply that he is as much in the dark as himself, but he refers him to the peculiar circumstances of the man following them. Glancing through the screen, Watson says there is no-body following them. It is to that peculiar circumstance that Holmes draws his attention.
The carriage pauses for a moment to allow the passengers a look at the asylum. A vast, imposing edifice, it is somehow at once both bleak and grandiose. Holmes has seen enough and calls up to the driver to drive on. Inside, the ominous sound of heavy doors being locked behind as Holmes and Watson follow Doctor Hardy and the warder, the only light coming from the Doctor's lantern and the latter's candle. In a whisper, the detective asks Watson to leave him alone with the girl as long as possible. Doctor Hardy, his voice low, asks the visitors not to disturb the other patients. The ward – if indeed, it can be given such an inflated appellation – is stark, dark and bare. The patients!, the poor, pathetic wretches lie in their beds, disturbed by the slightest intrusion. At least a nurse is on hand to calm the poor creatures. At the far end sits a young woman, her hair shorn, gazing into some unknown space beyond the single candle that burns in front of her. This, then, is Annie Crook.
The medical man in Watson takes precedence and he observes the woman hardly seems to know they are present. Hardy is sure she does not; a strange phenomenon, she has not uttered a word in some six months. (Given her surroundings, you can understand it. Thank whatever god you pray to that psychiatric care has advanced as it has since the Victorian era.) Watson asks his colleague if the patient has deteriorated since admission and the Doctor replies in the affirmative. Bearing Holmes' intentions in mind, Watson asks to examine her medical records and the two depart, leaving Holmes to attempt to question the poor girl. Before he can do so, a befuddled patient comes up to him and the nurse, not unkindly, shepherds her away.
Removing his deerstalker, his voice soft, Holmes tells Annie he is a friend – that Mary sent him. Mary Kelly – does she remember her?. Seating himself, he continues; Mary's frightened, frightened for her life. Though he'd like to help her, he cannot until he knows why she is frightened. Still Annie sits, rocking slightly, but not a word does she speak. Trying a new tack, Holmes produces a box of matches and a pencil to write on the box the single word 'EDDY'. Taking her hand, he moves it across to touch the box and she reaches out with her other hand to grasp it. Hesitant at first, she makes to speak and utters the name, clutching the box to her as if it was made precious by the letters. Holmes smiles as she looks at him for the first time. Annie asks; 'He sent you?... Eddy – sent you' and it is all Holmes can do not to answer falsely – would that he could commit such an easy falsehood!. Noble Holmes! - he keeps silent rather than lie. Annie always knew Eddy would come for her, send for her, but Holmes finally answers that it was Mary who sent him. They will not let her see Mary. Querying this produces a revelation, the words; 'Mary – keep my baby safe.'
|Holmes at his chemical experimentation table.|
Disjointed and in snippets, Annie mentions her baby may be in danger, that this child is danger for them. Eddy said when 'they' knew of the baby, they would kill it. Who are 'they'?. 'Brought me here.' Regaining something approaching lucidity, the woman inside the shell tells Holmes she doesn't belong here and shan't stay. The others here belong. She will fight 'them'. She asks Holmes simply; 'Help me.' Holmes asks why Eddy lets them keep her here if he loves her. Thumping Holmes, Annie flares; 'He loves me!.' This sets the ward off, the other inmates cackling and keening. As the nurse looks on with what may be concern (For whom remains unclear to this day) Annie reveals Eddy married her. Why does he let them keep her here?. She screams 'I don't know!' and the nurse hurries off to fetch help. Recovering something approaching equilibrium, Annie states they won't let Eddy see her – he doesn't know where she is – they will tell him she doesn't love him – that she took the baby – she will make trouble for him. Agitation rising, she tells him they want to know the whereabouts of her baby, which they intend to destroy, she has told them repeatedly she does not know where the infant is, but they continue to torment her here. Pleading with her, Sherlock asks again who these people are, but, shockingly Annie suddenly recalls telling them she gave the baby to Mary (Kelly).
