Jack the Ripper

23 Feb

When Lewis Collins passed away last year, I was reminded of a mini-series he did in 1988 which was a favourite of mine at the time.  The mini-series was “Jack the Ripper” staring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins.

Recently I was able to find it on dvd and purchased it.  I was a little worried that it wouldn’t have stood the test of time (it was made in 1988), but I need not have worried.  It was brilliant.  The series won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe and 26 years later you can still see why it was a winner.  The script was excellent, the casting fantastic, and the direction awesome.

Michael Caine was brilliantly cast as Detective Inspector Freddie Abberline with Lewis Collins as his assistant, Sgt George Godley.  This combination is really what made the mini-series so damn good.  Michael Caine and Lewis Collins had fantastic chemistry.  Godley is annoyed at Abberline’s drinking, but will protect him with every breath he draws, Abberline on the other hand, tolerates and even appreciates Godley’s mother hen instincts, even if he does tease him about it.  The two men are a damn near unstoppable force.

The other casting was nearly as good.  The Ripper’s victims are shown as human.  Not just ciphers or non-entities, as many other Ripper based productions do, where the killer is more important than the victims.

The careful build of a variety of suspects is excellently done as well.  Armand Assante portrayed American actor Richard Mansfield with an almost perfect arrogance.  Ken Bones role of Queen Victoria’s psychic Robert James Lees was also well done.  It was the sort of role where an actor with a tendency to ham it up could do a lot of damage.  Ken Bones was superb.  Robert Lees is portrayed with fire and verve and disconcerting strength, but Ken Bones never allowed him to descend into the vaudevillian fortune teller stereotype.

Susan George as Catherine Eddowes was excellent, as was Lysette Anthony as Mary Jane Kelly.  Lysette’s soft Irish accent was accurate all the way through.  Lysette Anthony was always underrated as an actress.

The actor who played the pimp, Billy, worried me for a while.  I knew his face but couldn’t remember where I’d seen him before.  A trip to imdb this morning revealed he’s Gary Shail who played Steve in “Metal Mickey”, a kid’s show that I never missed.

The only this I found that irritated me a little with “Jack the Ripper”, was the totally unnecessary inclusion of a rather pathetic love interest for Abberline.  An artist named Emma, who was played by Jane Seymour.  A love interest was pointless and the scenes with her only served to slow the pace down and muddy the waters a bit.

“Jack the Ripper” was packed with violence, darkness, and moments of genuine terror, leavened by the warm humour of Abberline and Godley.

After 26 years, “Jack the Ripper” still stands up with the best.  I am glad I managed to get my hands on a copy.  It will be watched many, many times in the future.

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