Friday, August 31, 2007

Weird Coincidence with Jack the Ripper

How weird.

According to History.com, today marks the 119th anniversary of the murder of Whitechapel prostitute Mary Ann Nichols. Nichols was considered the first victim of the notorious Jack the Ripper, the sadistic serial killer who plagued London for several more months. The last Ripper victim, Mary Kelly, was killed on November 7th. No more murders were ever officially attributed to the killer and the case was closed – unsolved – several years later.

I say "weird" because of the movie that's supposed to arrive at my house later today courtesy of NetFlix – MURDER BY DECREE, Bob Clark's 1979 thriller starring Christopher Plummer as fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, hot on the trail of The Ripper.

There have been plenty of cinematic treatments of the Ripper tale through the years, though the one I've probably seen the most is Jess Franco's fictional take, which stars the one and only Klaus Kinski as the wild-eyed murderer.

After years of watching the hacked VHS cut of the flick Jess Franco's "director's cut" of JACK THE RIPPER is available, complete with lost scenes and a widescreen presentation that some suggested to me was like seeing a whole new movie. Unfortunately, after recently checking out the disc, I can report that it's still the same movie and still leaves me scratching my head as to what all the fuss is about.

The story of the real Jack is one most everyone is familiar with and it's been the subject of plety of films over the years, including the time travel fantasy TIME AFTER TIME, the aforementioned MURDER BY DECREE, the revisionist tale JACK'S BACK (starring everyone's fav suave scum James Spader), and more recent re-workings like the laughably overrated FROM HELL, the Anthony Perkins Jeckyll/Hyde flick EDGE OF SANITY (which touches on the Ripper legend) and the Dolph Lundgren vehicle JILL THE RIPPER. But in this grim Jack tale, the facts and speculations are played with loosely in order to create a horrific, if not all that captivating tale.

Kinski's Ripper is Dennis Orloff, a London doctor using his talents to treat those who can't afford to pay for health care. Little do his patients, or his ultra-horny lady landlord, know that in the dark hours the kindhearted Dr. Klaus is out picking up hookers – and then picking apart hookers.

Over the years the theory has been advanced that the real Ripper was in fact a doctor, suggested by the killer's apparent skill with a surgical blade. However, the way that this reel Ripper butchers his victims it seems odd anyone would actually suspect he was even a butcher, let alone a surgeon.

Admittedly, "screenwriter Franco" capably creates a number of interesting characters who populate the flick, including several London whores who knew the victims well, a blind man (Hans Gaugler) with the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes, and an old bitty who thinks she may have seen the killer running from one of his attacks. In particular, a scene in the office of Inspector Selby (Andreas Mannkopff), the Scotland Yard inspector in charge of the case, comes across rather well – snappy dialogue, above average acting – and it's too bad "director Franco" can't carry this level of quality throughout the flick.

JACK THE RIPPER has little going for it. Aside from the few (and I mean very few) scenes which actually click, the film exists for little more reason than to allow K2 to run around at his crazed peak, scowling, frowning, oooggling and running his hands through the poorly created Spanish substitute for viscera. A few good scenes, but not enough to recommend it to anyone who isn't either a Kinski or Franco completist.

Quite frankly, the highlight of the new disc is an extensive interview with RIPPER producer Erwin Dietrich who talks about his business relationship with Franco and even working with the notorious Kinski. Dietrich dispells the volatile star's reputation by remarking that Kinski never gave him any problems on the three films they worked on together (RIPPER, COMMANDO LEOPARDS, CODENAME: WILDGEESE) and actually helped direct each of the scenes he was in.

While RIPPER may not be worth yet another repeat viewing, I'll surely be watching this informative and interesting bonus feature again.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

I need to take an inventory of how many movies Franco made featuring a main character named Orloff. I would bet that it's a majority of his resume.