Jack the Ripper (1976)

Klaus Kinski is Jack the Ripper in Jess Franco's unsucessful historical thriller from his Erwin Deitrich period. Anchor Bay UK R0 DVD.

The Film

Victorian London, a prostitute is brutally killed in a foggy street - Jack the Ripper (Klaus Kinski) is at large. During the day however, Jack is a philanthropic doctor, providing medical services to poor people who cannot afford to pay him but is tormented at night by visions of his prostitute mother which drives him to murder. Scotland Yard's Inspector Selby is investigating the case and makes a break-through when a blind-man who was near the killer detected the scent of medical alcohol and rare greenhouse plants, but Selby's obsession with finding Jack is driving him away from his girlfriend Cynthia and she takes her own measures to ensnare the killer...

The real legend of Jack the Ripper is one of perennial fascination and has fuelled many film adaptations down the years, most using facts from the case to surmise on the potential killer's identity - however, Franco's self-penned film completely fails to reference any of the real history behind the case - only the presence of a man killing prostitutes in Victorian London remains. The killings are not accurate to accounts, nor are the police procedures or the absence of the media (Jack the Ripper was the first serial killer to attract a media-frenzy in the booming newspaper era). Similarly Franco chooses not to speculate on the true identity of the killer and never particularly explores the motives of his murderous doctor.

This leaves the film without any real focus - with the identity and motives of the killer established early on, it is not a mystery film, this similarly deprives the police procedurals of any tension or excitement; as a horror picture it boasts some gratuitous gore but no scares or tension; as a sex film (for which Franco is probably best known) it fails, having only a few brief nude scenes. There are a number of possible paths that Franco could have followed to make the film more interesting - the most interesting based on his oeuvre being a backdated Dr. Orloff styled horror, with the 'Ripper' killing the woman for medical harvesting (organs were stolen from the murdered women in the real case). As it is, we get Klaus Kinski killing a few women and looking moody while Inspector Selby engages in some very slow paced police procedurals and interviews, aided only by an amazingly helpful blind-man, drifting along to a rather dull ending.

Franco's direction solid is but unspectacular with nothing particularly distinguishing. All that keeps the film from being a complete bore is the impressive set design and costumes that do create a very dark and realistic looking atmosphere. Dietrich's top composer Walter Baumgartner provides a light but largely unnoticed score with a nice nightclub act. The gore effects look pretty poor and there is an obviously post-production inserted stabbing shot during one of the murder scenes that looks completely out of place.

Like his earlier collaborator, Harry Alan Towers, Erwin C. Dietrich was able to supply Franco with sufficient budget to secure some top name actors - in this case, legendary German actor Klaus Kinski who Franco personally insisted on for the role. Famed for his wild over-the-top performances, Kinski gives a very repressed performance for the most part, but with some impressive anger as he kills his victims. The rest of the cast are unremarkable although there are a couple of familiar faces - regular German character actor Herbert Fux has more screentime than usual and Franco's favourite, Lina Romay makes a brief appearance as a doomed prostitute.

Despite being a pet project of both Franco and Kinski for several years, Jack the Ripper is an unremarkable film with little to recommend it. The storyline doesn't go anywhere fast and misses a lot of opportunities, wasting a good Kinski performance in the process. The direction and editing are pedestrian, only the impressive set designs gives anything worth discussing. Franco/Dietrich era fans and Kinski completists might enjoy this film, but it is not recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Klaus Kinski - Top name in Euro-cult who also worked with Franco on Count Dracula (1970).
Directed by anyone interesting? Jess Franco - the biggest name in euro-cult cinema with over 180 films to his credit, everything from black and white horror Secret of Dr. Orloff (1964) to DTV softcore horror Tender Flesh (1998)
Any gore or violence ? A few very gory sequences.
Any sex or nudity? Several nude scenes and sexual assauts.
Who is it for? Not recommended. Only for Kinski or Franco/Dietrich era completists.

Visuals The disc is very strong visually, some grain, strong colours. No print damage at all.
Audio German - the sounds good, but with some hiss.
English - possibly newly recorded, sounds clear but marred by horrible fake London accents.
Subtitles English - translation of German dialogue.
English - translation of German audio commentary.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio Commentary with Erwin C. Dietrich. German with English subtitles.
  • Documentary on the film including interview with Dietrich. German, with English subtitles. (21m 43s)
  • Feature on the restoration of Jack the Ripper from original vault elements. German, with English subtitles. (17m 25s)
  • Original cinema trailer. German, no subs. (2m 25s)
  • Stills gallery - a collection of 29 behind-the-scenes stills, manual scrolling.
  • Jess Franco, Klaus Kinski, Dietrich and the real Jack the Ripper on-screen text bios.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Other similar 'Official Jess Franco Collection' discs are available in USA, Switzerland and Australia.
US and Swiss discs include a bonus trailer and deleted scenes as well as more language options. The UK disc is the only one to include English subtitles for the German audio track.
Cuts? The film is completely uncut. German language print - title and credits are in German.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 22nd June 2006 - updated 25/06/13.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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