A History of Jack the Ripper On Film

A man walks the rain-soaked bricks of 1880s London; a top hat lengthens his shadow as a cape skims the murk and filth of Whitechapel. In his hand a scalpel wielded with malice against an assumed five women, in his history a secret never unlocked….

Jack the Ripper still stalks the streets of London. More than a century after the slayings and we are still engrossed with what happened. Though there have been unsolved murders and disappearances across the world, many are enthralled by what happened so many  years ago. So much so people have paid money to walk his path, read countless amounts of books, and this has naturally migrated into cinema.

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The latest release by Juan Carlos Medina, The Limehouse Golem, may not be directly about Jack the Ripper (in fact, it revolves around a titular fictional killer a decade before the attacks ever took place,) but it definitely aims for those dark hearts obsessed with the infamy.

However, filmmakers have tackled Saucy Jacky before, venturing back from Hell to flesh the bloody legend out with celluloid.

First Ventures

Though a wax reincarnation of the notorious killer would appear in German expressionist film Waxworks (1924,)  it would be Alfred Hitchcock (of course,) who’d first immortalise Jack the Ripper tale on the big screen with his violent and silent film The Lodger: A Story of London Fog  in 1926. Based on a novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, the film follows singer Daisy who soon suspects that an attractive man living in her complex is the infamous killer himself. Though in this version there is no direct reference to Jack the Ripper, the actual perpetrator named The Avenger, the heavily implications solidify it as one of the first movie incarnations of the murderer, introducing cinemagoers to Hitchcock’s sexually charged thrillers and claustrophobic style of filmmaking.

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Hitchcock’s work and Lownde’s book were later remade in 1944 by John Brahms in a more chilling and straight depiction of Jack the Ripper. Still following the story from the point of view of a 19th Century singer, and still with a lodger embroiled at the centre the killings. Laird Cregar was celebrated for his work here and the filmed was met with acclaim. Man in the Attic (1953) would follow this similar story arc but wouldn’t necessarily revolve around the Jack the Ripper mythology.

Elementary Filmmaking

When it comes to Jack the Ripper on the big screen, most memorable works have the same feature: Detective work. With so much secrecy revolving around the identity, the natural (or only remaining he he,) solution would be to have him spar against a great mind such as Sherlock Holmes. In fact, Holmes would battle the killer in several books that would later turn into novels. A Study in Terror, saw James Hill direct John Neville in a highly praised film. Also starring a young Judi Dench, this film would first look at the link between royalty and the deaths.

Murder by Decree
(1979) saw  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s popular character try desperately to hunt Jack. With Christopher Plummer as the lead role, the story toyed with the idea that it was, indeed, a twisted mind close to royalty. Sir William Gull would become the main suspect, and a Masonic scheme to kill the five women to protect Prince Albert and his secret marriage.

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Based on a book by Stephen Knight called Jack The Ripper: The Final Solution, Bob Clark’s work at marrying a fictional detective icon with that of an unsolvable crime has been praise, particularly with Plummer’s unforgettable performance.

Knight’s theory was recreated in Alan Moore’s graphic novel From Hell, which was immortalised on screen (much to the chagrin of Moore,) back in 2001 with a film of the same name. With Johnny Depp, Ian Holm, and Heather Graham (and the worst cockney accent of all time,) the film was a trashy look at the William Gull theory that followed the drug-addled psychic behaviour of  Detective Inspector Frank Abberline (Depp.) Directed by The Hughes Brothers, with modern audiences, it is perhaps the most famous cinematic telling of the Leather Apron.

Foreign films such as the Italian-Spanish work Jack el destripador de Londres (1971) and German film Der Dirnenmörder von London (1976) would also follow this layout. In 1999, Australian film Love Lies Bleeding with Faye Dunaway would looks at a young female journalist who tackles the mystery which may be closer to home.

