Vic’s Review – “Jack The Ripper” (1988)

What’s it About?

A Scotland Yard police inspector, battling the booze, investigates the Jack the Ripper murders and discovers a conspiracy that leads all the way up to the queen.

“Jack The Ripper”

Directed by David Wickes

8 out of 10

By Vic

Boy, this one slipped right by me and upon watching the first 20 minutes I realized that it was my own completely boneheaded fault for missing this very moody, exciting and brilliantly acted mini-series from the 80’s about the most notorious and most talked about serial killer of all time.  “Jack the Ripper.”

The hard to find film has just been released on Blu-ray as a German edition and it is part of the WB Archive on DVD.

David Wickes’ mini-series is a complicated and dynamic mystery that is both interesting and gothic in tone and execution. It is upon first viewing it an engrossing production and it holds up very well thanks to very believable and energetic performances from all involved.

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It is London 1988 and Micheal Caine as Inspector Fred Aberline is asked to put aside his drunken ways and investigate the serial deaths of prostitutes in London’s White Chapel area. He accepts the task but has to promise his partner, Sgt. George Godley (played by Lewis Collins) to stay off the booze and get down to the serious and grimy detective work.

It isn’t easy and this disparity gives Micheal Caine the chance to flex his acting chops and never get too hysterically emotive in the meantime. It is a strong and decisive portrayal of an Inspector with shortcomings. Collins and Caine are almost polar opposites as Godley likes to jump in feet first and is quick to get into bar brawls, Caine instead is the cooler head that likes to analyze and observe.

The versatile Armand Assante steals every scene he is in as an American theater actor Richard Mansfield who does a convincing Jekyll-Hyde performance on stage. He is under suspicion since it has been verified that he likes to visit brothels. There are others under the microscope as well like an esteemed fortune teller played by the strange Ken Bones in a very unique performance.

Things become even more convoluted when Abberline and Godley are told that Prince Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson, has been seen attending the brothels in Whitechapel as well.  Another suspect is Dr. Theodore Acland (Richard Morant, On the Third Day), the son-in-law of Sir William Gull (Ray McAnally), an eminent medical practitioner and Physician to Queen Victoria.

Though slightly off it’s game Wickes’ miniseries is very entertaining. Caine and Collins are very convincing as the representatives of the law who begin chasing a madman on the dirty streets of Victorian East London. Assante is also excellent. Bones does not disappoint either, though there are a couple of scenes where he goes a bit bonkers with his “clairvoyant visions”

Cinematographer Alan Hume’s (Return of the Jedi) photography and John Blezard’s production designs are amazing to watch. When Jack the Ripper goes out to kill, some of the visuals are incredibly scary. There is one specific sequence where Bones’ visions include “wheels” that always creep me out.

Vic’s Note: In 1989, the Jack the Ripper won Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV (Michael Caine). So if you do find the DVD or get the Blu-ray you will enjoy this over looked gem. Enjoy!

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