• Jack The Ripper (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: January 15th, 2018.
    Directed by: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman
    Cast: Lee Patterson, Eddie Byrne, Betty McDowall, Ewen Solon
    Year: 1959
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    Jack The Ripper – Movie Reviews:

    Set in the Whitechapel district of London’s east end in the 1800’s, Jack The Ripper – the killer, not the movie that is named after him (or her)! – has been reliably slicing and dicing women of the night in the back alleys and slums of the neighborhood long enough to set the public on edge. The cops are seen as useless, as are the local politicians, and there are those who feel the only reliable way to deal with this killer is to take justice into their own hands. After all, since Jack is primarily focusing on prostitutes, why should the cops even care?

    But some of them do. Scotland Yard’s Inspector O'Neill (Eddie Byrne) teams up with a detective from New York City named Sam Lowry (Lee Patterson), who is really only supposed to be there as an observer. When they get info from Sir David Rogers (Ewen Solon), the doctor who has performed the autopsy on Jack’s latest victim, indicating that the wounds show they may have in fact been carried out by a surgeon, the case starts to heat up. Dr. Tranter (John Le Mesurier) soon finds himself a suspect, as do Dr. Urquhart (Garard Green) and his mute assistant Benz (Endre Muller), O’Neill and Lowry do their best to catch the killer before there’s another murder, and soon find themselves relying on help from a young woman named Ann Ford (Betty McDowall), who just so happens to have a connection to Tranter…

    While this was clearly made on a low budget and if the identity of the killer isn’t particularly hard to figure out, Jack The Ripper nevertheless makes for a pretty entertaining watch. The film ran afoul of the censors in the U.K. when first released but even here, in an admittedly trimmed version, it’s still pretty strong stuff for a British film of this vintage. Some of the killings are nastier than you’ll probably expect. There are a few pacing issues and stretches of dialogue that go on longer than they need to, but the movie has solid atmosphere, particularly when the action takes us out into the dimly lit, shadowy streets of London.

    Written by Jimmy Sangster, the man responsible for penning quite a few Hammer classics like The Horror Of Dracula and The Curse Of Frankenstein to name only a few, the movie features decent performances from the leads. Eddie Byrne, of Island Of Terror (and Star Wars!), and Lee Patterson of Chato’s Land, make a pretty decent team here. If nothing else, they’re likeable enough. Betty McDowell, who was a prolific British television actress in addition to doing films, doesn’t have all that much charisma but she’s serviceable enough here while Garard Green does a nice bit of scenery chewing.

    Note that this Blu-ray release from Severin Films includes the U.K. version of the movie as well as the U.S. version. There are interesting differences between the two cuts, with the U.S. version running four-minutes longer than the eighty-one-minute U.K. cut of the film. The scores are completely different between the two films and the opening titles are also different.

    Jack The Ripper – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films presents both versions of Jack The Ripper on a 50GB disc, with the UK version using up just under 17GBs of space and the U.S. version just under 16GBs of space. Both transfers are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition.

    The UK version of the film comes with the following disclaimer:

    All of the original film elements on every version of Jack the Ripper are currently lost. This cut of the film is technically the closet to the director’s cut despite some instances of censorship at the hands of the BBFC. It also features the filmmaker approved score by Stanley Black. This master was created around 2005 via an HD telecine. This master was matted at 1.33:1 for reasons unknown.

    Despite the framing, the transfer here is quite good. There’s some noticeable wear and tear here and there but the image is generally pretty strong with good detail and fine contrast, though occasionally a bit on the soft side. Black levels are nice and the image has a reasonable amount of depth to it. The transfer is free of noise reduction or edge enhancement and there are no obvious compression issues to note.

    The U.S. version of the film also comes with a disclaimer, which reads:

    Distributor/showman Joseph E. Levine released the film stateside after introducing a few creative tweaks, not the least of which was a whole new score by Jimmy McHugh and Pete Rugolo. This new 2k scan was created from a 1960 release print on loan from the Library of Congress film archive and is presented in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio.

    This transfer is also perfectly watchable, sometimes, again, looking soft but generally just fine.

    Each cut of film on this disc is given the LPCM 2.0 Mono treatment, in English. Optional subtitles are provided for the U.K. version only. Audio quality is fine for the most part, but again the U.K. version has a bit cleaner of a mix to it. Regardless, for both options the levels are fine and any hiss or distortion that does creep into the mix is minimal.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary track from co-director/co-producer/co-cinematographer Robert S. Baker, assistant director Peter Manley and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster (who passed away a few years ago, indicating that this track was recorded long before this release was announced) that is moderated by author Marcus Hearn. It’s an interesting talk that provides plenty of historical context for both the film and the murders that inspired it. Sangster is pretty open about the fact that he wasn’t all that concerned with writing a historically accurate picture, while Baker and Manley share some interesting anecdotes about censorship issues, where the picture was shot and what it was like working with the different cast and crew members. Lots of good background information here, it’s a lively talk and a pretty engaging listen.

    Denis Meikle On Jack The Ripper is an eleven-minute featurette in which the author of Jack The Ripper: The Murders And The Movies and quite a few other books shares some information about the real life murders that took place in Whitechapel, cinematic adaptations of the events that came before and after this picture, research that’s been done on the case over the years and books that have been written about it. This ties in nicely with the fourteen-minute Gentleman Jack: The Whitechapel Murders Revisited, wherein we learn more about the events that inspired the picture and the effects that it had on the populace of London at the time. Both of these are well put together and genuinely interesting pieces worth taking the time to watch.

    Rounding out the extras is a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    Jack The Ripper – The Final Word:

    Jack The Ripper is a solid slice of vintage British horror and suspense. It’s easy to see how this would have been quite shocking in its day and, if a little less controversial now than in its prime, the movie is still an entertaining picture. Severin Films has done a nice job bringing the picture to Blu-ray with a solid presentation, an alternate version and a few other extra features that add context and historical information on both the film and the case that inspired it. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Jack The Ripper Blu-ray screen caps!