Blu-Ray Review: Jack The Ripper (1959).

Produced, Directed & Photographed by Robert S. Baker & Monty Berman
Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster
Music by Stanley Black (UK); Jimmy McHugh & Pete Rugolo (US)
Film Editor: Peter Bezencenet

Cast: Lee Patterson (Sam Lowry), Eddie Byrne (Inspector O’Neill), Betty McDowall (Anne Ford), Ewen Solon (Sir David Rogers), John Le Mesurier (Dr. Tranter), George Rose (Clarke), Philip Leaver (Music Hall Manager), Barbara Burke (Kitty Knowles), Anne Sharp (Helen), Denis Shaw (Simes), Jack Allen (Assistant Commissioner Hodges), Jane Taylor (Hazel), Dorinda Stevens as (Margaret), Hal Osmond (Snakey), Paul Frees (narrator, US version)

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I’m sure I’m not the only kid who caught Jack The Ripper (1959) on TV and has had a fascination with the murders ever since. Back then, researching a subject wasn’t as simple as typing a few words into Wikipedia, and I’ve got a stack of Ripper books to prove it.

Since Jack The Ripper was never caught, a book or movie or whatever can go wherever it wants, presenting its own theory of what happened — or just using the basic story as a springboard for a bit of violence and sex. This movie sticks to the usual path, and its “solution” is in line with some of the common theories from the “experts.” The Ripper scenes are very well done, and they do a pretty good job of concealing the fact that they walk along the same Whitechapel street set over and over again — the fog machine guy sure worked overtime.

My favorite Ripper picture is Murder By Decree (1978) and this one comes in second. Its Hammer-ish feel — courtesy of writer Jimmy Sangster and producers/directors Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, who’d done Blood Of The Vampire the year before — suits the subject matter perfectly.

I’ve never seen Jack The Ripper look good, so I was really eager to see how the Severin Blu-Ray turned out, knowing they’d gone to great lengths to find some nice material to work with. And I was hoping to get a lesson in how the various versions of the picture came to be. And while this isn’t a shining example of everything a Blu-Ray can be, it does show what dedication and hard work can accomplish.

So here’s the back story. Joseph E. Levine made a fortune buying foreign films, sprucing them up for American release, and filling theaters through masterful advertising campaigns. Two of his biggest successes were the US versions of Godzilla, King Of The Monsters (1956) and Hercules (1958). Jack The Ripper was given the same treatment.

Wth the Severin Blu-Ray, you get the British cut of the picture, looking pretty good, but cropped to 1.33. Then there’s the US version in its proper aspect ratio, transferred from a vintage, well-used print found in the Library Of Congress. (Wow, Congress is good for something!) It’s got some lines and splices, and the color insert is there. (I actually like seeing an old movie look like it’s been run a few times — that’s how they usually looked when I first saw them.) In short, Severin did a very nice job with somewhat compromised material.

Of the two, I prefer the US one. The widescreen framing is a huge plus, it’s cool to hear Paul Frees over the Paramount logo, and the music is the score I know from the soundtrack LP.

There was a third version — a cut for the rest of Europe with some extra violence and a bit of nudity tossed in for good measure. Some of those scenes are included in the supplemental stuff. You also get a nice little documentary, the US trailer, an expert interview and a still gallery. A nice package.

But for me, however, the real treat is bringing this Ripper out of the fog after all these years. For that, I’m certainly grateful. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Paramount, Severin Films

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