The Films (3.5/5)
Jess Franco died a little over one year ago now in April of 2013, as one of the last remaining auteurs of early EuroCult cinema it was a tragic loss, but being in his mid-80's, and having been in declining health for sometime it was hardly unexpected. If one is to find a silver lining in the dark cloud of Franco's tragic passing it would be that over his very long and prolific career the Spanish director left us with over 200 films to explore and to enjoy for decades to come. Prior to his passing his films began to trickle on to the Blu-ray format with Redemption Films releasing his classics Female Vampire and Exorcism on to the format in October of 2012. However, it would be Ascot-Elite Films with their line of Franco Blu-ray's that have been keeping the maestro's work visible, and in very beautiful Blu-ray editions since late 2013. The series is winding down, and we have decided to go back, and review as many of these titles as time allows as these are some of the most gorgeous cult titles on the market, and they offer a great tribute to the late Jess Franco.
Jack the Ripper was the very first of Jess Franco's that I ever saw on a grey market VHS boot in the late 90's, at the time I had recently discovered the wonderful, weird, and exceedingly violent world of Eurohorror. Franco, at the time Franco was frequently mentioned alongside other Eurohorror luminaries as Fulci, Argento, and Deodato, and I was under the uninformed impression his films would be of a similar nature. At the time I found myself quite disappointed in the film. I revisited the film a number of years later, still not too familiar with Franco, but recently obsessed with the film's star, cinema's favorite psychopath Klaus Kinski who I had discovered during an obsession with the cinema of Werner Herzog. This time I sort of knew what to expect, but was similar unimpressed, coming from the perspective of a fan of Kinski, this was far from the man's best work. His performance while quite good was lost in the bad English dubbing of the time, and although his physical acting in the role was quite menacing, I still gave the film a pass.
Jack the Ripper has a way of not letting go of me, and when Ascot Elite films released the film on Blu-ray in 2013 I knew I would eventually give the film another go. The first time I was unfamiliar with Franco, the second time I was familiar with Kinski, but still not with Franco, the third time I have now viewed over 20 films (which really isn't a lot), by Franco with this in mind I hoped my perception of the film would be different than it was previously. I am happy to report that Franco's Jack the Ripper and I have finally connected, and while I do view it as a largely imperfect film, it is still quite an entertaining and moody venture for Franco.
The film stars Klaus Kinski as Doctor Dennis Orloff, a caring man who aids the poor and impoverished in the community. At night, however, he is the infamous Jack the Ripper the scourge and slasher of the prostitutes of London. His reign of terror gains the attention of Scotland Yard, who are unable to identify him, and in frustration and fear the girlfriend of one of the detectives takes on the guise of a prostitute hoping to discover the identity of the man known to them as Jack the Ripper.
First things first, this is not a historically accurate Jack the Ripper film. In all likelihood, this is a Jack the Ripper film in name only. the easiest way to figure that out is the last name and profession of the main character, Dr. Orloff. Dr. Orloff is a character that dates back to Franco's fourth film, and first horror success the Awful Dr. Orloff, and was used frequently by the director throughout his career. It is quite likely that the initial spark for this film came to Franco in the guise of another Orloff film, and was altered into a Jack the Ripper film either during pre-production or while the film was in production. The plot of the film offers similarities to prior Orloff entries as well, but if you're going to rip yourself off, you might as well rip off your best stuff.
The film shows a comparatively restrained side of Franco unlike other films of the period, and while viewers who are looking for the more sleazy elements of his cinema will be sure to find them they are not in an abundance. Rather, Franco goes back to the influence of his earlier more gothic films to create something quite moody, atmospheric, and chilling that is sure to delight fans that go into the film with a proper frame of mind.
Ascot Elite Films have now created the Criterion standard for the cinema of Jess Franco on Blu-ray. The 1:78:1 1080p transfer present on this disc is one of the finest appearing transfer of a Franco film I have yet to see, and only compares to other films in Ascot Elite's line of Blu-ray's. The image has excellent clarity, and color. The flesh tones present are accurate, and black levels are inky and deep. There are a few soft spots here and again, but those are to be expected.
Ascot Elite Films have put together a nice slate of extras for their release of Jack the Ripper including audio commentaries, interviews, alternate and deleted scenes, and the films trailer.
Franco's Jack the Ripper took a few viewings over the years to finally impress me, but with a viewing of Ascot-Elite films gorgeous new Blu-ray I have become a fan. The first of their Blu-ray's I have viewed is an absolute stunning experience, and they have truly raised the bar for Franco on Blu-ray. They have included some interesting supplements as well. Jack the Ripper comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.