The door is opened and Doctor Hardy is there with two warders, the nurse and Watson. Hardy demands to know what Holmes is doing and, his voice flint, Holmes retorts that he has no business keeping this woman in restraint. Watson cautions him, but Holmes is adamant; she needs care. Hardy insists she gets it – Holmes by turn insists Watson and he must remove her from 'This hellish place.' Suddenly, the penny drops – Hardy recognises his visitor. His voice wavering, he tries to insist that Annie came here of her own free will. Blustering, the 'doctor' claims it the opinion of her own physician and the members of the board that she remain. Sherlock Holmes is not a passionate man, as is widely known from a study of Watson's chronicles – yet as is sometimes the case, dis-passion can reverse itself under extreme circumstance. He goes for the loathsome 'doctor', hands round his throat in a sudden fury.
As Watson and the warders desperately fight to restrain the maddened Detective, we see a most singular piece of evidence that would have proved his argument had yet he retained his powers of rationality and logical faculty. For there – in the centre of the ward, as the other patients shriek and shake, in the midst of bedlam itself, still seated, Annie sits quietly, tears rolling down her face for the baby she will never comfort. If only some better witness than us!. In this place of madness, where even detectives are driven to mania, this 'incurable' patient remains the most sane of all.
|Holmes cries as he realises Annie Crook will not be saved.|
As the wretched excuse for a doctor leaves, sanity returns to Holmes as quickly as it departed him. Turning, his face streaked with rare tears, he realises his terrible moment of abandon has condemned this poor woman and that, far from helping her, he has failed her dreadfully, Watson's comforting hand on his shoulder un-noticed. Annie Crook sits there throughout, crying for her child.
|Holmes and Watson on the train.|
On the train back to London, Holmes sits in disconsolate, unapproachable silence. Dear Watson! - the truest friend, he defines the word with his gentle attempts to coax Holmes from his misery. However, Holmes has retreated into his natural element, that of the abstract problem solver; his thoughts spill from his lips in a murmur - Heir presumptive – Duke of Clarence – Eddy, she said... Holmes now realises why they were not followed; they thought Annie Crook hopelessly insane, but never counted on her courage and extraordinary will to protect her child. Looking to Watson, he reveals a terrible truth; it is now too late for Annie Crook – and also for Mary Kelly, unless they can find her this very night. The train's mournful whistle sounds and he asks Watson to forgive him; he can spare no thought for any other matter.
The camera pans across the Thames to the rooftops, while the coal steamer Deja Vu sounds her weary horn somewhere in the mists of budgetarily-challenged model-work. Moving along...
Yer actual East End. Even at this late hour, carriages rattle down the cobbles, Constables walk the beat and late-night shoppers look for bargains. A hansom pulls up to discharge Holmes and Watson who meet a talkative Lestrade. Of Foxborough's locale, he is unsure, but informs the pair of Commissioner Warren's resignation. Can Holmes believe it?. Yes, he can – and informs Lestrade in no uncertain terms that, had he or any officer stood up to Sir. Charles he could not have perverted the course of justice as he did. Watson adds his endorsement to this scathing indictment and the two
take their leave of the Inspector. Watson mentions the Black Horse tavern, which is precisely where Holmes is headed.
The coach sits in a quiet street, populated by silent houses and businesses, sparse light afforded by the meagre gas lamps. Unattended, the dark horse waits patiently for it's master. In the adjacent courtyard, known as Millers Court, the dwellings are mainly squalid single rooms, let out to anyone who can come up with the rent. Breathing heavily, the killer known as Jack the Ripper approaches Number 13, finding it all too easy to enter the room where, by the light of a brazier, Mary Kelly sleeps.
|Holmes and Watson tread the streets of the East End.|
The Black Horse. Watson and Holmes exit the noisy public house and head to Millers Court. At the same time, Mary Kelly is suffering the agonies of hell, her chest open for the knife to remove, stab and cut. Her screams are dreadful. Dreadful!. Meanwhile, Holmes tries to find his way through the myriad alleys and back-passages of Whitechapel, a brick rabbit-warren almost inaccessible to outsiders. Entering a street, they walk the pavement alone. However, a solitary figure emerges to stand in the street, watching their progress. Mary Kelly's death is mercilessly slow in coming – the fiend mutilates, but does not kill. Back on the street, Watson casually remarks that they are being followed; Holmes had noticed this. Hesitantly, Watson offers his friend a pistol, which, to his surprise, he accepts. Setting the simplest of traps – Holmes lurks in a handy nook while Watson strides on.
