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Not bad, but not not good either
on 27 December 2012
The 1988 Euston Films re-working of the continually popular and fascinating Jack the Ripper story. This one stars Michael Caine as Inspector Frederick Abberline, Lewis Collins is his sergeant, and Jane Seymour is...well, an artist who produces what became known as photofit drawings of suspects, but really she's the female/romantic interest; I didn't really see how her character was in any way central to the plot. According to other sources, this production aimed to cash-in on the 100th anniversary of the Ripper killings. I guess that for a 1988 audience, the plot details were relatively new, with much being made of the `royal connection', in that one of the main suspects was Queen Victoria's grandson, Price Albert Victor. Apparently, this angle has been discredited since, although, as portrayed in the film, a link to the royal household remained.
The film was a UK/USA co-production, and the big budget is there on screen - hundreds of extras, good photography, and a pretty beefy cast. But, plot limitations aside, it all felt too stereotypically Victorian London to me; plenty of clichéd dialogue, lots of `cor blimey guv' interactions with your cockneys, and a visual feel that was quite sanitized, despite the gory subject matter. These days we're used to the grim-looking and fast moving Victorian world created in the Sherlock Holmes movies, but everything on show here has more of a Murdoch Mysteries feel to it, than the grimy, squalid and immoral east end of London in the 1880s. Its contemporary production, Granada's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, has a grittier and visually more realistic feel than Jack the Ripper.
The performances are fairly mediocre, and none of the artists really stood out. Michael Caine has a lot of screen time, and Lewis Collins is essentially playing a Victorian-attired version of his Bodie character from The Professionals. There are lots of raised voices and most of the principals deliver their lines in a shouty manner. Subtlety, either in plot or characterization, is not on show.
Having said all that, I didn't dislike this production; it was a fairly undemanding way of spending three hours, and fans of Caine and Collins no doubt really enjoy it.
© Koplowitz 2012