‘This lady of the night has taken her last walk!’
Jack the Ripper is a 1959 British horror thriller film produced, photographed and directed by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman (producers of The Flesh and the Fiends; The Trollenberg Terror; Blood of the Vampire) from a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster (The Mummy; Dracula; The Curse of Frankenstein), based on a storyline by Peter Hammond and Colin Craig.
The Mid-Century Film production is loosely based on Leonard Matters’ theory that Jack the Ripper was an avenging doctor. It stars Lee Patterson, Eddie Byrne, Betty McDowall and Ewen Solon.
As in Matters’ book, The Mystery of Jack the Ripper, the killer murders prostitutes to avenge the death of his son. However, Matters used the ploy of the son dying from venereal disease, while the film has him committing suicide on learning his lover is a prostitute.
The British ‘X’ certificate release was cut by the BBFC when finally passed on 20/03/1959. As was the practice at the time, it had initially been submitted during scripting in December 1957, for BBFC advice as to what would be permitted. Berman and Baker shot more explicit scenes featuring nudity for the Continental version. Although shot in black and white, the film has brief red colour shots of blood during the Ripper’s demise in a lift shaft.
The original version has an orchestral score by Stanley Black (War-Gods of the Deep) but the US release features a jazzier soundtrack by Jimmy McHugh and Pete Rugolo, arranged and conducted by the latter.
In London, 1888, Jack the Ripper is on his killing spree. Scotland Yard Inspector O’Neill (Byrne) welcomes a visit from his old friend, New York City detective Sam Lowry (Patterson), who agrees to assist with the investigation.
Sam becomes attracted to modern woman Anne Ford (McDowall) but her guardian, Dr. Tranter (Le Mesurier), doesn’t approve. The police slowly close in on the killer as the public becomes more alarmed…
” …while it’s certainly not the definitive version of this ghastly tale, it’s isn’t a bad little movie, either.” Dave Becker, 2,500 Movies Challenge
” …Sangster weaves enough local colour into the story to present what feels to be a reasonable depiction of 1880s London, with one glaring exception. The producer insisted on having an American leading man so the screenplay introduces a NYPD detective on leave in foggy London and assisting the local bobbies ‘with this Ripper business’.” John Hamilton, X-Cert: The British Independent Horror Film 1951 – 1970
” …those looking for a reenactment of the Ripper events had best turn elsewhere. As a fictionalized version of true events, it is entertaining enough, though.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“The film showcases many other standby motifs, including a stodgy police investigation (which takes centre stage here, unfortunately), gurning elderly extras lined up at a soup kitchen, fulsome Can-Can dancers waggling their extravagantly frilled posteriors in the camera’s eye, and a very British form of misogynist sexual disgust taken to the psychopathic extremes.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic
“This Jack The Ripper portrays the increasing panic over the murders, while the identity of the murderer plays out as a whodunnit, with a wealth of suspects. The scarred, hunchback hospital porter limping around wielding a scalpel didn’t fool me though. Presumably Blood of the Vampire, from the previous year, had set a trend for ugly, lunatic hunchbacks.” Black Hole
“Although it takes a few liberties with the history and states a few theories that were never proven as fact, Jack the Ripper is one fun ride through the bloody streets of the past.” James Jay Edwards, Film Fracture
” …the script is aided by Stanley Black’s eerie score and Baker and Berman’s simple but effective trick of tilting the camera by an angle of 30° to herald the onset of each assault. These encounters are crafted to make the most of the opportunities for shuddersome effect.” Denis Meikle, Jack the Ripper: The Murders and the Movies
“In the stentorian tones typical of the new Victorian melodrama, the coroner declaims that the London police are “incompetent, inadequate and inept.” He may have aimed his verdict at the law enforcers, but visitors to neighborhood theatres this week are likely to give his words a broader interpretation. That coroner would have made a good film critic.” Eugene Archer, The New York Times, February 18, 1960
Cast and characters:
- Lee Patterson … Sam Lowry – The Spaniard’s Curse
- Eddie Byrne … Inspector O’Neill – The Mummy (1959)
- Betty McDowall … Anne Ford – The Omen (1976)
- Ewen Solon … Sir David Rogers – Doctor Who; Journey to the Unknown; The Curse of the Werewolf; The Stranglers of Bombay; The Hound of the Baskervilles
- John Le Mesurier … Dr. Tranter – Eye of the Devil; The Hound of the Baskervilles; Mother Riley Meets the Vampire; Dark Interval; Escape from Broadmoor
- George Rose … Clarke
- Philip Leaver … Music Hall Manager
- Barbara Burke … Kitty Knowles
- Anne Sharp … Helen
- Denis Shaw … Simes – The Mummy (1959)
- Jack Allen … Assistant Commissioner Hodges
- Jane Taylor … Hazel
- Dorinda Stevens … Margaret
- Hal Osmond … Snakey the pickpocket
- George Street … Station Sergeant
- Olwen Brookes … Lady Almoner
- Charles Lamb … Stage Door Keeper
- Jennifer White … Beth
- Cameron Hall … Hospital Porter Hodges / Dr. Tranter’s Door Keeper
- Alan Robinson … Coroner
- Anthony Sagar … Drunk at Murder Scene
- John Mott … Singer
- Lucy Griffiths … Salvation Army Woman
- Ballet Montparnasse … Themselves
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England
American film distributor Joseph E. Levine bought the US rights for £50,000. He bragged he spent $1 million on promoting the movie and earned $2 million in profit on it. However, according to Variety, Jack the Ripper earned rentals of $1.1 million in North America on initial release.
Also known as:
- Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (Austria)
- Jack, o Estripador (Brazil)
- Lääkärin salaisuus (Finland)
- Jack l’éventreur (France)
- Jack lo squartatore (Italy)
- El destripador de Londres (Mexico)
- De vrouwendoder (Netherlands)
- Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (West Germany)
Image credits: Black Hole
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