Sure enough, Inspector Foxborough strides out to find Holmes' revolver trained on him. Coldly, Holmes demands to know where is Mary Kelly. Foxborough feigns ignorance, but Holmes states he had her and lost her deliberately. Watson appears to be told that the Inspector is their mysterious informant. He used his agents Makins and Lanier to deliver the messages, to steer the Detective in whichever direction he chose. Foxborough declares Holmes insane, but the great detective has proof he is in fact the head of a radical organisation; his career at Scotland Yard is finished. Quite appallingly, Foxborough tries to offer Kelly as some sort of bargaining chip; Holmes is repulsed, asserting that Foxborough doesn't care about any of these poor wretches. Foxborough admits this to be the case, that these women were not important, except that they show the government's aristocratic contempt for the people and how they suffer. If Sherlock Holmes cannot see the corruption all around him, perhaps better some people die to expose it. Foxborough is indeed a radical, hoping to bring the very Monarchy to its knees. Aghast, Watson thinks the man insane, that he doesn't know what he is saying. 'Yes he does, Watson – he knows full well. He knows exactly what he's doing – a man devoid of conscience, as guilty as the murderer himself.' Holmes delivers this damning verdict on the repugnant Foxborough whilst staring at him in the fashion of a Professor of Entomology scrutinising an insect.
Walking off, Foxborough has one last drop of venom left for Holmes; he states Mary Kelly came out of hiding because she trusted him, so if 'they' have got her, it is because of the God-almighty Sherlock Holmes. In a voice of steel, Holmes warns Foxborough to stay away from him, but the abhorrent creature gloatingly mocks the detective, saying 'They used you – we used you, you did exactly what we wanted you to do. Sherlock Holmes has a terrible promise for Foxborough; 'If she dies – and you come under my hand, expect no mercy – you have my word on it.' Watson is left staring after the disgraced Inspector, until he realises Holmes has stridden off.
Through the window of Number 13, Millers Court the Ripper is finishing his work. Thankfully, Mary Kelly is beyond any pain, the room in a ghastly silence. As Holmes and Watson approach, the latter questions his friend on Foxborough's allegations of government complicity; Holmes informs him is is true. How high up?. The Doctor's question is unanswered, as Holmes is peering curiously at an unattended black coach, the horse whinnying in a state of nervous excitement. Finally, Holmes answers the question; 'Perhaps to the throne.' Watson is left in disbelief as Holmes trots forth to investigate the carriage, going around to Millers Court. Casting around for number 13, he finds it the only one lit. Glancing through the window a scene from hell's lowest chambers; the killer hunched over his victim, still cutting and mutilating what is left of a human being. Despite the abominable shock, Holmes draws his pistol. Turning the handle he kicks the door open and rushes in... to find two murderers!.
Horror seizes Holmes as he looks into the eyes of death itself – crouched on the floor a figure more a creature than a man; eyes black as pitch, staring from a face frozen in the middle of blood lust (Although he cannot know this, this is the man who killed Makins at the Wharf.), before he breaks the spell and looks over to see the face of the Ripper; an older man, grey and sated, blood streaking his otherwise unremarkable features. While Holmes beholds this abomination, the first scoops a handful of coals from the brazier and flings them up, dazzling and blinding Holmes. The fiend then takes up a red-hot poker and knocks the helpless detective to the floor, raising it to strike. Watson arrives in the very nick and grabs hold of the man, who proves surprisingly strong. Turning, he thrusts the poker into Watson's shoulder, igniting the cloth of his coat as it sears into his flesh. With a cry of agony, the Doctor falls to the ground, allowing his attacker to remove the dazed older man from the scene, the Ripper clearly in a delirium of some atrocious nature.
