Jack at the moviesWho was Jack the Ripper? Was he a doctor? A madman? Or just someone who really disliked women? Well, whoever he was, his dark and sinister crimes have been lavishly depicted on film for the past 90-plus years. So, today, I'm going to take a look at some of these films, and for each one, I will try to describe which theory their plot attempted to convey as well as some of their historical inaccuracies. Inaccuracies, I hasten to add, that avoided spoiling any of these films, because they're all well-acted, appropriately atmospheric, and managed to tell a somewhat plausible story full of mystery and suspense.

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The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock / Stars: June Tripp, Ivor Novello, and Marie Ault
Running time: 1h 32m / Tagline: The Lodger has strange habits... but is this enough to accuse him of serial murder? (DVD)

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
The theory depicted in the film: 'The Lodger' was based on a story of the same name written by Marie Belloc Lowndes and initially published in 1911. It was the first book to offer a solution to the Jack the Ripper killings, which supposedly originated from an anecdote told to the painter, Walter Sickert, by the landlady who rented him a room in East London. She said, 'the previous tenant was Jack the Ripper'.
Some of the inconsistencies in the film worth mentioning: Despite technically being one of the first films about Jack the Ripper, 'The Lodger' never alludes to Jack the Ripper by name. Instead, this film refers to its killer as, the 'Avenger', and the real names of the Ripper's victims aren't included either. The killer's motivations are also changed to imply that he only murders women with blonde hair.

From Hell (2001)
Directed by: Albert and Allen Hughes / Stars: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, and Ian Holm
Running time: 2h 2m / Tagline: Only the legend will survive

From Hell (2001)
The theory depicted in the film: 'From Hell' was based on a graphic novel of the same name written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell. In turn, Alan and Eddie's graphic novel was partly based on a 1976 book written by Stephen Knight, 'Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution', which posed the theory that the killer was part of a masonic conspiracy to conceal the birth of an illegitimate royal baby fathered by Prince Albert Victor.
Some of the inconsistencies in the film worth mentioning: This film was told from the inspector's point of view, not the killer's point of view, as depicted in the graphic novel, and unlike the graphic novel and this film, the real inspector was married and didn't have a relationship with one of the victims. He didn't have psychic abilities, either, as this film strongly implies, although in the graphic novel, as in real life, there was a psychic that did assist with the investigations, named, Robert James Lees. I'd also like to mention that in the graphic novel and in this film all of the victims knew each other, while in reality, there's no real evidence that shows this to be true.

Murder by Decree (1979)
Directed by: Bob Clark / Stars: Christopher Plummer, James Mason, and David Hemmings
Running time: 2h 4m / Tagline: Sherlock Holmes unveils the secrecy of Jack the Ripper - clue by clue - murder by murder

Murder by Decree (1979)
The theory depicted in the film: At face value, 'Murder by Decree' seems to mirror the masonic conspiracy depicted in the previous film, 'From Hell'. But in actuality, it was based on a non-fiction book, 'The Ripper File', and a 1973 documentary series, 'Jack the Ripper', which were both written by John Lloyd and Elwyn Jones. In the series, the Ripper murders were examined by two fictional detectives from the TV show, 'Z Cars', Charlie Barlow and John Watt, who analyzed most of the theories surrounding the real Jack the Ripper, including the one associated with the aforementioned masonic conspiracy.
Some of the inconsistencies in the film worth mentioning: As much as it pains me to say this, the two main characters featured in 'Murder by Decree', Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, are fictional characters and weren't involved with tracking down Jack the Ripper. Having said that, though, one of the men Sherlock Holmes was based on, Joseph Bell, was involved with the case, and even helped Scotland Yard investigate Jack's crimes. I must also mention that in this film the names of certain characters were deliberately changed. For instance, Sir William Gull was called Sir Thomas Spivy, and John Netley was called William Slade.

Jack the Ripper (1988)
Directed by: David Wickes / Stars: Michael Caine, Lewis Collins, and Jane Seymour
Running time: 3h 10m / Tagline: The hunt is on for the world's most infamous diabolical murderer

Jack the Ripper (1988)
The theory depicted in the film: This two-part made-for-TV film was loosely based on the masonic conspiracy partly conveyed by two of the films mentioned earlier, 'From Hell' and 'Murder by Decree'. But in this case, it removed any mention of the Freemasons being involved with the murders and either amalgamated or removed certain characters.
Some of the inconsistencies in the film worth mentioning: In this 'Jack the Ripper' film, George Lusk was depicted as a conniving brute who wanted to use the murders to gain some sort of political power. Whereas in reality, he was a mild-mannered man who wanted to assist the police in catching the killer. Similarly, the real inspector wasn't an alcoholic, wasn't without a wife, and wasn't having a relationship with other women, all of which were depicted in this film.

So, what do you think of that, dear reader? What do you think of these great Jack the Ripper films? Do you think they're all worth watching? Or do you think you have some better suggestions? Like, 'Time After Time', for instance, which I remembered just after I composed this list! Either way, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.


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