Another underrated Jess Franco movie. Confusing, but Klaus Kinski is terrific as the Ripper (a.k.a. Dr. Orloff).
5 July 2004
I'm a Jess Franco fan but even I will admit that he is a frustratingly uneven director. Franco is a very intelligent guy (a child music prodigy, a student at the Sorbonne, worked with Orson Welles on 'Chimes At Midnight'), but he has been way too prolific for his own good. Almost always working with very small budgets, his movies often appear to be rushed and in some ways, unfinished. On the other hand most of us having been watching lousy prints via video, often censored and generally badly dubbed, so we haven't really been getting to see his work as he originally intended it. 'Jack The Ripper' is a case in point: it has now been digitally restored and looks fabulous, and watching it in German with subtitles, instead of a silly dubbed version, makes you appreciate it a great deal more. Ripper fans will no doubt be extremely puzzled by this movie as it has virtually nothing to do with the facts of the case, but Franco fans are sure to be entertained. The movie was filmed in Zurich instead of London and while aesthetically it doesn't entirely convince, and the whole approach is sometimes quite confusing (just who exactly is the woman in the greenhouse who talks about "pretty dolls" and dumps the bodies??), you very quickly get used to it. Klaus Kinski, in his fourth and last collaboration with Franco, plays the Ripper, and he is absolutely terrific. The bigger a fan of Kinski you are the more you will enjoy this movie. His character is named Orloff, which is not really that much of a surprise, and really this has a lot more in common with Franco's 'The Awful Dr Orloff' (1962) than any other Ripper movie I've ever seen. In Franco's world the Ripper is a well loved doctor who helps the poor of London while simultaneously leading a double life. Tormented by hallucinations of his dead mother, a prostitute, he viciously slaughters streetwalkers, chops them up and dumps their body parts in the Thames. Andreas Mannkopf plays Inspector Selby (why Selby and not Abberline? who knows...), the policeman on the trail of the Ripper, and his estranged girlfriend Cynthia (Josephine Chaplin), a dancer, uses herself as Ripper bait. Franco's wife and frequent star Lina Romay has a memorable cameo as a Ripper victim, and Hans Gaugler plays a blind man whose heightened senses prove to be invaluable help to Selby in discovering the Ripper. 'Jack The Ripper' is quite different from most of Franco's best known movies ('Vampyros Lesbos', 'Succubus', 'Eugenie De Sade'), but the more I see of his astonishing 180+ output, the more I think that he's an extremely underrated film maker who has covered a lot more territory than he is given credit for. Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich collaborated with Franco on fifteen(!) movies between 1975 and 1977 and has plans to re-release them all on DVD restored and uncut. I'm sure that if he does this then Franco's reputation will continue to grow.
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