Momentarily, Sherlock regains consciousness and goes to Watson, apologising to him. Bravely, Watson refuses aid, telling Holmes to go after them, managing a laugh when Holmes returns his revolver in the same fashion as he received it. Rushing after the killer and his accomplice, Holmes finds the latter clambering onto his seat and receives a vicious slash from his sword-stick across his cheek as he arrives. The Ripper is in a stupor inside the coach. Leaping down from the coach, the be-cloaked coachman runs, leaving Holmes nursing his wounded face. His resolve renewed, Holmes wrenches the door open to drag the fiend from the coach and thrust him against a wall, where, eyes lifeless, the murderer hangs limp in his grip. This monstrosity does not seem to know anything, so deep is the torpor it has descended into. Noting the familiar signet ring on the small finger of the right hand, Holmes gives chase to the accomplice instead.
The coachman charges along the streets, his cloak billowing. Foxborough is abroad on the same streets still, hearing the sound of running feet, he looks about; everywhere is deserted. Suddenly, he spots the accomplice darting into a passageway and gives chase. The long blade gleams wickedly in the man's hand as he turns, spots Holmes and dashes away. Hurtling around a tall fence, he runs into Foxborough, his outstretched blade running the Inspector through. Heaving up with enormous strength, he pushes back to force the dying man through the fence. Foxborough clings to life, but the arrival of Holmes prompts the coachman to resume his flight. Finding the radical infiltrator close to death, Holmes stops, unable to help as he dies. A Constable hurries up and blows his whistle, summoning help. The call is soon taken up by other officers in the area and the fleeing man finds himself surrounded by whistles from all sides, pursued once more by Holmes.
|Holmes is too late to save the treacherous Foxborough.|
Running down to the riverside, Foxborough's killer finds himself at a wharf, taking refuge among the packing crates and other impedimenta of a Bonded Warehouse. Holmes pauses at the entrance to the wharf, well aware the man is armed and he is not. The coachman holds his sword-stick ready to draw the blade, the head a carven devil's head of jet black, with pyrope eyes that flash and glare in the light. Remembering his scarf with it's thuggee adaptation, Holmes wraps it around his arm and fist, ready to use. Dashing forward, Holmes slows his pace again, realising that at any second he could encounter the long blade that so recently eviscerated Foxborough. Spotting the corner behind which the man is hiding, Holmes moves in, the coachman drawing his blade ready to kill. Holmes falls back as the killer leaps from the shadows and thrusts the blade downwards, missing the detective by a fraction of an inch. Holmes retaliates, swinging his scarf to stunning effect, knocking his assailant backwards, his frantically slashing blade cleaving the air between them.
With no stomach to face an opponent who fights back, the coward runs – an able-bodied man is not a defenceless woman!. Holmes is upon him, and, losing his sword-stick, the man grabs hold of some hanging chains. Once, again Holmes throws out his weighted scarf, but the killer dodges the blows. Swinging the chain, he splits a barrel, ducks Holmes' renewed attack and, in a well-timed move, strikes the detective a heavy blow with the heavy chain. Falling heavily, Holmes is defenceless for what must follow... but as the chain descends he wraps it around his arm – padded as it is with the scarf. Pulling the murderous accomplice around, Holmes uses the chain to hurl him off the wharf and onto a hanging cargo net. Entangled, struggling only makes the net sway more and, while Holmes lies fighting both for breath and recovery, the fiendish coachman is slowly strangled, hung before his trial.
The arrival of Lestrade and a number of Constables comes too late for the coachman, as, with finality, the net drops a few feet on it's pulley, the drop crushing his windpipe. Holmes points, desperately trying to speak, only to collapse in Lestrade's arms. Typically, even in his parlous condition, Holmes' first thought is for his comrade; 'Watson... help Watson.'
