Murder by Decree (1979) Bob Clark

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Murder by Decree (1979)
Directed by Bob Clark
Produced by Bob Clark, René Dupont, Robert A. Goldston, Len Herberman
Screenplay by John Hopkins
Based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle and the book The Ripper File by Elwyn Jones and John Lloyd
Cinematography by Reginald H. Morris
Edited by Stan Cole
Music by Paul Zaza, Carl Zittrer
Canadian Film Development Corporation, AVCO Embassy Pictures
(color; 2:04)

I find that most people – even Sherlock Holmes fans – have never heard of Murder by Decree. They don’t know that it stars Christopher Plummer (below right) as Holmes and James Mason (below left) as Dr. Watson, don’t know that it’s one of the most atmospheric Jack the Ripper films, and don’t know that the supporting cast consists of such exceptional talents as John Gielgud, Geneviève Bujold, Donald Sutherland, Anthony Quayle and Susan Clark, to name just a few.

What they might know is that the film was directed by Bob Clark, who also directed the Porky’s movies, which might understandably be enough to keep them away from a Clark-directed Sherlock Holmes film. (Those people should be aware that Clark also directed the 1983 holiday favorite A Christmas Story.) Yet Murder by Decree remains a very good thriller/horror/mystery that shouldn’t be ignored this Halloween or any other time of the year.

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My Problem(s) with Horror

I’m not sure how I feel about horror movies. My original plan was to spend the entire month of October alternating between modern horror films and classic horror, but then I decided to just watch a lot of everything. Halfway through October, I’ve come to some sobering conclusions about horror films:

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White God (2014) Kornél Mundruczó

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White God (2014)
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Produced by Jessica Ask, et. al.
Screenplay by Kornél Mundruczó, Viktória Petrányi, Kata Wéber
Cinematography by Marcell Rév
Edited by Dávid Jancsó
Rated R for violence, including bloody images, language
(color; in Hungarian with English subtitles; 2:01)

Unless you’re into independent and/or international films, you probably haven’t seen either the poster or the opening image of White God: a 13-year-old girl speeding her bicycle through the empty downtown streets of Budapest as hundreds of angry dogs race after her. That may be enough to pique your interest to sit through a 2-hour Hungarian film with English subtitles. If so, you may come away from the film feeling exhilarated, disgusted, cheated, or maybe even a better human being, I don’t know. But you probably won’t forget the experience.

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A Halloween Suggestion

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(This is a previously posted review from one of my former blogs.)

Later this month (or even right now), countless people will no doubt find themselves gathered in darkened rooms, sitting on couches and chairs, watching a movie (or two) designed to put them in the Halloween spirit (no pun intended – really!). Some of the more obvious viewing choices might be any of the Halloween movies (especially the 1978 original), The Shining, The Silence of the Lambs, or even more recent films such as the The Conjuring, The Babadook, or It Follows. Regardless of the quality of any of these or other films, the possibilities are endless. (I went to a party last year and watched The Exorcist in the host’s backyard, the chilly night air and shadows creating the appropriate atmosphere.)

My suggestion for your Halloween movie (or at least one of them) is an often neglected masterpiece that has, for most people, several things working against it:

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It Follows (2014) David Robert Mitchell

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It Follows (2014)
Dimension Films
Directed by David Robert Mitchell
Produced by Joshua Astrachan, Mia Chang, others
Written by David Robert Mitchell
Cinematography by Mike Gioulakis
Edited by Julio Perez IV
Music by Rich Vreeland (Disasterpeace)
Anchor Bay DVD (library)
(color, 1:40)

(Mild spoilers early; major spoilers later)

The problem with so, so many horror films lies in the fact that most of them are completely mindless explorations of one or more people frantically running for their lives from some type of bogeyman/creature/zombie/vampire/you fill-in-the-blank. An original, well-developed concept is extremely rare and when one finally appears, you hope against hope that something great is going to happen. With It Follows, something great does happen… up to a point. Yet whether that point is small mound of salt or a mountain is up to you.

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The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) Val Guest

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The Quatermass Xperiment [US title: The Creeping Unknown] (1958)
Hammer Film Productions
Directed by Val Guest
Produced by Anthony Hinds and Robert L. Lippert
Written by Richard Landau and Val Guest
Based on the BBC television play by Nigel Kneale
Cinematography by Walter J. Harvey
Makeup by Philip Leakey
Edited by James Needs
Music by James Bernard
Kino Lorber Blu-ray
(black-and-white, 1:22)

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