E. Spencer Shew – Hands Of The Ripper (Sphere, 1971)
Posted by demonik on August 2, 2007
E. Spencer Shew – Hands Of The Ripper (Sphere, 1971)
Posted by demonik on July 27, 2007
Ellery Queen – A Study in Terror (Lancer, 1966: 1969)
The savage killer roamed the dark streets and alleys of London. No woman was safe from his swift, gory attacks as murder followed murder. No man could stop the menace or even guess the identity of the brute called…
JACK THE RIPPER
No man…except Sherlock Holmes.
Now it can be told — in this gripping modern thriller. Sherlock Holmes did stalk Jack the Ripper in 1888, and through a quirk of fate that is a mystery in itself, Ellery Queen follows in his footsteps in 1966. The two greatest detectives of all time match wits with each other — and together arrive at a solution that will stun you.
Watched the film on the box the other night and loved it for the gloriously cliched, beautiful rubbish it is.
A wonderful, gratuitously violent opening: A silk clad tart chirps “‘allo darlin. Like a bit of fun?” in the shadows of the Angel & Crown: the Whitechapel murderer strikes and leaves his knife stuck clean through her throat. An older woman passes and yells “‘P’lice! P’lice! ‘elp! Murder!” and we’re off into the opening titles. As far as I can make out, this gruesome business with the embedded blade makes no sense whatsoever in the context of the film – the Ripper uses a scalpel – but what does it matter? There’s also a truly weird cameo from Barbara Windsor whose performance as the doomed Annie Chapman is inseperable from her Carry On persona (which makes the Babs gets stabbed moments truly shocking) and loads of Cockerney malarky including a load of classic “ta-ra-ra boom ba-ay!” sing-a-long bollocks dahn the local. The plot is creaky, it incorporates the “facts” only to get them wrong, and Holmes runs like a gurly, but I’d take A Study In Terror over ten poker-faced From Hell‘s any day you care to mention.
The novelisation: well, the first time I read it, I didn’t get along with it at all, and now I’ve reached the half-way stage during the rematch it’s easy to see why – the framing story. This being an Ellery Queen novel, he’s been grafted into the story, and his inclusion is a distraction as far as I’m concerned. We catch up with him as he’s struggling with his latest novel. His playboy friend Grant Amos III has been passed a manuscript by a mystery woman, and this purports to be an unpublished story by Dr. Watson. Between typing up his own detective caper, phoning his dad in Bermuda and bandying insults with Amos, EQ runs through the paper, trying to establish whether or not it’s a hoax.
The Holmes versus the Ripper stuff is far more engrossing although so far the murders themselves have been skipped over. We know five have taken place and Holmes even takes them seriously enough to call a temporary truce with his old sparring partner Lestrade. There’s enough variation from the Fords’ screenplay to give it at least some semblance of coherence (like Robert Bloch’s The Night Of The Ripper the film is festooned with red herrings), and Sherlock even comes over all fallible – he is indirectly responsible for Polly Nichols’ death when he mistakes Watson for the Ripper (Watson, stung by Holmes kid-gloves treatment had visited The Angel & Crown under his own steam, and had been chatted-up by the victim to be for his trouble: “Ere’s luck, luv. If yer don’t want me lily-white body, yer don’t. But yer a good bloke, and I wish yer the best.”). Most of the suspects are now in the frame, so if we can get through the remaining chapters with a minimum of interruptions from Quinn and Amos things should be OK.
Posted by demonik on July 25, 2007
Stuart James – Jack The Ripper (Monarch, Jan. 1960)
“Around the corner, Jack the Ripper peered into the swirling fog, ready for another foray against London’s harlots and prostitutes. With 29 murders behind him, every woman feared she would be the next target of this fiendish killer who ravished with a razor-sharp scalpel and left his victims gutted like fish in some dark corner.”
“I saw Joe Levene’s JACK THE RIPPER. It’s not for kiddies or even beatniks. The latter might be so scared they’d go to work!” – Hedda Hopper
Keep meaning to go back to this one for the wonderful Pub scenes and squirm-inducing mockney dialogue. Based on Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay (it’s the one where Jack gets crushed under a descending lift at the end and the film changes from B/W to colour).
Posted by demonik on July 19, 2007
Robert Weverka – Murder By Decree (Corgi, 1979)
Only one man, the most illustrious investigator of all time, could hope to solve the most baffling series of crimes in British history – the Ripper murders. Only Sherlock Holmes could begin to unravel the sordid web of intrigue and secrecy surrounding those acts of unspeakable horror.
But even Holmes could not have anticipated the terrible revelations which threatened the very fabric of Victorian society …. and the life of the great sleuth himself ….
If we draw a discreet veil over what has to be the most boring cover in the history of novelisations, this is actually a most enjoyable, speedy read. Loosely based on Stephen Knight’s The Final Solution, Murder … scores over the A Study In Terror paperback by virtue of (a) a rather more ‘fact’-based approach (other than Holmes and Watson, most of the characters actually existed and the victims are referred to by name: Sir William Gull and John Netley become Sir Thomas Spivey and John Slade, however), and (b) its welcome lack of Ellery & the stooges.
Holmes is perplexed. Although this Ripper business is causing a major panic, Scotland Yard haven’t deigned to implore his assistance, and he’s had to wait for some shady, greasy-fingered oiks from the Vigilance Committee to make him feel wanted, which is hardly the same thing. The Ripper has just struck for the third time and the well-meaning bruisers want him to get started on the case immediately. Holmes assures them not to worry, it will be eight days until he’s due to kill again. Unfortunately, nobody told Jack as he’s off having his ghastly fun in Mitre Square, it being the night of the fabled “double event”. No wonder the great detective swore Watson to secrecy over that one for a century: Lestrade would’ve laughed his tits off.
Needless to say, there’s a reason why Sir Charles Warren doesn’t want Holmes prying into the sorry business, as the murders have been, if not officially sanctioned, then at least set underway by a chance remark from the Prime Minister who doesn’t want it to be known that Prince Albert Victor, second in line to the throne, has wed a Catholic and – worse – had a child by her. Out of a deranged interpretation of his duty to the Queen, one man has decided that he must eliminate the women who know of this matter – a gaggle of Whitechapel prostitutes. Together with a madman of similar twisted patriotism and an unhealthy obsession with Freemason rituals, they set about sweeping the slums for Mary Kelly, the girl who witnessed the happy occasion.
Although Holmes eventually unmasks the Ripper, this hardly goes down as his finest hour as he that unwittingly leads the murderers to Mary and we all know what happened to her. Consequently, he’s in no mood to back down to the Prime Minister and his cronies when they try try flexing their flabby muscles in the direction of his deerstalker and start giving it the big one..
This version of Holmes is very much on the side of the downtrodden, bristling with righteous indignation as he sticks it up the establishment who he rightly perceives as morally bankrupt, self-serving and barking mad. There never was any threat to Monarchy or Government, he rails, except in their own paranoid fantasies. Still, he’s roped into the cover-up, although at least he secures a promise that the Prince’s bastard will be left unharmed now Spivey is too nuts to be a menace.
As with the movie, Watson gets all the best lines (even if most of them are “what the deuce!”) and his character is by far the best drawn and easily the most endearing. He champions Holmes to the point of embarrassment, endures his colleague’s insufferable showboating with patience and dignity (he doesn’t even take the piss over the “double event” howler) and proves his courage over and over. Actually, if Weverka has achieved anything in this book, it is to capture something of James Mason’s lovable portrayal of the good doctor.