Dawn is upon the great city that is the hub of empire. The coach carrying Sherlock Holmes passes Buckingham Palace, causing him to reflect on just how high this scandalous conspiracy has reached. Could it be possibly true?. His freshly-scarred face is sombre indeed. Crossing West to the North side of the Thames over Westminster Bridge, the imposing facade of the Palace of Westminster, seat of British democracy and government since the Middle Ages. Sir. Charles Barry's Palace – rebuilt after the fire of 1843 – is, of course, instantly recognisable. (Which should make Holmes question his Cabby's 'knowledge', as both Palaces are actually on the same side of the river!.) Pulling into Dean's Yard, Holmes alights, arm in a sling and no sooner does he shut the door than the coach rattles and rolls off. Steeling himself for what must come, he enters one of the ancient buildings.
A Freemason's lodge hall, the instantly familiar chequered floor and the accoutrements of the masons, the four lecterns providing the physical bounds to the theoretical 'Royal City' of Solomon the Wise. One lectern is unoccupied, the others by Sir. Henry Matthews, the Home Secretary, Sir. Charles Warren and in the position of Worshipful Master is none other than the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury!. Behind him an opaque window is bounded by a mural depicting the two pillars of wisdom. Ironically, the Prime Minister declares he felt it best to meet here, as privacy is assured. Holmes is in no mood for deference, however, replying; 'Secrecy, would perhaps be the more appropriate word.' Diplomatically, Lord Salisbury responds with an alternative suggestion – Discretion.
Prime Minister – 'I have summoned you here because you have made statements
which affect the very existence of the social order of this country.
Let me make it plain what is at stake,
we'll not permit unconsidered actions, nor injudicious statements...
we shall take action if we must –
and I can assure you that action will be effective.'
Holmes – 'The sequence of events, Prime Minister, convinced me of your ability to take 'effective action.'
Moderating his tone somewhat, the Prime Minister suggests Holmes tells his story and lets him be the judge of it's veracity. Holmes insists he may take it to be true, taking the seat indicated to him. The faces of Great Britain's most powerful upon him, Holmes begins outlining his case with Annie Crook. By the Home Secretary's unguarded reaction, Holmes astutely observes the name is known to him. Scolded for his injudiciousness, Holmes defers graciously to the Prime Minister's unspoken authority. As Sir. Charles squirms, Holmes reveals that he found her and she told the story of how she met her lover at the household in which she was employed. He returned her love with a brief infatuation, going through a form of marriage after which, tiring of her he left. She bore him a child,
but when the existence of the child along with it's catholic religion became known, the government suddenly became concerned.
The Prime Minister fails to see how such a story could affect the government. Holmes' reply?, he reveals the name of her lover, husband, seducer. His Grace the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, Albert Victor Christian Edward, Earl of Athlone, the Heir Presumptive to the throne of England, known to his close confidants as 'Eddy'. An indiscretion, not a crime, insists the Prime Minister – Warren's shifty gaze suggests otherwise. Holmes persists; an inconvenience, yet the Prime Minister himself let it be known it would be preferable if the woman, indeed the problem itself did not exist. One man among the many privy to the Prince's indiscretions took it upon himself to conduct the filthy work. This same drew another into the conspiracy, by convincing him they had the sanction of the highest in the land. They sought out Annie, deceiving her with a promise to take her to her beloved Eddy. Taken to a hospital, from there she was removed to another place, distant and secure. Alone in the asylum where Holmes found her, she was forced to reveal she had given her child to a friend... Mary Kelly.
The search for Mary – and the plot to dispose of her began. The search relentless, a terrified Kelly shared the secret of the Royal baby with her friends, unwittingly condemning them as herself. They murdered anyone who might have known of the child; thus was born the myth of 'Jack the Ripper'. Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Liz Stride and Catherine Eddowes were slaughtered, their deaths disguised as the work of a madman... and to his everlasting regret, Holmes led the murderers straight to Mary Kelly. She died, terribly, suffering agonies beyond imagining, without revealing where the child was. And so the victims... but what of the criminals?.
