Saturday, February 11, 2017

FRANCO FEBRUARY! JACK THE RIPPER (1976) (DVD Review)

JACK THE RIPPER (1976)  

Label: Full Moon Entertainment  
Duration: 92 Minutes
Region Code: Region Free 
Rating:
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 (No subtitles) 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)  
Director: Jess Franco 
Cast: Lina Romay, Klaus Kinski, Josephine Chaplin, Herbert Fux, Andreas Mannkopff


With Jack the Ripper (1976) Spanish Eurocult provocateur Jess Franco seized an opportunity to not just bring London's Jack the Ripper to life onscreen, but to also resurrect one of his most infamous recurring characters, by way of Dr. Orloff, played this time by movie madman and all around intense thespian Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu), a local doctor who does good for the community by day, but at night the psychotic doc is overcome with inner demons and stalks the fog shrouded streets of London in search of tarts to flay with his surgical tools.

Orloff usually brings the whores corpses to his practice after hours where he dismembers them, with the help of his trusty housekeeper, who kindly offers to pack the bits of people into a burlap sack and dump their remains into the Thames river. She was an interesting bird, I couldn't help but want to know more about her character, was body disposal and voyeuristic rape-watching advertised on the help wanted ad? 


The horrific Ripper crimes have not gone unnoticed by law enforcement, Inspector Selby (Andreas Mannkopff) from Scotland Yard is on the case, but have thus far had no luck pinning down the bladed culprit,however, when a conniving local fisherman (Herbert Fux, Mark of the Devil) snags one of the dismembered hands on his fishing line he discovers an opportunity to extort some cash from the doc, and a local blind man with a supernaturally sensitive sense of smell also threatens to undo Dr. Orloff nocturnal activities

The movie has some interesting characters, including the Inspector's girlfriend, a ballet dancer, played by Josephine Chaplin (daughter of silent film legend Charlie Chaplin) who at one point goes undercover as a street tart to identify the Ripper, which works, but at what cost? Casting Kinski as the Ripper was a wonderful casting choice, surprisingly Kinski doesn't sink his rabid fangs into the role as much as I thought he would, he played it a bit subdued, perhaps a bit too much for my tastes, but I still enjoyed it. Orloff is a character with some serious mommy issues, flashbacks to his whore mother enticing men with offers to "satisfy your most disgusting whims. Apparently this childhood trauma is the source of Orloff's hatred for whores.  I rather enjoyed the psychological underpinnings for the murder-spree, the flashbacks are cool and sort of surreal, which is notable as this is not a flashy visual film, shot by cinematographer Peter Baumgartner, the brother of composer Walter Baumgartner. Absent are the familiar Franconian zoom-ins we've come to expect, it's not flashy cinematography, but it is sort of classy in an austere sort of period-setting sort of way.  


Franco shot the bulk of the film in Zurich as a stand-in for London, and it works, the cobblestone streets and historical architecture are close enough for someone as unworldly as myself, haha. Anyway, Baumgartner does a good job capturing it all on film, the atmosphere and set dressing feels like Victorian London to me. 

Franco muse and future wife Lina Romay (The Hot Nights of Linda) shows up in a small role, but a wonderfully memorable one, as a cabaret singer who unfortunately catches the eye of Orloff. He invites her for an after show stroll in a foggy park, it doesn't end well for her. As far a blood and gore go, the film is slim, but Romay gets the worst of it with the doc raping her and taking her back to hos clinic where he gruesomely slices off her tit, a thick spray of blood squirting into his face, the red-paint grue brought to mind the kitschy effects of Blood Feast. Romay's scenes are the most brutal, which is no surprise, she was always willing to do pretty much ANYTHING for Franco on film. 

Audio/Video: Jess Franco's Jack The Ripper (1976) arrives on DVD from Full Moon Entertainment sporting a HD transfer and restoration supervised by the film's Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich. I am assuming these are the same HD transfers that were used for the Ascot Elite Golden Goya Collection Blu-rays in the UK. The restoration work looks wonderful, nicely framed in anamorphic widescreen, the colors are gorgeous, flaws are near non-existent with only some white speckling , and the detail look good. The colors are largely earthen, lots of browns, black levels are good. 

The only audio on the disc is an English dubbed Dolby Digital Mono 2.0, and it's solid. The dub can be problematic from time to time, as far as matching the movement of the lips, but there are no issues with distortion or hiss, and the Walter Baumgartner (Barbed Wire Dolls) score comes through clean, though it's not much to brag about. 


Onto the extras, we get a 10 minute introduction from former Fango editor and current Delirium Magazine editor Chris Alexander who gives an enthusiastic take on the director and the movie, he's a huge fan.  

Noteworthy, the fullmondirect.com page indicated the release had an audio commentary with Producer Erwin C. Dietrich, but the DVD artwork does not, and there is no commentary option on the disc. Producer Erwin C. Dietrich shows up however for a 17 minute featurette wherein he discusses his career working with Franco, a collaboration that spanned over two dozen movies. The interview is in German with burned-in English subtitles. There's also a very cool featurette about Dietrich's restoration of the film, from cleaning and repairing the well-worn original negative, scanning it, restoring numerous instances of damage, the color grading, and creating a new HD master. It also goes into authoring the DVD, I love behind-the-scenes stuff like this about film preservation. Franco himself shows up in a 40 minute archival audio interview apparently recorded in '73, the interview is in French with English burned-in subtitles. Additionally we get trailers for Franco's Blue Rita, Love Camp, Sexy Sisters, Barbed Wire Dolls which are also part of Full Moon's 10-film Jess Franco Collection. There's also a very brief 7-second deleted scene of Lina Romay's flayed corpse, which is of poor quality and without audio.

Special Features:
- Introduction by Chris Alexander of Delirium Magazine (10 min) 
- Rare Deleted Scene (1 min) 
- Ripping Yarn: Restoring JACK THE RIPPER (17 min) 
- Franco, Bloody Franco: Audio Interview with Jess Franco (French w/English Subtitles)(40 min) 
- Original German Theatrical Trailer (3 min) 
- Trailers: Blue Rita 2 min), Love Camp (3 min), Sexy Sisters (3 min), Barbed Wire Dolls (2 min) 

I enjoyed Franco's take on Jack The Ripper with Klaus Kinski as the titular madman, I like that he was able to weave it into one of his Orloff films, and Kinski while a bit subdued for my tastes, does have a smoldering intensity that worked for a psychological terror film. I like the Victorian setting, the atmosphere, and the fun musical number with Lina Romay along with her violent end. What I didn't care for, the finale is sort of a anticlimactic, was hoping for some serious crash and burn. Overall this was solid Ripper period piece, and because Franco feels reigned and not prone to his more avant garde tendencies this might appeal to a broader range of cinema fan, outside of the usual Franco-philes and Eurocult enthusiasts. 3/5

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