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The Limehouse Golem- My take on the movie with spoilers!

If like me, you’ve read hundreds of mysteries and enthused about Sherlock Holmes tales, THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM is actually pretty predictable.

Set in the Victorian Era, it promises to instill dear in you. Before Jack the Ripper, there was Golem- such is the tagline and you do want it to be the kind of movie that keeps you guessing until the very end as to the true identity of the killer. Unlike the Jack the Ripper legend, Golem is easily recognizable in the very first instance the character is introduced.

The hunger in the eyes, the madness to carve a name on stone, not ice- all of it points towards their murderous intentions.

The story is essentially about Elizabeth Cree and how she leaves behind a tragic, impoverished life to become someone. She finds her secret talents in a music hall where plays are held, led by Dan Leno, an actor who doesn’t mind cross-dressing. He runs the hall with the help of Elizabeth’s “uncle” who has a twisted secret of his own.

When Elizabeth’s husband is found dead by poisoning, all fingers point to the wife who had a terrible argument with him just before he died. To top it all, all his papers were burned the night before. It is up to the detective, working on the Golem case, to find a connection between the two cases and save Lizzie, as she is called.

Spoiler alert!

The Golem is none other than Lizzie Cree. As soon as she came on screen, I knew it would be her. How?
She had an abusive mother. Her mother just conveniently dies one day. Her husband is killed right after he refuses to complete writing his new play which was to feature her as a lead. The first time she watched Dan Leno, you can see how awestruck she is by him being center stage and of the way the audience applauds for him. A midget actor touches her inappropriately and is found dead the next day.
Her competitor sets her up to say the wrong thing to the audience and she responds by kissing the man she is interested in.

Then there’s the fact that she admits to the detective, halfway through the movie, that she married for stardom and he had ulterior motives for marrying her as well. Clearly, we are given an insight into her devious mind- Lizzie would do anything to get her share of the spotlight. Even become the famous killer everyone fears.

So, yes, the movie isn’t particularly suspenseful, nor are the murders executed in such a way as to invoke fear in the audience. We are not at the edge of the seats and cheering for the killer to be caught.

This is not to say that the movie is terribly boring. It is a fascinating tale that has its cringing moments but only because of the way the gray shades of each character is brought forward. The only person, you do end up liking is Dan Leno.

He is what he is, not ashamed to be even a clown and have his name carved in ice. For him, the show must go in, even if one of the actors accidentally kill themselves. In mere moments, he takes over and carries on with the show. It is his passion and he cares about each actor and thinks of them as family but he and his talent are not limited by their absence.

The show can go on without either of them.

The Limehouse Golem will leave you fascinated by its taut storytelling and not once make you feel like you’re watching a long drama. There’s not a single boring moment and you remember it long after you’ve finished watching.


It’s a good movie, just not very capable of posing as a good mystery.  

Comments

  1. Don't you think Dan Leno is actually the killer and his last victim was Aveline, the actress playing Lizzie at the end? We never did get to see his handwriting and somehow he managed to inherit the theatre from 'Uncle'. Lizzie would certainly have seen his handwriting, she wrote scenes and parts with him and knowing she was going to hang, knowing that he was likely to take revenge on Aveline, as he had on everyone who had been mean to Lizzie, she confessed to remove all suspicion from her protector and mentor.

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    1. Yes but with a diferent twist: Lizzie did DO the murders but maybe "guided" by/or even WITH Leno (for them to write and star the final play together). Lizzie probably doesnt kill her husband (she said she was no poisoner but much more). Aveline poisons Cree to get Lizzie hanged (which probably Lizzie knew she would do hence she accepted her as "maid" and mistress in her own home). Because finally Lizzie gets hanged, which is not the plan, Leno gets Aveline killed and finally plays the big part as Lizzie, together as one, as planned. The look between Kildare and Leno at the end could be a realisation "I know it is you and you know I know" etc... (he surely knows that Aveline has just died). Leno has not Killed Kildare as or he didnt have a chance (yet) or the life of Aveline is enough in exchange of Lizzie (for the time being). If plausible then it DOES pose as a good mystery as it gives an alternative ending/murderer as the obvious is not necesseraly the truth...

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    2. I do believe Dan Leno is actually the real killer/mastermind. Lizzie is just a follower, executing his orders and always thinks she is on a stage even to the end; unfortunately, there are no audiences to hear her say: "Here we goes again!"

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    4. Both conclusions are plausible, but as they said in the multiple-ending movie "CLUE", "...but here's how it really happened". What I believe is that Lizzie kills the executioner and guard at her second hanging attempt. With no one around, she hides the bodies and leaves the prison dressed as a guard (after all, dressing as a man was her specialty). She realized that Kildare has not exposed her as the Golem and she will not have the immortal fame she planned for. To change her future, she must "have a go at it again". Eventually, the bodies of the guards will be found and with the murder of Aveline, Kildare will have to expose his knowledge of her being the Golem. She returns to the theater to kill Aveline, dresses as the executioner(again, another male disguise), unhooks the safety device, drops Aveline to be hung in front of everyone's eyes, while Leno says the show must go on speech, she transforms as herself, being reborn, to take the stage once more to receive the adulation of the crowd as herself, a woman of Victorian times, where it is not proper for a lady to have such fame. Just as earlier in the film, suspects are placed in the role of the Golem to give reality to the vision to the movie audience, the same trick is used when you are to think Leno is coming out as Lizzie, but it is really her. The stare given by the Leno Lizzie, would actually be the real Lizzie staring at Kildare, waiting to see what his move will be. Since there is no response but his dumbfounded stare of realization that it is her and that he will be demoted/ridiculed just as much as he was championed for being the hero detective. Lizzie may or may not be captured shortly after, but there can be no denying that she was the Golem, and she will have her name carved in stone, not ice.

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