The Prime Minister reminds Holmes of his requirement to prove these crimes. Holmes obliges; beginning with the man who died at the wharf; William Slade, prime mover in these atrocious crimes, under some misguided loyalty to the Royal family he served – or as a hidden agent in their cause?. Then, Sir. Thomas Spivey, the celebrated physician, who took Annie into his hospital and drove her mad. A man who prescribes eternal incarceration for a woman simply because she was seduced, made pregnant and delivered of a child. Who, according to archaic ritual butchered his victims. Holmes accuses this man who has 'no place in this world or the next'. Lord Salisbury has heard enough, demanding proof. Blustering, Warren asserts Holmes has no proof, only surmise, wild conjecture. Assessing the situation, Holmes' resolve stiffens; 'I have proof.' Striding across to Warren's lectern he lays down the marriage certificate, the child's birth certificate, a document showing Annie's committal by the same Spivey, he also has proof of suppression of evidence by Sir. Charles, evidence pointing to the same order to which all here belong. Sir. Thomas Spivey is also a Freemason – and in discovering the criminal enterprise of a fellow mason they were all sworn to protect him in his intent.
Prime Minister - 'Then you accuse us?.'
Holmes - Of complicity and murder? - No, Prime Minister.
Your suggestion was enough to prompt these men to action;
what was done was all done in your name.
Prime Minister – 'I shall not debate that with you –
but there are larger issues here than you can understand.'
Sir. Charles - 'Don't presume to judge us Holmes -
I know where my duty lies -
in the protection of the Monarchy.'
Raising an admonishing finger, Holmes states boldly that there never has been a threat to the Monarchy, such threat existed only in the minds of the three worthies in the room. 'Your intrigue simply served the disaffected radicals, whom you fear' he tells Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister replies 'Very well, Mister Holmes', before adding Slade is dead, Spivey insane. Sir. Charles' career is in ruins. Holmes doubts he faces any serious ruin; he supported Brother Masons who will undoubtedly return the favour. Lord Salisbury asks what should he tell the Queen; surely Holmes cannot suspect Her Majesty in any way involved. Visibly quailing at such thoughts, the Detective admits he cannot believe that with ease, turning away. Staggered at the inference, the Prime Minister gasps that he has his word on it, but an angry Holmes says he would prefer a more reliable authority. Faced with such insubordination, the Prime Minister decides he shall, in the circumstances, ignore this offensive attitude.
Perhaps realising he has overstepped the bounds, Holmes retorts that if he seems offensive it is because he is offended. Should I resign?, is the Prime Minister's question. 'Yes resign!, and if I had the means I would compel you. Fighting hard for composure, Lord Salisbury pleads with Holmes; he is risking our very society, to be substituted with anarchy. Wearily, Sherlock Holmes has reached the end of his tether; he cares nothing about that, they (politicians) are all the same to him. Wishing he had proof of the extent of government complicity, Holmes regrets he was not privy to their secretive meetings. It is now that Holmes plays his trump card; stepping forward valiantly, he offers a deal. As long as the child remains unharmed, he will say nothing of this matter. Salisbury responds that the whereabouts of said child are unknown; he is satisfied this should remain the case. One further proviso - Annie Crook must also be set free. Unhappily, she is already free; the Prime Minister claims that the night after her meeting with Holmes, she died...
Shocked at this awful news, Holmes utters the words; 'How, died?' 'She took her own life' comes Salisbury's reply. How can he convince Holmes?. Even if he could, says Holmes, it is too late. Retrieving his documentary evidence, he is in despair. It is too late for Annie Crook, separated from her child, driven to despair – and death.
Holmes – 'You create allegiance,
above your sworn allegiance to humanity...
You will not feel for them -
or acknowledge their pain...
There lies the madness.'
