Jack the Ripper (Der Dirnenmörder von London) (1976)

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Released 6-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Erwin C. Dietrich (Producer)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Documentary (21:43)
Featurette-DVD Production Report (17:24)
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Notes-Jack The Ripper Anno 1888
Notes-The Jess Franco Colllection
Gallery-Production Stills (30)
Theatrical Trailer-(2:51)
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 88:14 (Case: 92)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jesus Franco
Studio
Distributor
Big Sky Video Starring Klaus Kinski
Josephine Chaplin
Herbert Fux
Ursula von Wiese
Lina Romay
Andreas Mannkopff
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Walter Baumgartner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Audio Commentary Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     One of the most enduring and notorious unsolved crimes, the legend of Jack The Ripper still intrigues academics and moviegoers to this day. Renowned director Jess Franco and actor Klaus Kinski teamed up for this film in 1976 under the production of Erwin C. Dietrich, the man responsible for such classics as Ilsa The Wicked Warden and more recently, Killer Condoms. This film also marked the beginning of a collaboration of sorts between Franco and Dietrich, which yielded some of Franco's highest quality work in the 70s.

    In this story penned by Franco himself, noble physician Dr. Orloff (Klaus Kinski) is finding times tough, struggling with a small practice and poor clients that barely pay his monthly rent. Coupled with financial frustrations, he harbours more sinister scars with links to memories of his prostitute mother - and as a result focuses his jealous rage onto women in a Jekyll & Hyde manner. We pick up the story as the Ripper's murders are gaining great notoriety in the press, with the investigation being labelled a farce. The officers involved gain a great advantage when they discover a witness, a blind man with acute senses who offers the investigators a detailed olfactory assessment of the killer. The chief inspector's ex-lover (Josephine Chaplin) becomes frustrated with the apparent lack of progress, finding it within herself to take off her ballet shoes and dress as a strumpet, hoping to find the killer with more direct methods. She grabs a quick sherry at a pub called the Pike's Hole and succeeds all too well, and the race begins to save her from the ripper's evil clutches.

    Kinski is superb as always, and appears to revel in his complex role as the twisted doctor. Although it's essentially a B-movie, all of the performances here are very good, as are the authentic sets and costumes. It certainly proves Franco's vast capabilities behind the camera, especially when given a decent budget. The cinematography is outstanding and displays a lot of the aspects contained within Franco's work that I admire most. Compared to his other works such as Vampyros Lesbos, the direction is much smoother and fluid, closely resembling the style of Hammer Productions, then unexpectedly surprising the viewer with close-up flashes of detail and gore. Most notable are the kaleidoscopic dream sequences, very well executed and effective pieces of filmmaking when one takes into account the budget and age of the production. This whole project was quickly completed, with Kinski's scenes in the can within just seven days! As an interesting side note; rather than make the film in London as one would expect, Franco insisted that production be shifted to Zurich where the architecture certainly suits the Whitechapel setting.

    What certainly doesn't do the film or its performances justice is the awful English dub that has been forced upon us in Region 4. The vocal performances are truly lame, and blurt some of the most intolerable cockney accents I have heard to date. The translation is similarly haphazard and often sees characters stating the bleeding obvious, though I wouldn't be half surprised if Franco's writing is to blame for that. Strangely though, it seems that we are the only region not to receive the original German audio track - a shameful oversight on the part of this disc's authors. The original language, accompanied by a selectable English subtitle stream, is an unquestionable must with foreign films such as this.

    One of the keys to the longevity of the Ripper phenomenon is its element of mystery. Despite countless studies, books and films on the subject no one has proven the identity of the killer to date. This is where Franco's film fails miserably in my opinion, because from the outset the viewer knows that Klaus Kinski is Jack the Ripper. There is no mystery. There is virtually no suspense. Many would also argue that there is no point, and rightly so. It's a shame, really - because in all other aspects Jess Franco's unique take on this well worn tale is inspiring.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is amazing considering the age and relatively low budget of the production. The DVD transfer and film restoration process is covered in a great featurette you'll find in the disc's extras. Producer Erwin Dietrich states several times that this DVD presentation is superior to any theatrical print that was ever produced.

    This transfer is presented in an aspect of 1.78:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. This is relatively close to the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1. The transfer is also equipped with automatic pan & scan encoding for viewers who insist upon a full frame picture, and players that support that feature.

    I have to dip my hat to the team that restored this film! This is a sharp and highly detailed transfer, which surprised me greatly. The entire transfer exhibits a lot of clarity, with very little grain or imperfection to speak of. Shadow detail and black levels are excellent throughout the film, as can easily be seen in the many dark and gloomy night scenes. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    Colours are rich and well rendered throughout, with no signs of oversaturation. Skin tones appear realistic and consistent.

    The transfer has been encoded at a variable bitrate with an average of 4.3Mb/s, often dropping below a measly 3Mb/s. Being a single layered disc, this bitrate didn't surprise me that much, although it is disappointing considering the effort that was put into the film's restoration. The original release of this film by VIP in Region 2 was contained on a dual layered disc, and the remastering featurette claims that the print was transferred to MPEG2 at "the maximum possible bitrate". That said, no major MPEG compression artefacts can be seen, and the bitrate holds up well during the many foggy scenes. I didn't notice any aliasing at all. Positive and negative film artefacts appear to a very minor degree, but are in no way distracting.

    The feature plays with a subtitle stream activated by default, but it doesn't appear to contain any data. Another stream is included for the German language Producer's commentary, which happens to be the worst attempt at subtitling I have seen. More on that later.

