A Study In Terror (1965)

James Hill directed the nature film and family favorite Born Free, but he also found his way to Whitechapel and put Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on the case of Jack the Ripper. It’s also one of the first appearances of Mycroft Holmes on film.

Holmes (John Neville, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) and Watson (Donald Huston, Tales that Witness Madness) have already been interested in the Whitechapel murders, but then they receive a mysterious package. It’s a case of surgical instruments missing a scalpel with the family crest of the Duke of Shires.

The Duke informs them that his son Michael Osborne dreamed of becoming a doctor, but he’s disappeared. Holmes discovers that the instruments were pawned by Angela Osborne (Adrienne Cori, A Clockwork Orange), who now lives in a soup kitchen run by a Doctor Murray (Anthony Quayle, Holocaust 2000).

Following that trail, they learn that Murray is also a police pathologist who allows them to view the body of the Ripper’s most recent victim. Soon, they learn that Lord Carfax was being blackmailed by Max Steiner, who was about to tell the Duke of Shires that Michael, who was working at Murray’s soup kitchen, was about to marry a prostitute. Look for Dame Judi Dench is an early role as Dr. Murray’s niece Sally.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister asks Mycroft Holmes (Robert Morley, Theater of Blood) to convince his brother to investigate look into the Ripper case. Of course, he’s been on the case for weeks and almost catches the Ripper when he kills another girl.

It turns out that Michael, who has been missing, was actually crippled both physically and mentally after a brawl with Steiner that also disfigured Angela’s face. Holmes and Watson find Angela hidden away at Steiner’s inn. She’s the one who sent the surgical tools, all to get them involved.

Our heroes think the story is over as they return Michael to his family. However, Carfax is still looking to murder Angela. Holmes catches him in the act, but as Steiner’s bar catches on fix, everyone but Holmes is killed. He decides to keep the secret of Jack the Ripper to himself.

Sure, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never wrote a story in which Sherlock went after the Ripper. However, the real-life inspiration for Doyle’s hero, Dr. Joseph Bell, was consulted by Scotland Yard. You can see why this makes for an intriguing premise, as this same story was used in 1979’s Murder by Decree.

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