Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009): The Ripper Killings

I found the new Sherlock Holmes (2009) movie intriguingly multi-layered, with an incredible number of synchromystical symbols throughout, often tied to the Masons ("Temple of the Four Orders") and the Ripper case (see below). These are woven nicely within the plot and characters.

Lord Blackwood (who wears a black trenchcoat most of the time ~ as have the spate of recent mass killers), the secret society members, the plotting police, the usual bald giants, the ginger little people, the overly attractive prostitutes, and even the ever present ravens have a good deal to "say" to those watching this cinema closely. Needless to say, the Masonic elements have been mentioned by many reviewers and critics in the blogosphere, so no need to dwell on the straight and narrow there.

Another "character" in the movie is the Tower Bridge, which is shown under construction. Actually, since it is known that the building of the Tower Bridge started in 1886 and took eight years, it nicely dates this version of Sherlock Holmes. The official plot summary of the movie notes this film occurs in "1891 London."

The movie has many facets, overlooked by the casual moviegoer.

For example:

A number of the movie's details were taken directly from "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone." The first is the name of the villain, Lord Blackwood. Fans may remember him as Count Negretto Sylvius (Negretto is Italian for black and Sylvius is Latin for woods). Interestingly enough, Blackwoods was a competitor of the Strand (the publisher of Doyle's work). Blackwoods also rejected some of Doyle's early work, though the Mazarin story was written 40 years after the fact and Doyle was very successful by then. In any event, Blackwood was NOT some magician with an egg tooth (a tooth most baby snakes are born with to cut through their eggs).

Another common detail is the Crown Diamond, which is the Yellow Mazarin Stone (named for Cardinal Jules Mazarin [1602-1661], minister to Louis XIV). The large yellow stone hung around Irene Adler's neck in the movie. "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" is also the first and only story to mention that the 221B Baker Street apartment had multiple exits and a waiting room. The extra exit was through the bedroom which Sherlock employed to follow Irene early in the movie.

I actually think few people "get" what is behind the allusion to the five prostitutes who are killed ritualistically with daggers, before the timeline of the movie begins. These definitely appear to me to be an obvious but subtle reference to the five traditionally acknowledged Ripper killings. Because the phrase "Jack the Ripper" is never used in the movie, I have yet to see it in any deciphering of this present film. Those murders took place around Whitechapel, London, in late 1888, of course, and some, like Stephen Knight, theorize they were Masonic in nature. The present movie has more links to the Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet and Christopher Plummer in Murder by Decree, than people are noting.

Release Date: December 25th, 2009 (wide)
Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution
Produced in: United States

Robert Downey Jr. ... Sherlock Holmes
Jude Law ... Dr. John Watson
Rachel McAdams ... Irene Adler
Mark Strong ... Blackwood
Eddie Marsan ... Inspector Lestrade
Kelly Reilly ... Mary

Directed by: Guy Ritchie

Doyle: A Mason?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was the author of fifty-six short stories and three novels with Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson M.D., as the principal characters.

Conan Doyle was not a particularly active freemason. One widely quoted report in the October 1901 Masonic Illustrated claims: "While at the seat of war, he attended the never-to-be-forgotten scratch lodge at Bloemfontein in company with Bro. Rudyard Kipling." In fact, Kipling was in Bloemfontein only between March 17 and April 3, 1900, a period when Rising Star Lodge No. 1022 E.C., the only lodge meeting in that part of South Africa, did not meet. At an April 5, 1900 meeting letters were received by the lodge from both Lord Kitchener and Conan Doyle, expressing their regrets at being unable to attend. A "loyal resolution" to be sent to the Prince of Wales was proposed by Kitchener at an April 23, 1900 meeting; a document signed by both Lord Roberts, who had not been present at the meeting, and Conan Doyle. The minutes of the lodge’s November 7, 1901 meeting refute the newspaper report and deny that Bros. Doyle and Kipling had ever visited their lodge. Also in 1900 Conan Doyle was made an honorary member of The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1 in recognition of his acceptance of an invitation to speak at a Burns' Night Dinner.

There is no mention of Freemasonry in his autobiography, Memories and Adventures and it is said that "Dr. Doyle looked in on Freemasonry and soon looked out again." There are, however seven distinct and several other oblique references to Freemasonry in his fiction. [AQC 104 & 105]

A prolific writer and an early proponent of a tunnel connecting England and France, he was also responsible for introducing downhill skiing into Switzerland, metal helmets for combat soldiers and the inflatable life-preserver for sailors. He makes a number of Masonic references in his writings, none of them key to his story development.

However, this record exists of his membership:
Initiated: January 26, 1887
Passed: February 23, 1887
Raised: March 23, 1887
Demitted: 1889
Rejoined: 1902
Demitted: 1911
Phoenix Lodge 257, Southsea Hampshire.

See also, other links to strange "Sherlock Holmes" coincidences in 2009, including the "Dr. Watson" killing, and the sudden death of Natasha Richardson, who had made her UK television debut in 1985, in The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, appearing as Violet Hunter in the episode, "The Copper Beeches."


theo paijmans said...

On Doyle's alleged membership of another, even more mysterious society, Joscelyn Godwin has this to say on page 90 of his book 'Arktos: the polar myth in science, symbolism and Nazi survival" (Phanes Press, 1993): "A more famous associate of the Polaires was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and propagandist for spiritualism; but his connection began only after his death on 7 July 1930..."

More of how this came to be in Godwin's immensely fascinating book.



Sharon Day said...

What a thorough and wonderful review. I was supposed to see it this last weekend and got lost in projects. I'm hopefully seeing it this week. With you references, I will be able to see it with a more discerning eye. Thanks!

Masonry in MD said...

The trailer was stirring already so I bet the movie is one for the books.

Therese said...

Many thanks for unravelling some of the references in the film. I did pick up on the Whitechapel Murders theme, also that scene in the film where it is demonstrated that the sites of killings are in the form of a symbolic design within the city. This is a notion mentioned by several writers about the murders.

Ack ... though ... the film is a poor production. Despite such good actors, the characteristation is feeble, despite such advanced special effects, the scenes are not compelling and despite it being Sherlock Holmes, the storyline is not interesting. Young Sherlock Holmes, which touches on similar themes, is still a much better film.

When considering Sherlock Holmes related deaths, the Richard Lancelyn Green mystery is always worth considering. Also, it creeps me out that Stephen Knight, who wrote so much about masonic conspiracies, died at the age of 33.

Kent McManigal said...

Seems to me that the filmmaker tried too hard to "reimagine" Sherlock Holmes, and in the process lost his way.

Holmes was meticulous about being clean-shaven as mentioned at least in "The Hound of the Baskervilles", and wasn't romantically interested in women (not even "The Woman", Irene Adler) as the trailer seems to show him being.

I understand trying to make changes for "today's audiences", but "House" did that in a more honest way.

I may still go see the movie, just because I like Sherlock Holmes, but I'd be happier with a more faithful protrayal.

hanum said...

I like this movie, really awesome, cool.