Jack the Ripper (1976)
If there was ever a role that the inimitable Klaus Kinski was meant to play then surely it was the infamous Jack the Ripper who terrorized White Chapel in 1888. And who made it happen? None other then the Hitchcock of exploitation filmmaking, Jess Franco.
Throwing the historical facts we do know aside, Franco who wrote and directed this Erwin C. Dietrich backed production clearly focuses his story on Kinski and the murders with additional scenes dedicated to Scotland Yard’s hunt for the madman. One shouldn’t be too surprised at a fair amount of nudity either with Franco behind the camera. That’s assuming your somewhat familiar with the career of the man who gave us an astounding amount of films over a 50 plus year career. Among his more notable titles are Vampyros Lesbos and El Conde Dracula.
Kinski will make fast work of the first prostitute he’ll meet up with on a foggy Zurich night. Yes the production was filmed in Zurich but I never really took notice. There’s plenty of fog, narrow passageways, a bawdy nightclub, plenty of dancing girls, flowing champagne and Kinski. London or Zurich, it makes no difference in Franco’s world.
Kinksi’s Ripper doesn’t leave his victims to be found. Instead he takes them back to a hideaway where he’ll butcher them and have a nutty female assistant dump the butchered remains in whatever body of water is subbing for the Thames.
It’s when Klaus murders his first victim that a blind man, Hans Gaugler, is on hand. Turns out this guy has a nose befitting Sherlock Holmes and will give a detailed report to the Yard’s Inspector played by Andreas Mannkopff.
Another murder is too follow with the typical full frontal one should expect from a Franco 70’s production followed by a second that isn’t for the squeamish. Miss Lina Romay whom Francophiles will know has been marked for a brutal rape and death scene at the hands of Dear Klaus. The end result is right out of a Herschell Gordon Lewis 60’s stomach turner or say a Lucio Fulci effort post Zombie.
Quick, connect Charlie Chaplin to Jess Franco. Easier than you might you think. Perhaps looking to score a respected name for his Ripper film, Franco cast Charlie’s daughter Josephine Chaplin in the role of Inspector Mannkopff’s love interest. The pair are going through a tough time in their relationship. She’s a ballerina in training (I think) while he has little time for her thanks to the pressure of capturing the Ripper.
Maybe she’ll be able to help him out by going undercover as a lady of the night? Working Vice? Well not exactly. Sorry, getting ahead of myself.
Despite the fact that Franco has decided to go with an original idea, there are no surprises in store except maybe the fadeout which I’ll leave for you to discover on your own if you opt to take the chance. Murders, blood, prostitutes, blackmail that you could see coming and the trademark Franco zoom lens are all present.
On the topic of Franco’s camera, work this time out it’s quite good. Less zooming and more creativity. Especially with a dream sequence where Klaus is sexually taunted by his prostitute mother giving our leading character the motive for the evil deeds he commits.
It would appear as if the copy of the film I’ve added to my collection is uncut and based on the nudity and dismemberment, I’m not surprised. Sadly it’s atrociously dubbed but I’ve come to expect that with damned near every Klaus Kinski film in my possession made overseas and I’ll add, a major detraction from each and every one of them. His real voice was so distinctive that any attempts made at dubbing this unique actor are never satisfying.
The DVD also includes a 22 minute interview with producer Dietrich. It’s a worthwhile watch as he goes into detail his association with Franco and the 15 films he produced for the Spanish filmmaker. He’ll discuss the problems of censorship and contrary to what I’m used to hearing regarding the explosive Kinski, he claims Klaus was nothing less than professional and never encountered any problems with him. Not just on this film but two others he’d produce with Klaus in the mid 80’s, Commando Leopard and Code Name : Wild Geese. Maybe Klaus reserved his angry outbursts for his triumphant films with Werner Herzog.
Kinski had already worked with Franco previously. Among their other efforts are Venus In Furs, Justine and fittingly, he’d play Renfield opposite Christopher Lee’s vampire King in 1970’s El Conde Dracula.
Knowing nothing of producer Dietrich, a quick look at a list of his titles tells me he too was mainly an exploitation filmmaker. Easy to assume when I see titles like Swedish Massage Parlor and The Sex Adventures of The Three Musketeers on his resume. Among the other films he produced with Franco directing you’ll find Swedish Nympho Slaves and Blue Rita. Sounds like more of the same making Jack The Ripper a mainstream standout thanks to Kinski’s above the title billing. To be fair, Dietrich, also has his name attached as a producer to one of my favorite men-on-a-mission flicks, 1978’s star studded box office hit The Wild Geese.
Since we’re on the topic of Jack the Ripper, I guess I should make some recommendations. A pair of Holmes VS. the Ripper films, A Study in Terror (1965) and Murder By Decree (1979). Then there’s one of my favorite Malcolm McDowell flicks, Time After Time. A real gem from 1979.
And just who really was Jack the Ripper? Well if you watched History Channel’s American Ripper as I did a couple of years ago then you, like me might be agreeable to the theory that it was American H.H. Holmes. Holmes was proven to be a serial killer who may have have been in London during the Ripper killings. Made for a compelling “what if.”
Kinski as The Ripper? I’m a fan of Klaus so an easy decision for me to make but I’ll let you decide for yourself if you’re going to sit in on this better than average Franco production. Still, surely you can have a look at this original one sheet I’ve had tucked away for a while now.