    Unlike other regions, this Region 4 disc is only comprised of a single layer and as such is void of any transitional pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD. The default soundtrack is a hideous English dub, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The aforementioned Producer's commentary is the second audio option, and unfortunately the only glimpse of the original German soundtrack that we get. Sigh.

    The English dialogue and cheap cockney accents are easy to understand and succinct at all times, though I often wished they weren't. The lame ADR vaguely resembles lip movements at the best of times, and often misses the mark completely. Audio sync is otherwise good.

    The soundtrack is presented in mono and has been scrubbed up nicely, with virtually no pops or clicks to be concerned about.

    The musical score by Walter Baumgartner features orchestrations and some threads of rock instruments thrown in, with a couple of great bass guitar riffs in particular. The score suits the sometimes eclectic nature of the film and serves the viewer well.

    There was obviously no surround activity or subwoofer response in this mono soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a good collection of extra material, all of which will certainly please any Jess Franco nut like me. All are 16x9 enhanced unless otherwise noted.

Menu

    The menu pages are 16x9 enhanced and accompanied by audio clips from the film's score. The buttons are slightly outside the overscan parameters of my 76cm CRT and fell off the edge of the screen. Projector users won't find this a problem.

Feature Commentary- Erwin C. Dietrich (Producer)

    Recorded four years ago in 2000, Erwin is a great talker and relays a lot of anecdotes regarding the making of this film and his work with both Kinski and Franco. He also touches upon his role as producer and some of the challenges that one faces during filming, however a lot of the information here is repeated in the featurettes. Erwin speaks in German and English subtitles are provided, however they are very poorly written and hard to follow. Many large portions of dialogue pass by untranslated, sentences often flash on the screen at a speed too fast to read and minor mistakes abound, which makes for very frustrating viewing.

Documentary-Hommage an Jess Franco's "Jack the Ripper" (21:43)

    This featurette looks at the beginnings of the Franco/Dietrich partnership, their creative conflicts and working relationship. Franco himself doesn't participate in this documentary, however Dietrich praises him interestingly as the pioneer of the minimalist Dogme 95 filmmaking style. Some great anecdotes about the production of this film are offered, including filming locations and the battles with censorship at the time. Dietrich also outlines his intentions to remaster and release on DVD 15 of Franco's films that he produced (a few of which are now available) and closes with a story about how he got into the distributing side of the business. Unfortunately, this extra contains the same terrible subtitle effort that was bestowed on the commentary.

Featurette-DVD Production Report (The Resurrection of Jess Franco's Films) (17:24)

    This repeats some of the content of the first featurette, but more interestingly details the time consuming film restoration process. All steps of the transfer process are touched upon, from cleaning the original negative to MPEG2 encoding and DVD menu navigation. We get to see some hands-on work, as film is repaired and re-spliced - followed by before and after comparisons of the restoration work. It's amazing the work they can do - I loved it so much I watched it twice! This featurette is presented in 1.33:1, full frame.

Gallery-Production Stills (30)

    This section is separated into three parts; Black & White (10), Scene Pictures (10) and Colour (10). All give a great insight into production, and Franco himself at work.

Trailer (2:51)

    This is a fairly long trailer, presented in German without English subtitles. It appears to have received the same quality restoration treatment as the feature.

Cast & Crew Biographies (3)

    A brief biography and limited filmography is offered, three pages each for Klaus Kinski, Jess Franco and Erwin C. Dietrich.

Notes-Jack the Ripper anno 1888

    Three pages of text, briefly outlining the ongoing Jack The Ripper mystery for those who have been living in a bubble all their lives. Nothing special.

Notes-The Jess Franco Collection

    A simple page of text promoting the Jess Franco DVD Collection website. Super!

Reversible Cover Slick

    There are two covers to choose from when you display your disc, comprised of either the German (captured at the top of this page) or UK cover art. Both are cool.

Credits

    A couple of pages of text, crediting those that put this package together.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Most regions seem to contain the same remastered transfer, but offer different language options. The Region 2 German and Region 1 Canadian versions are censored, and more than likely are not remastered.

    The Region 1 release contains the following additional features, but lacks English subtitles:

    As well as the cringe-inducing English dub, the Region 2 UK release also includes:

    The original Swiss VIP release of this transfer appears to be contained on a dual layered disc. I don't have another Region's disc on hand for comparison, but I suspect that this Region 4 release has been tinkered with - removing soundtracks and lowering the video bitrate in order to fit it onto a single layered disc. If you want to make the purchase, buy the Region 2 Anchor Bay release instead.

Summary

    Jess Franco's Jack The Ripper is as stylish as it is fun, and made all the more entertaining thanks to some great performances. It deals with the Ripper phenomenon in an entirely different way to that of films like From Hell, and should be approached with tongue firmly in cheek. I love it because visually it is one of Franco's best efforts, and the restoration work it has received is outstanding.

    It has become customary for reviewers here at MichaelDVD to deduct a whole star for films that aren't presented on DVD in their original aspect ratio. I would liken this to forcing a terrible English dub upon us, in which case I'm going to deduct a star for failure to include the film's original language. I'd love to see more of Franco's films released in Region 4, but not at the expense of losing the original German soundtrack.

    The video transfer is very good and represents a superb restoration effort.

    The audio transfer is similarly well restored, but only comprised of an annoying English dub.

    The extras are interesting and pertinent to the feature.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Monday, September 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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Comments (Add)
R2 Franco... - Charlie & Tex REPLY POSTED
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Uncut - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic)
Re: Uncut? - Anonymous