Friday, March 15, 2019

JACK THE RIPPER (1959) Blu-ray review

Jack the Ripper (1959) d. Robert S. Baker / Monty Berman (UK) (81 min)

While other films had previously been produced based on the notorious Whitechapel slayings of 1888, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1927), this feature from producing/directing team Baker and Berman (and distributed in the US by legendary showman Joseph E. Levine) was the first to call the Ripper by name in its story (and title, for that matter). It also represents the first time the iconic imagery of a caped figure with top hat roaming the London streets had been seen on screen (though it had been referenced in literature). Despite the talents of legendary scribe Jimmy Sangster (The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula) and being as effective as many of Hammer’s post-Psycho black-and-white thrillers of the early 1960s, it failed to resonate with audiences on its initial release and slipped into relative obscurity.

Happily, Severin Films has breathed new life into this underappreciated and provocative shocker, presenting both the original UK version and the US (aka “Continental”) release, the latter complete with a brassy new score by Jimmy McHugh and Pete Rugalo (replacing Stanley Black’s excellent moody original) and a startling Technicolor insert (snipped by UK censors) during its nail-biting climax.

Irishman Eddie Byrne, later to become semi-famous as Captain Willard in Star Wars, lends his sturdy presence as the lead inspector (the same year he played an inspector for Hammer’s The Mummy). TV regular Lee Patterson (Surfside 6, Bonanza) serves as the token American (common practice in the early days of Eurohorror) and legendary British character actor John Le Mesurier (over 200 TV and film credits, though potentially best known for playing Bilbo Baggins in the BBC Radio production of The Hobbit opposite Ian Holm and Bill Nighy) is splendid as the overprotective father of our plucky heroine Anne Ford (Betty McDowall).

While Baker and Berman directed several films as a duo, they enjoyed even more success as a producing team, with such enjoyable genre efforts as The Crawling Eye, Blood of the Vampire, and The Flesh and the Fiends to their credit, as well as the wildly popular TV series, The Saint.

Trivia: Easily confused with the equally obscure quickie VHS compilation, comprised of three episodes of the Boris Karloff-hosted TV series, The Veil (produced in 1958), which features a Ripper story starring Niall MacGinnis (Night of the Demon) as Victorian psychic Robert Lees who supposedly had visions about the identity of the notorious murderer.


UK and US Versions (81 min each)

Audio Commentary with co-director/co-producer/co-cinematographer Robert S. Baker, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, assistant director Peter Manley, moderated by British horror historian Marcus Hearn

Alternate Continental Takes (11 min)

Interview with author Denis Meikle (Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies) (11 min)

“Gentleman Jack: The Whitechapel Murders Revisited” featurette (14 min)

Theatrical Trailer

Poster and Still Gallery

Jack the Ripper is available now on Blu-ray from Severin Films and can be ordered HERE:


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