A vicious serial killer is terrorising Victorian London. So far all the victims have been prostitutes and they have all been nastily dissected, which has earned the murderer the nickname “Jack the Ripper”. But as the body count increases, and people from all walks of society fear the police are not doing enough to catch the maniac, an anarchist uprising threatens to boil over onto the streets. Inspector Aberline (Michael Caine) is put in charge of the Ripper investigation, but it’s a poisoned chalice. Aberline is a man with his own demons, and as his pursuit of the Ripper descends into a terrifying and very personal game of cat and mouse, Aberline’s superiors plan to make him the ultimate scapegoat.
It's weird, trying to write a compelling synopsis about Jack the Ripper as if we haven’t all read the books and watched the movies and documentaries so many times before. But don't let familiarity fool you - this version of the story is well worth checking out and looks tremendous in this new blu-ray edition. Despite being a television drama, the production values are excellent, the writing is strong, and the core cast (which includes Lewis Collins (an underrated actor, who really shines in his role as Aberline’s sidekick), Jane Seymour, Armand Assante and Susan George) are at the top of their game. In fact, Michael Caine won a Golden Globe for his performance.
At the time it originally aired as a two-part mini-series, director/co-writer David Wickes promised to reveal the identity of the Ripper once and for all, a flamboyant claim that Ripperologists quickly shot down. Anyone who’s seen 1979’s Murder by Decree or the 2001 snoozefest From Hell won’t be surprised by the final revelation, but this version is far better than either of those and Wickes and his team imbue the whole affair with the kind of panache that almost tricks us into forgetting we are watching a made-for-TV presentation. It’s only the frequent slightly annoying cliffhangers, placed where the ad-breaks would have been, that still betray Jack the Ripper’s small-screen roots.
Network have done an excellent job here, presenting the series in its original aspect ratio with a phenomenal high-definition restoration that really does make the film look as if it was produced yesterday. If you’re already a fan you’ll notice details you’ve never seen before, and if you’re a newbie you’ve definitely got a treat coming. Very highly recommended.
JACK THE RIPPER (1988) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DAVID WICKES / SCREENPLAY: DAVID WICKES, DEREK MARLOWE / STARRING: MICHAEL CAINE, LEWIS COLLINS, JANE SEYMOUR / RELEASE DATE: 27TH MARCH