In this version of the story featuring the fabled killer, he is portrayed by Klaus Kinski and he is both excellent and terrifying in the role. If one man was born to play the maniac that terrorized London all those many years ago, Kinski definitely fits that bill as his gaunt-like features really give him a haunted and memorable look that is not easy to forget. It would have been great if this film by Jess Franco followed suit. Instead it is just an overly long movie that never seems to do anything but go through the motions of presenting a fairly by-the-numbers horror film.
The story of Jack the Ripper is widely known and has been talked about, written about and filmed many times over and probably will be for as long as man exists. Killers fascinate, especially those who get away with it and even more so, those who are especially brutal in their methods. The Ripper was both of these things and while the film goes into the latter of these two qualities, it essentially fails to do anything else. Here, we find the good Doctor Orloff, abused by his mother when he was younger, go on a killing spree, woman after woman and escalating in his methods with each one. It is the one thing that this film does do exceptionally well and even to a point where it gets to be a little too much. Seeing Orloff rape and kill women is one thing, dismembering them in the bloody and horrific fashion that he does is another entirely, though it does nail down exactly what kind of man that he was.
The film was shot well with some really decent cinematography by Peter Baumgartner and Peter Spoerri, and at least with their help, Franco’s picture looked good. When combined with Kinski’s performance and a bevy of beauties which were a staple of every film that Franco ever did, it made the movie somewhat entertaining. If it was anything, it was the story that was lacking by being fairly unoriginal. Having been written by Franco himself, the blame ultimately falls on him. It had good atmosphere and it was a very dark and moody picture and it does indeed scare you in places, it was just a shame that Franco could not have done more to give us something with a little more substance, whether character driven from Orloff’s point of view or from the side of the investigators. Anything really would have been an improvement so that we might care for this picture for more than the slasher that it is.
Jack the Ripper was not all that bad when said and done, it was simply average with nothing to really set it apart from any other horror film of the time. It was a bit of a shame as well as it had all the ingredients needed to make it something really special. It is still worth watching for sure as Jess Franco still made better films than most, but there are better still to be had.