Re-asserting some measure of authority, the Prime Minister reminds Holmes of his promise of silence and considers their business finished. For them perhaps; Holmes will always have the death of Mary Kelly on his conscience – and the Prime Minister will have the deaths of Annie and all those tragic women, of their agony on his...
221b Baker Street. Holmes plays a mournful dirge on his violin, scarping the bow across the strings while the instrument is at rest. He sits, at the sill, lost to melancholia. Looking across from his book, Watson urges him to come and sit. Disturbed, Holmes comments that they have unmasked madmen,
wielding sceptres – reason run riot. Staunch as his nature, Watson tells him he did much more than other men could have attempted. He reminds him that Annie and Mary died to protect a child – that there is still decency. Smiling, Sherlock realises Watson is right, that there is still decency. Playfully he knuckles his friend's chest, remarking there is decency in that battered breast. Flexing his hands, much recovered, he asks Watson's indulgence for him to play a while. Cheerfully for once, the Doctor acquiesces. It is only as the sorrowful, lamenting notes sound that we see Watson's heart fill as the horror of the recent past threatens to overwhelm him. No man ever had a nobler companion than this steadfast fellow. As soon as the moment arrives, he forces it to flee to the shadows of memory as he returns to his reading.
The Sister watches as, gay and carefree, the girl runs barefoot across the lawn, golden locks flowing, her pet terrier trotting and barking on its lead, happy to chase along to the statue of Jesus and back again.
So ends the most remarkable film; fact blended with fiction blended again with speculation as to the nature of the facts. That 'Eddy' – Queen Victoria's grandson was a playboy is beyond dispute. Certainly, had this buffoon been born to a lesser household he would have been hard pressed to tie his own shoelaces, riddled with venereal disease and all the hallmarks of in-breeding. Did he marry Annie Crook?, there are letters written by him to his Doctor showing clearly he had Gonorrhoea. One theory is that he turned insane as a result and started murdering women himself. I doubt this; the intellect at work behind the Ripper murders was of a cunning and decisive nature, one certainly not possessed by the Royal dullard. Nor do I buy any of the 'Royal Baby' plot; Royals have always had illegitimate offspring, but never resorted to murder. Gold is the weapon of choice for that family; silence is easier bought with coin than a knife.
ABOVE: The original trailer for the film.
Two of the characters have, for some reason, been fictionalised; I don't include Holmes and Watson, rather Sir. Thomas Spivey and William Slade are thinly-veiled analogues of Sir. William Gull, the Royal Physician and coachman John Netley. Gull and Netley are named as killer and accomplice in the 1988 Michael Caine television movie Jack the Ripper. So, having ridiculed the plot, what of the film?. It is fantastic, Christopher Plummer's Holmes is aloof and rather hard to warm to. Gradually, however, he reveals human qualities rarely seen in the literary character. Plummer plays an impossible role here; the Detective of genius who is usually always a step ahead has to fail – without re-writing history to have him save Mary Kelly there is little the writing team could have done. Holmes as failure is a rarity, yet more than one film has him defeated. Perhaps screenwriters just like to make an unapproachable character more human by introducing fallibility. At any rate, Plummer's performance – while not a favourite of mine, is certainly first class and credible. Incidentally, he is apparently a cousin of Nigel Bruce, the legendary Watson of Basil Rathbone days. James Mason as Watson is affable, likeable and reveals himself to be an intelligent ally; far from the Nigel Bruce portrayal of a bumbling sidekick. Lestrade is played by Frank Finlay, reprising the role from A Study in Terror (1965). Finlay plays the part well enough, but is under-used. More of an impact, however comes from David Hemmings as Inspector Foxborough; he gives the impression of a dry, solid Detective who is slightly amused by his superiors' shortcomings, yet – as we have seen, is an ardent anarchist and not far from abject madness. A memorable role.
