31 Days of Halloween – Day 2: Jack the Ripper (1959) — by Dr. Shock

HMP Jack the Ripper 1959

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

One of history’s most notorious serial killers, Jack the Ripper, murdered five prostitutes in London’s Whitechapel district in the latter half of 1888 (between the months of Aug. and Nov., to be precise). In each instance, the victim’s throats were slashed, yet some of their other wounds (the uteruses of a few had been cut out) suggested that the Ripper was a man of medicine, with at least a working knowledge of human anatomy. It proved a difficult case for the police to crack, and they never did find the killer. Over the years, there have been several movies based on the Ripper killings, some of which presented theories of their own as to who committed these murders (one of the better entries being the Hughes Brothers’ underrated 2001 crime / thriller From Hell). 1959’s Jack the Ripper, a British film directed by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, offers its own unique spin on the story, and while it’s certainly not the definitive version of this ghastly tale, it’s isn’t a bad little movie, either.

It’s 1888, and someone is killing the women of Whitechapel. Police inspector O’Neill (Eddie Byrne), aided by his old friend, American detective Sam Lowry (Lee Patterson), searches frantically for the murderer, with the only clue being that he may be a doctor (the stab wounds on each victim have been precise enough to suggest they were inflicted by a physician). Meanwhile, Lowry strikes up a romance with Anne Ford (Betty McDowall), the ward of respected surgeon Dr. Trantor (John Le Mesurier), who works at a nearby hospital. A stern man, Dr. Trantor tells Anne that he doesn’t approve of her dating a policeman. But is he truly concerned for Anne’s well-being, or is he hiding something.

Like 1944’s The Lodger, which was also loosely based on the Whitechapel murders, Jack the Ripper doesn’t bother with the facts of the case (this Ripper kills any woman who crosses his path, whether she’s a lady of the evening or not). In addition, because it was produced in the late 1950’s, the movie is devoid of blood and gore (on occasion, we see flashes of a knife, yet never witness it hitting its mark). Where it excels, though, is in its depiction of the murders, all of which occur in the fog-filled, darkened streets of Whitechapel. Again, the violence isn’t graphic, but the filmmakers do manage to slip a little brutality in; the second victim, Helen Morris (Anne Sharp), is cornered by the Ripper, who asks her, in a sinister voice, if she’s Mary Clarke (in this film, the Ripper isn’t a random killer, but a man on a mission). Even after learning that she’s not Miss Clarke, he strangles her, and then, once she’s down on the ground, the camera pans to the Ripper’s shadow, where, in silhouette, we see him plunge a knife several times into her abdomen. It’s an effectively disturbing scene that also sets the stage for each of the remaining murders.

Inspiring everything from books and stage plays to television documentaries, the tale of Jack the Ripper has fascinated people for well over a hundred years. The key question, of course, is why? Is it the ruthless nature of each killing that captures our attention, or the long list of potential suspects that, by all appearances, is still growing to this day (among those mentioned as possible “Rippers” are writer Lewis Carroll and a few members of Britain’s royal family)? In the end, I think what truly stirs people’s imagination is the fact that the perpetrator wasn’t caught, that he committed such heinous crimes, yet never paid the penalty for doing so. He is a faceless monster, a savage killer who will forever remain in the shadows. Unlike Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack the Ripper actually got away with murder.

—Dr. Shock

—Dave’s original post for today’s review over on DVD Infatuation

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15 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween – Day 2: Jack the Ripper (1959) — by Dr. Shock

  1. I don’t know what the deal was, but 2001 was a fairly big year for Jack the Ripper. Besides From Hell, there were also a couple of direct-to-video films, Ripper: Letters From Hell and Bad Karma. I can’t say I remember anything about Bad Karma, but Ripper: Letters From Hell was pretty decent.

  2. (Contains some spoilers)

    Day 2: The Green Inferno (2013)

    Back in the early 2000’s, Eli Roth was one of the hottest new prospects in the horror genre. It seemed as if the future of horror would be ruled by the likes of Roth, Rob Zombie, Brad Anderson, Lucky McKee, and others. For one reason or another, it didn’t work out that way. Zombie broke the hearts of a lot of horror fans with his Halloween movies, Anderson failed to grow his name, and McKee has been more casual and slow in releasing his quality movies. Then there’s Eli Roth. He had a great first entry with Cabin Fever where his love of the horror genre just oozed out of his interviews and commentaries. With Hostel, Roth played a large role in the creation and fad of the torture porn sub-genre. After Hostel II, Roth remained in the spotlight, but didn’t direct another feature length film until now. With an eight year wait, is Roth back to reclaim his spot as the future king of horror or is The Green Inferno an example for why it’s a good thing he didn’t explode like many people predicted that he would?

    At this point in time, I’m not a huge fan of overly graphic or intense horror movies. A decade ago I was all about pushing myself to watch whatever movies had an extreme reputation, but after watching such infamous movies like Salo, I no longer have that desire. One of my fears of seeing The Green Inferno was that it would be too extreme for me and I’d have to turn in my horror fanboy membership card. After all, I’m someone who still hasn’t gotten around to watching Cannibal Holocaust due to the uncertainty of wanting to subject myself to something of that magnitude. I can honestly confirm that I didn’t faint, vomit, or walk out of my theater during The Green Inferno. There were points in the movie where things got extreme to me, I cringed like cringing was going out of style, and I pondered how such a movie was able to achieve an R rating. That first cannibal related death/eating scene is so in your face that you’re horrified, but you can’t stop watching the screen.