Unusual Depictions

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Naturally,  with so much familiarity on a singular man who  stalks the streets of London like a shadow, there would be fiction writers wanting to explore a supernatural or science fiction nature to the murderer. Known most famously for A Night to Remember, Roy Ward Baker would tackle mainly Robert Louis Stevenson’s dual beast in Dr Jeykll and Sister Hide.  As inferred by the title, in this British Hammer Horror exploitation film, Jekyll turns into a sinister and beautiful woman and must procure female hormones in order to sustain this sadistic personality. This would, in 2004, be a familiar theme in animated sequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment, where the supernatural hunter, voiced by Hugh Jackson, would come face to face with both the scientist and the From Hell murderer.

Nicholas Meyer would introduce science fiction into the Jack the Ripper lore, depicting the story of Karl Alexander’s unfinished novel Time After Time (1979). Starring Malcolm McDowell as the author H.G. Wells, it revolves around the writer jetting off to San Francisco in 1979 after David Werner’s John Leslie Stevenson uses Wells’ Time Machine. Stevenson, having been revealed as Jack the Ripper, starts slaying again, savouring the sex crazed world of modern times. Though seemingly ridiculous, the film has a fun yet brutal story to it that is made altogether enticing by Werner’s performance.

Hands of the Ripper in 1971 would be one of the first to suggest that Jack the Ripper had family. Following the life of his infant daughter who watched one of his murders, it focuses on her inhibited by his spirit and committing ghastly murders herself. Yet again produced by Hammer Horror, and directed by Peter Sasdy, this film polarised critics upon release.

Reincarnation

One of my favourite screen versions of Jack the Ripper resides in the lauded play adaptation The Ruling Class (1979.) Starring Peter O’Toole, Peter Medak’s work would follow a paranoid schizophrenic who believes he is Jesus Christ and his preaching of love and peace run him afoul of his family. Soon they reconditioning him into believing he is Jack the Ripper, a man who hates suggestive talk sex. Peter O’Toole is so terrific in this dual role but chilling as the believed murder, leading to the most ridiculously yet haunting rendition of Dem Bones. The film highlights that the upper classes think him more normal when he is preaching his murderous inclinations and the haunting final monologue will chill you.  The film would later be re-made into a play starring James McAvoy.

Jack’s Back in (1988) and Edge of Sanity in (1989) would have similar storylines where a psychiatric patient or mentally ill person would believe themselves to be the killer. With the former starring James Spader and the latter starring Anthony Perkins, adept villainous actors who were let down by hammy scripts and dialogues.

Bad Karma (2002) starring Patsy Kensit twists further on this ploy by making her beautifully loony character believe that she is the reincarnated soul mate of the 19th century serial killer, who may be on the inside of

Now

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There have been countless amounts of Ripper portrayals on both the big screen and the small. From all over the globe and as recently as 2016, we’ve enjoyed films of the murderer. Over here, most famous versions include Whitechapel (2009) which follows a copy-cat killer, and Ripper Street (2013,) which follows the area after the murders had stopped.

Despite barely a mention in the film, The Limehouse Golem plays into Jack the Ripper and it echoes throughout time. Though as entertaining romp as it may be, (and it’s out today!) we have to ask: what purpose do we keep portraying Jack the Ripper on the big screen? Do we do it to be entertained, and if so, is that exploitative? After all, these were real people who died at the hands of a callous man.

Yet the years of London have turned horror into theatre, having us captivated by the never-solved mystery that are the murders. We relish in the thrill, and are obsessed with the image of a man in a top hat and cape, wielding his scalpel with malice….

….hiding an identity never unlocked.


The Limehouse Golem is out now 
Read our review! 

61st BFI London Film Festival – Full Line-Up Announced!

The best festival of the year is coming back to London. BFI London Festival is the greatest in showcasing homegrown upcoming favourites, massive overseas triumphs, and a shorts programme. We’re so excited for it we could spit.

