Author Conan Doyle lived during the 1888 White Chapel murders committed by unknown serial killer Jack the Ripper. His version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson investigating the murders was retold by Bob Clark in the 1979 mystery thriller film Murder by Decree. However, Murder by Decree‘s plot supports the theory that Sherlock is actually Jack the Ripper. Clark’s interpretation of Doyle’s story points out several factors Sherlock shares with the alleged murderer.
Sherlock’s Personality & Timing Mirror What’s Known About Jack the Ripper
In Murder by Decree, Sherlock’s personality shows he is impatient and not afraid of repercussions. He never truly shows his frustration unless in direct conflict, meaning he is suppressing it. His actions and speech in the film indicate he enjoys a good rush of adrenaline and danger. He also shows an active interest in being involved in the case, even mentioning he was unemployed up until the third murder. He is proven to be manipulative toward Watson and highly intelligent. He also had his own lab and hypodermic needles to insert or extract substances, which supports Jack the Ripper’s profile of having a medical background.
Throughout the film, he constantly goes separate ways from Watson, leaving many time gaps available for him to commit crimes, cover up or plant evidence, and find ties that lead back to someone else committing the murders. In fact, there are scenes that support the mental side of Sherlock being the murderer through the use of Jack the Ripper. Viewing the Ripper as an alternate ego or metaphor, it could be argued that Sherlock is chasing himself. The battle between the two during Murder by Decree‘s end could be interpreted as a battle of willpower. The men who happen upon the scene don’t acknowledge the supposed killer until Holmes is done talking, which gives an impression that there may be nothing there to cut down, or they already knew the man hanging there wasn’t responsible.
When Sherlock Holmes Comes Knocking, Bodies Start Dropping
Some characters’ deaths in Murder by Decree happen right after Sherlock converses with them, whereas others that aren’t scientifically credible are left alone, explaining why they didn’t die. Robert Lees, a spiritual medium who tracks the Ripper, catches the immediate attention of Sherlock, who is quick to acknowledge Lees’ abilities. Sherlock even makes a statement that he knows they will meet again while showing Lees’ terrified face. Annie Crook, who is locked up in an asylum, supposedly dies by suicide. Before her death, she reveals the truth behind her incarceration to Sherlock, proving she has creditability and wasn’t “insane” to begin with, which prompts him to kill her.
Mary also dies after she reveals her connection to Annie, showing a high level of fear toward Sherlock throughout the film. Somehow, Sherlock even picks her out of a crowd. Since Mary is the only one who had seen the Ripper’s true face, it would explain why she was overly terrified. The boatman informant dies after a conversation with Sherlock. His return would explain why the boatman died right after and also how he died. Sherlock doesn’t like guns and the Ripper kills him with a long, sharp object similar to what Watson carries around for protection. Foxborough dies after a conversation with Sherlock, too.
Jack the Ripper Reflected by Sherlock
The White Chapel Murders are shrouded in many beliefs. One is that the murderer had scientific knowledge since body parts were taken from the victims’ corpses, and another is that the Ripper was more than one person. Sherlock has a partner and scientific knowledge. He is also known to collaborate in illegal activities and has questionable methods of obtaining information.
Another connection is the pattern of women and children. Sherlock shows a clear sympathetic view toward Annie but not for the victims that died. This viewpoint perhaps stems from his personal life, having been involved in failed relationships. Profiling the distinctive pattern of targeting the abdominal and genital areas of women may symbolize how Sherlock personifies his own frustration with the affairs of illicit relationships, pregnancy and the pressure of becoming a father.
Murder by Decree reveals at the end that two men were hired to cover up Annie’s situation by the freemasons. Sherlock presents evidence that links one freemason to her, giving him leverage to protect Annie’s child out of personal responsibility and still remain undiscovered by those who had hired him, essentially pinning the blame elsewhere and escaping conviction, assuming that Sherlock is actually Jack the Ripper in this universe.