Jack the Ripper: Phantom Of Death
This 'Biography Channel' special, hosted by Jack Perkins, and narrated by Brian Saxton, chronicles the 'Jack the Ripper' murders of 1888. Yet for this well-polished program to be able to carry out this task, it presents stock photography, re-enactments, and one on one pre-recorded interviews with experts very familiar with this historical crime. These include: Caleb Carr: Author of 'The Alienist'; John Douglas: From the FBI Behavioural Science Unit; Stewart Evans: British Police Officer; Donald Rumbelow: Crime Historian; plus Martin Fido and Melvin Harris: two noted Ripperologists.
What now follows is a basic breakdown of how this documentary plays out:
- How many people did Jack the Ripper kill? According to this feature, from August 1888, to November 1888, he murdered five prostitutes in total. They were called: Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Kelly.
did the media decide to promote this crime at that particular time? This was the year of the first London
Mayoral election, and the press wanted to highlight the squalid living
conditions the people in
East Londonhad to put up with.
- Why? Was it that bad? Yes. Yes they were. Whitechapel was an overpopulated area full of crime and poverty, bursting at the seams with an influx to immigrants flooding in from foreign climes.
- How were prostitutes perceived during this period? To the working class they were poor unfortunate women, down on their luck, trying to make ends meet in the only way they knew how. Whereas to the privileged society, they were nymphomaniacs, not worthy of any attention whatsoever.
was it believed that the killer was a surgeon? After the second murder was committed,
the coroner assigned to this case -- a Doctor George Bagster Phillips --
stated that the culprit must have had some sort of anatomical knowledge.
But when this news leaked out through the press, another noted coroner was
brought in -- a Doctor Bond of
Westminster-- who contradicted this theory.
- How was Jack given his name? There was a letter sent to the police concerning these crimes -- now called the 'Dear Boss' letter -- which signed off with this exact designation.
- Was anybody arrested for this series of killings? Yes. A Polish boot maker called John Pizer --- also known as Leather Apron -- not that this charge ever stuck.
- Who did Chief Constable, Sir Melville Macnaghten, state was 'The Ripper' three years after the last killing? Although he was not directly involved with this investigation, he thought that is could have been:
Druitt -- a teacher who committed suicide by drowning in the
- Michael Ostrog -- a Jewish lunatic sent to a mental asylum after the last killing.
- Aaron Kosminski -- another lunatic sent to a mental asylum after the last killing. This one was Russian though.
- Where they any other suspects? Of course there were! Such as:
- David Cohen -- a possible suspect whose name came to light from asylum records.
- Doctor Thomas Neill Cream -- an ex army man turned rogue.
- Jill The Ripper -- which was a theory posed by the 'Sherlock Holmes' author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- George Chapman -- a convicted wife poisoner.
- Robert D'Onston Stephenson -- a strange journalist.
- The Royal Conspiracy -- watch the film 'From Hell' for a dramatic take on this theory.
- J.K. Stephenson -- Prince Edward's homosexual tutor.
Maybrick -- a deranged cotton merchant from
- Doctor Francis Tumblety -- an unscrupulous American Doctor who fled back home not so long after the last murder.
The legend continues...
The weather is bad outside. Really bad. So bad in fact that I thought I'd cheer myself up a bit, by watching another one of my many-many 'Jack the Ripper' documentaries.
I'm sure you know what I mean by this if you've watched this 'formatted feature' previously. Step One: Introduce the crime. Step Two: View the victims. Step Three: Highlight the history: And Step Four: Showcase the suspects.
Not a bad format to follow, is it, dear reader? Plus it had some pretty decent experts to tell you what they thought about the who, the what, and the why. Furthermore, although the majority of this shows findings weren't really news to me, there were a number of nice little incites' I didn't know about -- like the invention of the sneaker for instance, or that Martin Fido dyes his hair.
But please note: I am a Ripperolgist. So for any program to show me something new would have been a bloody miracle. Still, that doesn't take anything away from this program, does it Jack?
I think that was a 'yes'.
THE RATING: B