ⓘ The Limehouse Golem

The Limehouse Golem

ⓘ The Limehouse Golem

The Limehouse Golem is a 2016 British horror-mystery film directed by Juan Carlos Medina from a screenplay by Jane Goldman. The film, an adaptation of Peter Ackroyds 1994 murder mystery novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, stars Olivia Cooke, Bill Nighy, and Douglas Booth.

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2016. It was released in the United Kingdom on 1 September 2017, by Lionsgate.


1. Plot

A series of murders has shaken the community of Limehouse in the docklands of Victorian London. Journalists seizing on the public taste for gore and melodrama dub the murderer the Golem, after the Jewish legend. When the music-hall star Elizabeth Cree is accused of poisoning her husband, John, on the same night as the last Golem murder, Inspector John Kildare discovers evidence linking John Cree to the Golem murders and wants to solve the cases before Elizabeth is hanged.

Kildare finds a diary written by the Golem of the crimes, handwritten in a printed copy of the essay by De Quincey, On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts, in a collected volume in the reading room of the library in the British Museum. He deduces that the Golem must be one of the four men who were in the library on the date of the last entry; Dan Leno, Karl Marx, George Gissing and John Cree. Kildare acquires handwriting samples of the other three men, while listening to Elizabeths story about how she was the daughter of an unmarried mother and went from sewing sail-cloths at the docks, to becoming a music-hall star.

When Elizabeths abusive mother died, she was befriended by Dan Leno and fell in with his music-hall troupe, performing bawdy comic songs while dressed as a man. Her act quickly becomes second in popularity only to Leno but she aspires to also become a dramatic actor. John Cree, a struggling playwright woos her, offering her a leading part in his new play. She does not respond to his advances but her fellow performer, Aveline Ortega Maria Valverde, becomes jealous and sabotages her first dramatic role.

Elizabeth is entrapped by the theatres owner, a man known as Uncle Eddie Marsan and is forced to pose nude for photographs and to beat him for his sexual gratification. She tells John, who offers to marry her and keep her safe. Elizabeth accepts and Kildare notes that Uncle died suddenly only days later, leaving the theatre to Dan Leno. Johns career stalls, and he grows bitter towards Elizabeth, who supports him financially, eventually beginning an affair with Aveline and suspending work on "Misery Junction", to spite Elizabeth. The two remain estranged until John Crees poisoning.

Kildare finally finds a handwritten copy of the play written by Cree before his death on the day that Elizabeth is to be hanged. He gets an hours postponement to her sentence, hoping that revealing John Crees crimes will cause her sentence to be commuted. After speaking with Elizabeth, Kildare realises that she is the true Golem rather than her husband. She killed Uncle and then began committing murders as the Golem to make a lasting name for herself, poisoning her husband when he found evidence of her crimes.

Broken at this revelation, Kildare delays announcing the revelation that Cree was the Golem to the press until after Elizabeth is hanged, granting her the fame of eliminating the Golem rather than the greater fame of being a killer. In the final scene, Dan Lenos troupe perform Johns play, rewritten to tell Elizabeths life story but Aveline Ortega, playing the part of Elizabeth, dies accidentally during the hanging scene. Leno covers up the death and takes the curtain call dressed as Elizabeth and we see Elizabeth take a bow on stage with him, using Lenos catchphrase: "Here we are again!".


2. Production

Screenwriter Jane Goldman read the book years before she was a professional screenwriter and kept it in mind as a potential project. She explains, "What’s funny is that I read the book long before I was screenwriting. I think it was the only time that I can remember when I read a book and thought, Gosh, I hope somebody makes a movie of this!. Weirdly, years later I was on a film jury together with the producer whom I had read had the rights and I asked him whatever happened to the adaptation and said that I loved the book. That is how this came about, because he said the rights were free again and asked, Do you want to do it?"

It was announced on 17 April 2015 that Alan Rickman, Olivia Cooke, and Douglas Booth had been cast in leading roles for the film, to be directed by Juan Carlos Medina. Rickman later left the project due to declining health after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Principal photography for The Limehouse Golem began in October 2015 in West Yorkshire, with filming taking place in locations such as Leeds and Keighley. Production also took place in Manchester, with cast members Bill Nighy and Daniel Mays being spotted on set in Deansgate. Principal photography concluded on 26 November 2015. Johan Soderqvist composed the films score. The film is dedicated to Rickman, who died in January 2016.


3. Release

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2016. It was released in the United Kingdom on 1 September 2017 and in the United States on 8 September 2017, in a limited release and through video on demand by RLJ Entertainment.

Critical reception

The Limehouse Golem received positive reviews from film critics. It holds a 73% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 74 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.4/10. Ikon London Magazine commented that "the film was exquisitely shot, with fantastic period sets, locations, and wardrobe".

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  • Peter. Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 1994 Berkeley, Anthony. The Wychford Poisoning Case 1926 Edwards, Martin. The Case of the Choleric Cotton Broker
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  • and the Limehouse Golem 1994 by Peter Ackroyd Pentecost Alley 1996 by Anne Perry Matrix 1998 by Mike Tucker and Robert Perry The Name of the Star

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