Movie Reviews

Deadly Advice (1994)

Sweet little black comedy about a young lady who starts seeing the spirits of infamous murderers (such as the Ripper and Dr Crippen) when she entertains the idea of murdering her cold, overbearing mother. Movie doesn’t break any ground – it’s certainly not a lost minor classic – but it’s mildly amusing and the actors do a good job with the slight script.

*** (out of 5)

∫J

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)

The Hammer studios are at it again with this hugely entertaining horror film. A unique twist on the classic horror story sees Dr. Jekyll morph into a woman in an effort to attain the elixir of life. Of course, in order to attain said elixir, he needs to kill helpless women, and thus becomes the notorious Whitechapel Murderer. The plot is silly and is really just an excuse for lots of moody shots of foggy London and a chance to see Martine Beswick’s generous assets.

***½ (out of 5)

∫J

Edge of Sanity (1989)

Muddled re-telling of the classic Jekyll and Hyde story. Perkins hams it up as the Jekyll/Hyde/Jack the Ripper character, and even though Perkins is a fine actor, he is wildly uneven here (he is miscast as the proper Englishman Dr Jekyll, although he fares slightly better as the crazed, drug-addled Hyde). The story is threadbare and the tone as strange and uneven as Perkins’s performance.

** (out of 5)

∫J

From Hell (2001)

An enjoyable, if highly stylised (loose) adaptation of the excellent graphic novel of the same name.  Johnny Depp is good as Abberline, though an older actor with more gravitas might have been a better choice; however, Heather Graham is woefully miscast as Mary Kelly.  The movie does a great job of re-creating the murder locations and injuries sustained by the real-life victims, but it’s more concerned with looking good and being flashy than creating fully-rounded characters and a compelling story.  Still, if you’re in the mood for a fast, colourful popcorn movie, then you could do worse than From Hell.

***½ (out of 5)

∫J

Hands of the Ripper (1971)

Classic Hammer gore film from the early ’70s.  Full of blood, buxom lasses and gothic atmosphere.  While it doesn’t have a hell of a lot to do with the Ripper (the movie concerns his daughter – yep, that’s right, his daughter! – and is set fifteen years after the Jack the Ripper murders), it’s still a wonderfully entertaining horror flick as only the Hammer studios can produce.

**** (out of 5)

∫J

Jack’s Back (1988)

If you’re in the mood for a silly, schlocky ’80s thriller, you could do worse than Jack’s Back. Story is unbelievable and nonsensical, but watching James Spader playing twins is a riot. Many twists and turns (most of them predictable) in this tale of a modern-day Jack the Ripper in seedy Los Angeles.

**½ (out of 5)

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Jack the Ripper (1959)

Now this is a pleasurable little movie.  Light on accuracy, but it’s nevertheless a well-paced, sometimes suspenseful and nicely shot mystery/thriller.  It also has a surprisingly tawdry and trashy climax in which the hitherto B&W movie switches to colour for a few moments to show the killer’s bloody demise.

*** (out of 5)

∫J

Jack the Ripper (1973)

In this 1973 TV mini-series, popular fictional detectives Barlow and Watt investigate the Jack the Ripper murders. A little dated now (some official files had yet to come to light at the time, and it leans towards the Royal Masonic theory), but an otherwise sober and well-made examination of the crimes and some suspects. I would have liked some more re-creations and less talking-heads, but the few re-creations are nicely atmospheric and, because they’re taken from the inquest testimonies, accurately portrayed. Hard to find, but recommended.

**** (0ut of 5)

∫J

Jack the Ripper (1976)

Atrociously bad, yet entertaining exploiter from Jess Franco.  Movie doesn’t have much to do with the actual crimes of Jack the Ripper – really, aside from the title and the fact that prostitutes are killed, it could’ve been set anywhere (well it was filmed in Switzerland – not exactly the East End of London!) and about any sadistic doctor-murderer.  Kinski is appropriately menacing, and the movie has an ample amount of gratuitous nudity (but would you expect anything less from a Franco movie?).  If only it had an ample plot to go with it…

** (out of 5)

∫J

Jack the Ripper (1988)

I watched this mini-series when it first aired in 1988 and it was the spark that ignited my life-long fascination with Jack the Ripper.   A first-rate production, coupled with fine performances from the entire cast (though Caine as Abberline and Collins as Godley are standouts) and a nice re-creation of Victorian-era London combine to make this, in my opinion, the best Jack the Ripper movie ever made.  While I don’t agree with their conclusions as to the identity of Saucy Jacky, and there are some minor errors throughout the movie, these are small quibbles in what is an otherwise superbly made, supremely entertaining and at times chilling movie-going experience.  Great music score, too.