    I don’t have any doubt that Roth set out to make anything other than a disturbing movie. This is a film that has the balls to show some morbid kills, the complete devastation and depressing that comes from your certain doom, and one that opts to try and show everything through practical effects. It’s a fun throwback movie to the days of exploitative horrors ruled the land and you set out to find the grossest movie you could find to dare yourself to see it all the way through. While the arrow related kills aren’t going to stand out, the ripping of the flesh and what these cannibals do to the bodies of their discarded victims will stay with you. The one “Graphic” death scene I was not a fan of was when a bunch of horrible CGI giant ants climbed up a victim tied to a post and began giving him the worst experience of his life. The CGI ants looked very fake and after seeing all of this great gore, it feels out of place for this movie. How is it that you have all of these great death scenes filled with gore, but then your CGI ants look like garbage? I would have been completely fine with removing the CGI ants entirely from the film if that was the only way you could pull off that scene.

    Another aspect of the film that I hated was the toilet humor that’s caused by one of the female victims. The victims go from watching one of their own literally ripped apart in front of their eyes, knowing that their time will come, and one girl has a case of the “Drizzles” complete with corny fart sounds? Like with the CGI ants, it feels out of place to have this sort of toilet humor in such a graphic and intense movie. If the sole intention of this scene was for comedic relief, it failed. I did not laugh, have a sensible chuckle, or smile.

    If there anything in The Green Inferno beyond just trying to shock it’s audience? Well, there are some social commentaries. There’s a play on the idea that a lot of protests do not actually matter, the people involved don’t care, and it doesn’t actually change anything. In this day and age where social media rules us all, everyone has been presented with an issue to like, retweet or share. We feel all good about ourselves despite not actually doing anything. As cynical as Justine’s roommate, Kaycee, was, Justine would have been better off had she just listened to her friend instead of buying into the propaganda of trying to change the world by fighting the man. Part of the controversy of this film is that some believes it’s racist or xenophobic. I don’t know if that was Roth’s intent, but I can understand where those critics are coming from. We meet three different types of people from Peru and the “Best” and most honest group are the cannibals. There’s not a single Peruvian person in this film that is seen from a positive light unless you want to count the cannibal child that had interest in the flute necklace. The sole person in the movie that I had sympathy towards and got behind their character was the lead of Justine. She’s a very naive girl, but her heart was in the right place. She only wanted to help make the world a tiny bit better of a place. In the end, that desire put her life in some serious danger. And yet, her motivation never changes in the film even when given every reason in the world to stop trying to help the tribe’s survival.

    Overall, The Green Inferno is an average horror film where what you see is what you get. It excels in the death scenes, gore, and general sense of “I CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT THE SCREEN!” At the same time, it lacks being anything more than a bloody cannibal movie. I liked the lead actress of Lorenza Izzo, who played Justine. Likewise, it was very easy to hate Ariel Levy’s character. If you’re a big fan of such graphic movies as Cannibal Holocaust, then The Green Inferno is the type of movie you should pay money to see in the theater to help encourage studios to have the courage to make more cannibal related movies. For the rest of the horror fans, you can ignore the anticipation hype and simply check out the movie once it’s released on Blu-Ray. It’s good to see Eli Roth back in the director’s chair, but The Green Inferno was closer to quality of Hostel II rather than Cabin Fever or the original Hostel.

    I’d give it a 6.5 rating with the mixed suggestion of either seeing it in the theater if you’re a big fan of this sort of movie or just waiting for it to pop up on Netflix before finally seeing it if you’re not much into that sort of gore.

  3. Day 2: The Purge
    Home invasion narratives are extra scary to me. I think it’s because they could actually happen but there is no purge day in real life so this film doesn’t feel as scary as something like the Collector. I saw it with some friends and my wife and they were all pretty scared though. The plot and character’s decisions provoked some morality discussions in our group as well.

    • THE PURGE is a movie I’m conflicted on. I don’t hate it, but it does seem to slightly miss the mark imo. I know you said it was never really scary, but how did you feel about it overall? Did you like it?

      • Overall, I enjoyed it. I like the idea of a purge night but you have to buy into that premise. It’s hard to believe that a society would ever go for that. I feel like the movie has a lot say about society and morality but it all felt a little heavy-handed. It also felt like a thriller version of the hunger games.

        We spend so much time with the family and I’m not very fond of them. I wanted to see what else was happening during purge night but I assume that’s what the sequels are about and I’m not interested in checking those out. How does it miss the mark for you, Dino?

        • Not sure, exactly. It might be more my failing than the movie’s, but I guess I was expecting (or, hoping for) more of a horror and ended up with a thriller. I know, weak sauce.

  4. Day 2: THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE (2015) – 7/10

    This is an unconventional horror film in its presentation. For those who are unfamiliar with the premise, it is essentially a supernatural film about a psychology lab in the 1970s shot as a mockumentary (hopefully that’s about as non-spoilery a premise as possible).

    I’ve seen several mockumentary style horror films in the past, but this one is different. Where most are a fair mix of documentary and found footage throughout, this one plays very much like a straight-up, talking head documentary with documentary footage throughout and only a sliver of what I would call “found footage.” This style of presentation was rather effective in creating suspense, but was also slow and methodical in the build-up.

    The production value of the film is solid, and the documentary footage has a nice grittiness to it appropriate to the time from which it supposedly came. The performances by the two main characters, William Mapother and Rya Kihlstedt, are highly unsettling, and the payoff, while somewhat predictable, is no less effective.

    This movie thoroughly creeped me out with both its premise and slow, methodical build-up. Patient movie watchers will be rewarded, but impatient movie watchers might struggle with this one. I give it a 7/10 and recommend giving it a look, especially if you’re into mockumentary/found footage and/or supernatural films.

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