John Neville and Donald Houston in A Study in Terror (1965)

A Stiff Study for Sherlock

Whilst the plight of the London prostitutes isn't usually big news it comes to the attention of Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) and by Dr. Watson (Donald Houston) when a third prostitute from Whitechapel is found gruesomely murdered. Holmes' investigations involve a wooden case which is mysteriously delivered to him containing surgical equipments which are connected to the aristocratic Osborne family. With the assistance of Holmes' brother Mycroft (Robert Morley) they learn that Lord Carfax, the brother of the estranged Michael Osborne, has connection to a Whitechapel soup kitchen and humanitarian Dr. Murray (Anthony Quayle) and his niece Sally (Judi Dench).

"A Study in Terror" starts by taking us on the fog laden streets of 1880s London where the noise of boisterous drinking fills the air from those in the pubs as much as the fog does. It is a great looking start to a movie and with great costumes and has an air of Hammer about it. These opening scenes genuinely lift your hopes as whilst in truth there is nothing stand out about these scenes they are engaging especially when it has some fun with the macabre nature of the story with various false thrills as we follow prostitute Annie Chapman, played by Barbara Windsor, around as she tries to make money.

Judi Dench in A Study in Terror (1965)

But then we get to meet Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and sadly that is when "A Study in Terror" takes a nose dive as whilst John Neville was a talented actor his portrayal of the legendary Holmes lacks charisma. It sadly means that the Sherlock Holmes in "A Study in Terror" is one of the most uninteresting I have come across and lacking that sense of entertainer when it comes to the solving of the case. Of course some prefers a Holmes who is drier with a greater sense of superiority but it isn't for me. And it isn't just Neville who plays their characters in a dry manner as all the major parts are solid but stiff which is the total opposite of some such as Barbara Windsor's performance as a prostitute and Judi Dench's performance as Sally.

What this all boils down to is that "A Study in Terror" might have entertained audiences at the time now struggles to do the same. And sadly much of that is down to the solid but charisma-less performance from John Neville as Sherlock Holmes as it makes it a dry movie lacking in entertainment when ever he is in a scene.