Bringing in a heavyweight such as Gielgud to play Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister pays off magnificently; on screen for a single scene, the legendary actor imbues the part with, by turn authority, vulnerability and affronted dignity. Anthony Quayle (Doctor Murray in the aforementioned A Study in Terror) plays Sir. Charles Warren as a shifty incompetent; perhaps a tad unfair, although to be certain the original was so far out of his depth as Commissioner you wonder why he didn't stick to his passion; Masonic research. Donald Sutherland gives his performance as the visionary medium Robert Lees his trademark stillness and soft-spoken manner. This works flawlessly – compare this with Armand Assante's frenetic Lees in Jack the Ripper (The Michael Caine TV version from 1988 mentioned above) and you see two masters at work portraying the same character at polar opposites. Much as I love Assante's work, Sutherland's Victorian look is so perfect you can't fault him here.
Geneviève Bujold spent twelve long years in a convent – she brings something of the flavour of this to her role as Annie Crook. Vulnerable, noble, it is no wonder she played Joan of Arc. A splendid, award-winning performance and rightly so. Susan Clark is Mary Kelly, the ripper's last victim. She plays her role with convincing dread – she went on to play in a 1981 episode of 'Standing Room Only' titled 'Sherlock Holmes' opposite Frank Langella's Holmes. Peter Jonfield's first role saw him play the murderous William Slade – the part involves no dialogue at all that I can recall, but he wields a sword-stick with relish and he gives the part his all. He makes an appearance as Toller in the 1985 episode of 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – The Copper Beeches.' Roy Lansford's Sir. Thomas Spivey is evil incarnate – as the Ripper he is horrifying, a sated, numb zombie killing in a haze. Fans of TV's Eastenders – of which I do not number myself, may care to know June Brown (Dot Cotton in the TV show) is Annie Chapman, Ann Mitchell (Cora Cross) is Jane, a prostitute.
|Another PR shot.|
Director Bob Clark brought us Porky's – and for that we should be grateful enough, but he also made the seminal slasher movie Black Christmas (1974), the perennial Yuletide favourite A Christmas Story (1983) as well as the wonderfully obscure Turk 182! (1985). In Murder by Decree , Clark gives solid direction, with a good feel for the subject material. With a screenplay from John Hopkins (Co-writer of 1965's Thunderball) based on the book The Ripper File, the themes of the movie were used for the Johnny Depp hit From Hell (2001). The film does suffer somewhat from over-exposition; we know what's going on, yet Holmes has to take us through it all in painstaking and excruciating detail. Just setting down the climactic scene at the Masonic hall had me pulling my hair out. Niggles include the final shot of the girl running being so short as to seem unbalanced, while the plot has holes – why, for instance wasn't Mary Kelly simply interrogated and murdered on being kidnapped?. Also, Holmes giving the wounded Watson his revolver back, just when he's most likely to need it; clearly a lazy plot device to make it a fairer fight at the wharf in a few minutes. The wharf set took months to create and is a cinematic treat, yet the miniature models of London, though undoubtedly well-crafted, are so clearly fake you have to grit your teeth. At one point a horse-drawn van crosses the river so jerkily you wonder if the miniature team were making a protest.
|The US VHS sleeve.|
Other issues, niggles perhaps; we see Tower Bridge some six years before it should be there, Prince Albert Victor wasn't yet the Duke of Clarence and Avondale in 1888 and Mary Kelly is seen being tortured by the Ripper. Although germane to the plot, the Ripper killed his victims before mutilation. (Laughably I have read this qualified him as a 'humane' killer in a book I shan't stoop to name by a Police expert). Finally, the poster advertising Donizetti at the opera house is misspelt 'Donnizetti'.
Locations; The Royal Opera House scene was filmed at the Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, interiors at Wyndhams Theatre on the Charing Cross Road, while Barton Street, SW1 became Baker Street. Robert Lees' magnificent villa still stands at The Elms, Duck's Walk, Twickenham, while the Royal Naval College at Greenwich was used for several scenes. Sir. Thomas Spivey's home can be found at Carlton Gardens, SW1, while the funeral of poor Catherine Eddowes took place at Southwark Cathedral.
Time for a score, wouldn't you say?. On careful consideration of the evidence, the verdict of this court shall be;