Here is a film with Wivenhoe favourite Billy Nighy in a non-comic role for a change. If you have watched Ripper Street on the BBC, you will know something of the tone of this Victorian melodrama crossed with Jack the Ripper detective work.
The city of London is gripped with fear as a serial killer – dubbed The Limehouse Golem – is on the loose and leaving cryptic messages written in his victim’s blood. With few leads and increasing public pressure, Scotland Yard assigns the case to Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighy) – a seasoned detective with a troubled past and a sneaking suspicion he’s being set up to fail. Faced with a long list of suspects, including music hall star Dan Leno (Douglas Booth), Kildare must get help from a witness who has legal troubles of her own (Olivia Cooke), so he can stop the murders and bring the killer to justice.
The film is based on a novel by Peter Ackroyd. It translates his densely historical and cerebral foray into the horror genre into an entertainment, without being weighed down by Ackroyd’s numerous fascinating but imaginative layers and tangents. As with the Jack the Ripper murders, there are suspects well known to the public of the time, including the aforementioned Dan Leno, younger than you may think of him, Karl Marx and George Gissing, all of whom, including another unknown suspect, were regular attendees at the British Library.
The Limehouse Golem benefits greatly from two terrific performances from the invaluable and ever-dry Bill Nighy, and Douglas Booth as the cross-dressing, music hall performer, Dan Leno. There is a solid cast of British favourites, including Eddie Marsan as a theatre impresario nicknamed Uncle, and Daniel Mays as Kildare’s trusted lieutenant. And while the film doesn’t shy away from the grisly nature of the murders, the time period still allows for a touch of refinement. Kildare says they can comprehend the murderer ‘if we can sink to his circle of damnation’. And when was the last time a search for clues included the query: ‘Do you feel like a walk? To the library?’
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Venue: William Loveless Hall