***** (out of 5)

∫J

Jack the Ripper Goes West (aka A Knife for the Ladies, 1974)

In the Wild West, a mysterious Jack the Ripper-type killer kills prostitutes in an Arizona town. At a scant 51 minutes, this movie plays more like an episode of some old TV western, and it’s not helped by the thin plot, amateurish acting and overall cheap production (although I believe Jack the Ripper Goes West is a cut and retitled version of the feature-length A Knife for the Ladies; however, I doubt the extra thirty minutes would make this movie much better). It’s a mildly entertaining blend of horror, mystery and western, but the best thing about this cheapie flick is its short running time.

** (out of 5)

∫J

The Lodger (1926)

One of Hitchcock’s early features, this is a fine silent picture, and the first of several adaptations of the classic novel.  The Lodger is a suitably creepy movie, full of moody lighting, solid performances, and Hitchcock’s wonderful directorial touches.  The very first movie about Jack the Ripper, and what a cinematic debut!

**** (out of 5)

∫J

The Lodger (1944)

This is an excellent version of the Marie Belloc Lowndes story.  In many ways an equal to the classic Hitchcock movie of the same story, The Lodger is a taut, nicely atmospheric mystery/thriller, with a chilling performance by Laird Cregar as the lodger.

**** (out of 5)

∫J

The Lodger (2009)

Not a bad adaptation of the famous novel. Moves the setting from Victorian-era London to modern-day L.A., which I found worked well; the noirish element gave the movie an appropriately dark and pulpish tone. However, the story was full of cliches and often clumsily staged, and the acting was hit-and-miss. The Lodger had promise, and with some serious tweaking, could have been a minor classic. Unfortunately, the writing was sub-par and the characters flat, which meant the movie ended up being only so-so.

*** (out of 5)

∫J

Man in the Attic (1953)

Enjoyable, if slight, version of the classic story, The Lodger.  Palance is suitably creepy as the mysterious lodger, but the movie offers no real surprises and the set-pieces and direction are merely adequate.  Not an especially memorable movie, but fun nonetheless.

*** (out of 5)

∫J

Murder by Decree (1979)

One of several movies that pit Sherlock Holmes against the Whitechapel fiend, and arguably the best.  Two fine performances by Plummer and Mason (as Holmes and Watson, respectively), and a stylish re-creation of the period makes for a fun, thrilling, at times funny (who can forget that pea scene!) movie.  Forget the nonsensical plot concerning the Masons (the movie was inspired by the book The Final Solution) and simply sit back and enjoy.

**** (out of 5)

∫J

Pandora’s Box (1929)

Classic German silent film has little to do with the Ripper, other than a brief cameo towards the end of the film. Still, this is an excellent picture, with the incredible Louise Brooks shining in her most famous role. If you’re looking for a Ripper movie, look elsewhere; but if you’re after a marvellous silent era film, then no look further.

****½ (out of 5)

∫J

The Phantom Fiend (1932)

Second film adaptation of the novel, The Lodger, and the first Ripper movie to be recorded with sound. An unnecessary remake, as it adds nothing significantly new to the story, and it lacks the skill, suspense and atmosphere of the Hitchcock film that preceded it. Stick with either the classic silent film, or the excellent 1944 version.

** (out of 5)

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Ripper (2001)

A Jack the Ripper copy-cat starts killing college students in this lame slasher movie. Along with its needless flash (and not the stylish kind like in From Hell) and crude attempts at adding some ‘art’ into the mix, this movie contains a messy, clichéd plot; unlikable, cardboard-thin characters; and laughable dialogue. The filmmakers should have paid more attention to creating suspense, a chilling atmosphere, characters we care about and a strong story, instead of reading Teen Horror Movie Clichés for Dummies.

*½ (out of 5)

∫J

The Ripper (1986)

Hilariously awful shot-on-video movie about a professor who buys a ring supposedly owned by Jack the Ripper. When the professor puts on the ring, yep, you guessed it, a killer starts butchering women Ripper-style. Despite the lack of story, amateurish acting and a production budget of a buck fifty, The Ripper still manages to be entertaining mostly because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and doesn’t strive to be anything more than a fun, silly slasher. Oh, and there’s also buckets of fake gore and a wildly camp turn by Tom Savini as The Ripper.

** (out of 5)

∫J

The Ripper (1997)

Not a particularly good tele-movie. We’ve been here before: another royalty-based storyline, with an Inspector attempting to capture the Ripper before he kills again. Nowhere near as lavish or enjoyable as the Michael Caine tele-movie, and doesn’t even try to stay true to the most basic of facts. A generally drab and disappointing movie (although it does have the distinction of being the only Ripper movie – at least that I’m aware of – filmed in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia).

**½ (out of 5)

∫J

Ripper Man (1995)

Tacky, low-rent movie about a strange dude who thinks he’s the reincarnation of the Ripper, and uses ex-cop-turned-nightclub-hypnotist Mike Norris (Chuck’s son) to hypnotise him in order to get in touch with his inner killer. Yes, the movie is as contrived and awful as the plot suggests. Entertaining enough if you dig cornball action/thrillers, otherwise avoid.