Already announced are Andy Serkis’ debut feature Breathe for opening Gala  and Frances McDormand’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. for closing. But for Headline Galas, there are films such as  LGBT drama Call Me By Your Name, Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Richard Linklater’s Last Flag  Flying.  OH, and Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here! 

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, the Gala screenings for each different strand goes as follows: Amant Double for Dare, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales for Family, Blade of the Immortal for Thrill, Foxtrot for Debate, The Meyerowitz Stories for Laugh, On Chesil Beach for Love, Redoubtable

AND THERE’S MORE: Dark River, Happy End, The Party, A Fantastic Woman, The Final Year, and Looking for Oum Kulthum as well as two episodes of David Fincher’s Mindhunters are also due to screen.

There will also be Q&As with David Fincher, Julian Rosefeldt and Cate Blanchett, and flippin’ Takashi Miike for good measure. Holy crap, how amazing?

We’re literally quaking from excitement at the line-up. And there is also amazing entries in competition! Check them out here.

What do you think about the line-up?


BFI London Film Festival screens 5th – 14th October!
Read the full programme here! 

The Best Of…Ben Mendelsohn

I have a theory and my theory is this: Everything Ben Mendelsohn touches turns to pure gold. Though there are films that have faltered despite his presence, he is usually the best actor within them. The Australian star has finally secured a global acclaim with critical praise coming from every country in which his film graces. What is spectacular about his work is how he can transform into different variations of humanity, from the joyous to the criminal, the murderous to the devastating; he truly crafts his work with utmost perfection.

So yes, I think Mendelsohn is one of the world’s most gifted actors and everyone should be excited to see his work  in Una, which is out today.

To celebrate this role, we’re looking at Mendelsohn’s best work.

Honorable Mention: Not a film but make sure you catch him in TV series Bloodline and his break-out role The Year My Voice Broke. 

Beautiful Kate (2009)

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Going back home is always tentative in dramas, and Beautiful Kate is no different. It tells the story of an author who visits his dying father with his young and flippant girlfriend. Family tensions arise with secrets pushed achingly to the forefront. Mendelsohn is captivating in this stirring piece that is both hard to watch but poetic in it’s conception. As a leading force, Mendelsohn greatly unravels his character as the past irritates the present.

Slow West (2015)

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I do feel like there wasn’t enough people who flocked to see this slow burning, earnest, and sometimes droll Western Slow West. Starring Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smitt-McPhee, Slow West is about a Scottish man who tackles the Wild West in order to find his one true love. Taken under the wing of a mysterious bandit, the pair are hunted down by Payne (Mendelsohn,) who’ll stop at nothing to murder them. Menacing, taking soft moments in his villanary only to be utterly brutal the next, Mendelsohn captures the sheer brilliance of his bad guy talents in this building and beguiling role. With a sublime backdrop, Mendelsohn is great….and has the best coat you’ll ever see.

Starred Up (2014)

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Despite being an Australian actor, Ben Mendelsohn tackles this rough British crime drama with such a might, you’d have thought he was born and bred in this ‘ere Landaaan town. Anyway, if there was ever a father-son duo of our dreams, then it would be Jack O’Connoll and Mendelsohn which we greatly get to see here in Starred Up. The film revolves around a young offender whose temper and rage in juvenile detention sees him levelled up to an adult prison where this is more at stake. Mendelsohn plays Neville Love who wants to teach his son how to toe the line but also fills up the young Eric with anger, especially as he left him. There’s a great patriarchal chemistry between O’Connoll and Mendelsohn full of frustration, destitution, love, and sacrifice. The final scene is earnest and heart-breaking.

Mississippi Grind (2015)

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This is one of those movies where you want to drag people by the ear and force them to watch it. With a bankable Hollywood star in Ryan Reynolds, its surprising people haven’t seen this film.  The leading pair, Mendelsohn and Reynolds are captivating in compulsive devastation as gambling addictions ravage throughout them, leading them to work the titular circuit of casinos, card games, and more. Mendelsohn plays Gerry who believes Curtis is his lucky charm and convinces the latter to come with him on this journey. It’s a compelling look into desperation and the torment that tackles everyone with this addiction, Mendelsohn is stunning to watch fall apart.

