Jack the Ripper comes loping again out of the 1888 London fog in yet another version of his crimes, his mo-tives and his often-surmised, never-proved identity. Deadly dull and begging, entry imported from Australia dies not of strangulation or slashing but of ennui.
Static teleplay by Robert Rodat concentrates on upwardly mobile Inspector Hansen (Patrick Bergin), formerly of London’s lower-class Hansens, on his search for Jack-O and on his eventual suspicion of whom the murderer of East End prosties might be.
Rodat’s simplistic format introduces Prince Eddie (Samuel West), Queen Victoria’s grandson and eldest son of the Prince of Wales, as the syphilitic killer who’s taking vengeance on whores. The vidpic displays how dastardly he is by showing him setting his horse afire for throwing him, and indicates fairly graphically how he gets his jollies by knocking off these backwater hookers.
Hansen’s superior, famed Charles Warren (Michael York), tries matching Hansen with upper-crust beauty Lady Book-man (Essie Davis), who falls for him. In charge of the Ripper case, Hansen runs across witness Florry (Gabrielle Anwar), who, in this fictional account, actually saw the killer going about his business. She screams “Fire!,” but he gets away. While trying to get reluctant mill worker Florry to describe Jack, Hansen starts falling for her. Invited to the prestigious Benton Street Club where Warren and Prince Edward hang out, Hansen begins getting ideas about the lofty Prince Eddie.
But under Janet Meyers’ plodding direction the pace often all but jells. Conversational exchanges turn stilted, and there’s little suspense.
But there are a few instances when the telepic wakes up, as when Prince Edward adjusts Hansen’s tie. It’s about this time that the prince starts looking consciously dotty.
Bergin’s Hansen appears businesslike, even as he woos his girl. Anwar’s trying-to-be-good Florry offers a good bit of spirit. York’s Warren suffices, while Davis makes Evelyn Bookman a charmer despite the flat role she’s handed. As for Prince Eddie, West does the traditional sinking-into-madness routine about as well as can be expected.
Thanks to Tim Ferrier’s ap-propriate production designs, there’s a sense of period and of class distinctions. Lots of appropriate horse-and-carriage views, mahogany cabinet rooms and cobblestone alleyways give the telefilm exactly what audiences expect of late-Victorian ambience.
Martin McGrath’s camera-work is good on atmosphere, short on animated setups. Elba Sanchez-Short’s editing is at times abrupt. Terry Ryan’s costumes are on target, and Mason Daring’s music remains unobtrusive, except for the happily ominous opening.
The vidpic’s epilogue pretty well cinches Eddie for the job of Jack the Ripper. The meller preceding the tag, though, is scarcely proof; and any telefilm that can make Jack the Ripper’s story monotonous isn’t very convincing.