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There are plenty of reasons why the infamous serial killer “Jack the Ripper” has never, ever left the public consciousness. The primary one being that the gruesome murders took place in the 1880’s, just as printed newspapers were becoming readily and cheaply available to all the masses. The deaths highlighted the radical social problems that existed in London during the latter part of the 19th Century, as well as providing the lurid publications of the time enough excuses to provide all the gory details. The Whitechapel murders were therefore arguably the first example of “click-bait”. Because of the extensive coverage, all of the information that swirled around the police investigation (both real and fake) have tantalised amateur detectives right up to the present day. The fact that the killer was never caught, cements the mystery culprit’s reputation in the annals of bloody history.

Even now Jack’s name is saturating the media once again. A current documentary series on the History Channel called “American Ripper” sees the distant relative of US murderer H.H. Holmes, seeking to prove this his ancestor was also the Jack (which seems mostly based on the fact that he wasn’t paying his bills during the murders…). The news outlets have reported that an expert has apparently authenticated the diaries that identify businessman James Maybrick as Saucy Jack. Is any of this true and can any of it be undeniably verified? Unlikely, but only time will tell…

So to tie in with the upcoming release of Victorian gothic murder mystery “The Limehouse Golem”, which stars Bill Nighy (“Underworld”, “Shaun of the Dead”) and Olivia Cooke (“Bates Motel”, “Ouija”, “The Quiet Ones”), we’re looking at some of Jack’s most memorable sojourns to the big screen which certainly seem to have inspired this new atmospheric vision of the Big Smoke.

A word of warning: We’ll be revealing the identity of the killer in each entry so … *Spoiler Alert*.

Otherwise, put on your top-hat and cloak, pack your medical bag, head out into the fog, and we’ll begin….

(Directed by the Hughes Brothers)
Released in 2001

This is probably the production with the biggest budget on the list, and arguably one of the starriest casts. The story is based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel of the same name by legendary writer Alan Moore. Directed by Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes (“Menace II Society”, “The Book of Eli”), it plays fast and loose with the historical details around the Whitechapel Murders, using many “real-life” characters in the narrative but portraying them with slightly disappointing genre tropes.

Set in 1888 (unsurprisingly) the plot centres on London Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp, with his accent just circling around the Jack Sparrow plughole), who is an opium addict and uses psychic visions to help solve crimes. Thrown at the Whitechapel murders, he gradually uncovers a murderous agenda belying the apparent randomness of the hideous crimes. As further prostitutes fall foul of the Ripper’s blade, he unexpectedly falls in love with Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and fights to save the seemingly doomed young woman.

Whilst the Hughes Brothers capture the realistic depravity of some of the London scenes and the social issues (NB: There’s a marvellous time-lapse sequence involving one of the victims), it’s not an altogether successful outing for Jack. What worked on the printed page doesn’t always work on film, and some fictionalised elements like Abberline’s visions and drug addiction just clash badly with the real-life scenarios portrayed on screen. The “royal conspiracy” sub-plot had been done to death by film and TV by this point as well, as was the cloaked figure of the Ripper himself.

However, it does look very good with some vibrant cinematography and has a sensitive and quite effective ending involving the fates of Abberline and Kelly. It also boasts a couple of superb performances from Ian Holm and Robbie Coltrane (who plays Abberline’s caring partner Sergeant Godley). Not classic but still bloody and atmospheric in parts.