** (out of 5)

∫J

The Ruling Class (1972)

Peter O’Toole plays a paranoid schizophrenic who inherits his father’s (a member of the House of Lords) estate when the father accidentally commits suicide. The only problem is, the new successor thinks he’s Jesus Christ. A wonderful black comedy that satirizes the British class system. The film turns darker in its second half when supposedly ‘cured’ from his Christ complex, O’Toole’s character turns into Jack the Ripper incarnate. A very funny, clever and thought-provoking film.

****½ (out of 5)

∫J

7 Murders for Scotland Yard (1971)

A modern-day Jack the Ripper slaughters women on the streets of London in this mediocre giallo. The production is cheap, the effects even cheaper, and the plot laughingly ludicrous. For Ripper/giallo completists only.

** (out of 5)

∫J

Shanghai Knights (2003)

Sequel to the 2000 action/comedy Shanghai Noon is a tepid affair. Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan are talented, likeable stars, but they’re wasted in a movie full of tired jokes and a script that is lame. The Ripper cameo, which occurs when the bumbling duo visit Whitechapel and Wang’s (Chan) kung-fu-fighting sister gives the infamous murderer chop-socky justice, is mildly amusing.

**½ (out of 5)

∫J

A Study in Terror (1965)

The first Sherlock Holmes Vs Jack the Ripper movie, this pales slightly in comparison to Murder by Decree in that it lacks the detail regarding the real-life murders.  However, it’s still a charming movie and well worth watching.

***½ (out of 5)

∫J

Terror at London Bridge (1985)

Is there anything cheesier than ‘The Hoff’ battling the spirit of Jack the Ripper?  I think not!  This ultra-tacky TV movie (set in Arizona in 1985) is fun in a so-bad-it’s-so-unbelievably-entertaining kinda way, and sometimes, that’s not a bad thing.  Terrible, but enjoyable.

** (out of 5)

∫J

Time after Time (1979)

A delightful, if at times a little corny, movie that pits H.G. Wells against the Ripper in modern-day San Fran.  More of a fun sci-fi movie than a Jack the Ripper film, this has more in common with Back to the Future and The Time Machine than The Lodger or Murder by Decree.  Still, a lot of fun.

***½ (out of 5)

∫J

Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992)

Saucy Jacky only made the briefest of appearances in the first Waxwork movie; in the second, the Whitechapel Killer has a marginally bigger role. Still, the Ripper is only in the movie for maybe five minutes, and it’s not especially memorable. Like the two movies themselves, the Ripper’s cameo is underdone and the filmmakers could have done so much more with the idea of the modern characters finding themselves thrust back a hundred years and facing the most notorious of murderers. A disappointing watch all round.

** (out of 5)

∫J

Waxworks (1924)

Silent German film about a young poet employed by a waxworks to write stories about three of their exhibits (the notorious historical figures Caliph of Baghdad, Ivan the Terrible and Jack the Ripper/Spring-Heeled Jack). This mostly excellent German expressionist film is uneven at times (the first story is too long and the comedy doesn’t always work, and the last section – Jack the Ripper/Spring-Heeled Jack – is much too short), but overall it’s a successful blending of horror, fantasy and adventure.

**** (out of 5)

∫J

What the Swedish Butler Saw (1975)

A surprisingly enjoyable movie. What lifts it above the usual sex romp is its wry sense of humour; it’s funny in a droll and black British way. Not a lot to the movie (other than lots of naked flesh) but there is a crude satire about sexual repression and the hypocritical nature of Victorian morality lurking among the boobs and bums, with Jack the Ripper (who is relegated to a mischievous old man who haunts a townhouse) acting as the embodiment of the darker side of Victorian society – or maybe I’m just reading too much into the movie. Did I mention there are lots of boobs?

*** (out of 5)

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Whitechapel (2009)

A recent mini-series that sees a modern police force tackling the century-old murder case.  Nicely done, with some decent East End atmosphere and attention to detail with regards to some of the facts (as well as a nod to all the Ripperologists out there).  Hampered by some amateurish acting and the production did feel a little cheap at times.  Overall, not bad, but not as polished as it could have been.

*** (out of 5)

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Published on September 14, 2010 at 10:16 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for this excellent article. Like you, it was the 1988 Michael Caine miniseries that set me off on JTR. I thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly the excellent score, although I did find elements annoying such as the ridiculous mischaracterisation of George Lusk. It would nice to one day have a major JTR production that DIDN’T go for the Royal Masonic conspiracy…
    Best wishes,
    Andy

    • Thanks, Andy. Glad you dig the site.

      I agree with you; while I love the 1988 miniseries, certain elements were highly exaggerated for dramatic effect, and it’d be great to see a movie/miniseries reflect the truth as close as possible. And yes, that includes no bloody Royal conspiracy!

      Take care,
      Brett.

  2. The miniseries was great, along with the famous Star Trek episode. I was also mesmerized by Wayne Alexander’s role in the Babylon 5 episode “Comes the Inquisitor”.

    • Yep, big fan of the miniseries. Not as familiar with Jack’s exploits on TV, however.


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