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.
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.