Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Jack the Ripper (1988)

At the beginning of each part of this miniseries, a voice-over informs us (in rather self-important tones) that it is the result of meticulous research and unprecedented access to official files.


That description can be applied to both the voice-over claims and the show as a whole, as it happens.  The claims to authenticity can be quickly dispelled via the magic of Google, but even if they couldn't, the fact that the show tells us the Ripper was a 70 year old stroke victim ought to give you an idea of the quality of 'research' on show here.

Many fictional accounts of the Ripper murders have had similarly implausible explanations of the culprit's identity, but they have the decency to present themselves as fiction, rather than purporting to be the 'true' story.

So if you're looking for 'the real story' of the Ripper murders, you're going to be disappointed.  But with that set aside, if you just watch it as a period murder mystery, is it any good?

Frankly, no.

As a case in point, one of the issues faced by the investigator in the film is that there seems to be an active effort to thwart him.  Crime scenes are ordered cleaned immediately, before he can inspect them, hearings called before he can assemble evidence, and so on and so forth.  Clearly some conspiracy against him, but why?  Is it rivalry within the police force?  Seems unlikely, since it starts before his rivals even know he's on the case.  Is it a conspiracy to protect the culprit (a person of considerable importance)?  That relies on a network of people who know who the murderer actually is, and the film makes no attempt to make that plausible.

This coaxed a few laughs out of me when it became especially absurd, but they were not laughs the film intended to inspire.  Not good on any level.

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