Souvenirs Of Terror

fiendish film & TV show tie-ins

Ellery Queen – A Study in Terror

Posted by demonik on July 27, 2007

Ellery Queen – A Study in Terror (Lancer, 1966: 1969)


The savage killer roamed the dark streets and alleys of London. No woman was safe from his swift, gory attacks as murder followed murder. No man could stop the menace or even guess the identity of the brute called…

No man…except Sherlock Holmes.
Now it can be told — in this gripping modern thriller. Sherlock Holmes did stalk Jack the Ripper in 1888, and through a quirk of fate that is a mystery in itself, Ellery Queen follows in his footsteps in 1966. The two greatest detectives of all time match wits with each other — and together arrive at a solution that will stun you.

Watched the film on the box the other night and loved it for the gloriously cliched, beautiful rubbish it is.

A wonderful, gratuitously violent opening: A silk clad tart chirps “‘allo darlin. Like a bit of fun?” in the shadows of the Angel & Crown: the Whitechapel murderer strikes and leaves his knife stuck clean through her throat. An older woman passes and yells “‘P’lice! P’lice! ‘elp! Murder!” and we’re off into the opening titles. As far as I can make out, this gruesome business with the embedded blade makes no sense whatsoever in the context of the film – the Ripper uses a scalpel – but what does it matter? There’s also a truly weird cameo from Barbara Windsor whose performance as the doomed Annie Chapman is inseperable from her Carry On persona (which makes the Babs gets stabbed moments truly shocking) and loads of Cockerney malarky including a load of classic “ta-ra-ra boom ba-ay!” sing-a-long bollocks dahn the local. The plot is creaky, it incorporates the “facts” only to get them wrong, and Holmes runs like a gurly, but I’d take A Study In Terror over ten poker-faced From Hell‘s any day you care to mention.

The novelisation: well, the first time I read it, I didn’t get along with it at all, and now I’ve reached the half-way stage during the rematch it’s easy to see why – the framing story. This being an Ellery Queen novel, he’s been grafted into the story, and his inclusion is a distraction as far as I’m concerned. We catch up with him as he’s struggling with his latest novel. His playboy friend Grant Amos III has been passed a manuscript by a mystery woman, and this purports to be an unpublished story by Dr. Watson. Between typing up his own detective caper, phoning his dad in Bermuda and bandying insults with Amos, EQ runs through the paper, trying to establish whether or not it’s a hoax.

The Holmes versus the Ripper stuff is far more engrossing although so far the murders themselves have been skipped over. We know five have taken place and Holmes even takes them seriously enough to call a temporary truce with his old sparring partner Lestrade. There’s enough variation from the Fords’ screenplay to give it at least some semblance of coherence (like Robert Bloch’s The Night Of The Ripper the film is festooned with red herrings), and Sherlock even comes over all fallible – he is indirectly responsible for Polly Nichols’ death when he mistakes Watson for the Ripper (Watson, stung by Holmes kid-gloves treatment had visited The Angel & Crown under his own steam, and had been chatted-up by the victim to be for his trouble: “Ere’s luck, luv. If yer don’t want me lily-white body, yer don’t. But yer a good bloke, and I wish yer the best.”). Most of the suspects are now in the frame, so if we can get through the remaining chapters with a minimum of interruptions from Quinn and Amos things should be OK.


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