Animal Kingdom (2010)

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Perhaps one of the first roles that saw everyone captivated with Mendelsohn’s acting which is impressive as he plays alongside Joel Egerton and the phenomenal Jackie Weaver. Telling the very true story of Trevor Pettingill and Victor Peirce who murder two police officers but were shockingly acquitted. As part of a crime family, Mendelsohn plays the menacing and terrifying Andrew “Pope” Cody who is one of the criminal men on the run from the police. Though Weaver’s “Smurf” is perhaps the more twisted matriarchal protector, Mendelsohn is deeply ominous and looming throughout.


See Ben Mendelsohn in Una now! 

Short Circuit: Here Lies Joe

Utilising time is an essential trick to creating a short film; with only so many minutes at hand, it’s important to keep track of what’s going on, making sure that nothing feels incomplete, yet also note taking it too far or moving it faster than it should be allowed to. It’s a difficult task, but Here Lies Joe handles this better than maybe any other short film I’ve seen.

Joe, a suicidal man, attends a support group where he meets Z, a disarming and troubled young woman who leads him on a series of adventures that change his outlook on life.

The film almost falls into manic pixie dream girl territory with the character of Z, but it very quickly establishes her as something far more grounded; vulnerable and not willing to show it, Andi Morrow brings so much energy and charisma to the role, that she uplifts us almost as she uplifts Joe. Speaking of Joe, serious credit to Dean Temple for successfully embodying a broken and lost man with absolutely no reliance on exposition or backstory. He just sinks into the role, to a point where you almost want to pull him back out because it feels too much.

Carrying on from that, the film’s lack of exposition is simply perfect; it offers you no rhyme or reason for why Joe and Z are the way they are, it just presents to you a bleak and sometimes darkly comic tale which doesn’t rely on anything artificial. The cinematography is stunning, with certain shots providing eerie and uneasy imagery that’s hard to shake. It takes it’s time, doesn’t rush anything yet doesn’t take anything too slow, just lets the story move at the pace that it needs to move and it’s simply beautiful.

I can’t give enough credit to this film; it captures so many dark emotions in a way that’s not contrived or unnatural, through stellar performance, haunting direction and perfect pacing. This is most definitely a film that you need to see.


Find out more about Here Lies Joe! 

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House – Brand New Trailer!

The Watergate Scandal is quite possibly the archetypal political scandal (well, once you get past all the sex scandals that have arisen in more recent years that is.)

It’s a perfect story for a thriller; there’s corruption, mystery and plenty of secret meetings in underground car parks, which is probably why it’s been covered in so many different ways, from All the President’s Men to Nixon, and now with Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.

Starring Liam Neeson as the titular Felt, a senior agent of the FBI who is requested to stop looking into what happened at The Watergate Hotel in 1972 after he begins to unravel a tangled web of deceit that would eventually bring down the President himself.

Whilst everyone knows the outcome of the story, the incredible combination of Neeson, Diane Lane, Michael C. Hall and Bruce Greenwood (alongside many more) makes this a delectable little morsel to feast upon when it gets released.


Mark Felt: The Guy Who Brought Down the White House is out in cinemas later this year!

West of Sunshine – Brand New Trailer!

Jason Raftopoulos’ film West of Sunshine looks like it will be a touching and beautiful piece of cinema.

The entire film revolves around a day in the life of a father who is spending the day with his son whilst also trying to pay off his debt to a loan shark. The premise itself screams comedy, but this is not the case. The film takes a very loving look at a parent who will do anything to protect their child from the mess they have created whilst at the same time attempting to have a fun day out.

It looks so incredibly moving that there really shouldn’t be any need to say more than that, other than to watch the trailer below and see for yourself.


West of Sunshine is out later this year.