Let me begin this review with the statement that DVD packaging does make or break a film. Also, DVD packaging that attempts to be creative and exciting (when it is actually not) will only break a film. I mention this because it is what I experienced with Jack the Ripper on DVD. When the film's menu started it seemed like there was some time and effort put into this release.
As the menu opens there is Kinski's spooky eye twitching back and forth with several options for special features and extras. I was impressed; I thought that this film would just start without really any detail going into the DVD. This is what I thought, until I tried to work the audio options. With my German not up to par, I needed some subtitles or anything to help translate this film. What I discovered were flags for different countries to have the characters speak. This was a dubbed film, and the only flag that I knew (since there was no American flag) was Britain's flag. A made the choice and changed the outlook on this film forever. While it was grizzly to watch, there was quite a bit of humor behind it as D-grade British actors attempt to dub over German words. The character voice placement was horrendous. The main police officer sounded more effeminate than respectable and the others had this feel that they were behind the microphone speaking their lines. You never really felt like the voices matched the characters. What began as a developed horror story soon turned into a possible MST3K episode. It really detracted from the overall feel of the film.
This was my first Jesus Franco film and let me say I was taken aback. I wasn't expecting to see the gore and disgusting acts that Jack the Ripper did to these unsuspecting women. Franco holds nothing back from these deeds. The blood is fake, the bodies are doubles, and Franco is behind the camera making this all work. Outside of Clint Howard, Franco could be a master of this genre. I need to see more of his work, but this initial taste left a flavor in my mouth I cannot seem to fathom. I was impressed, and not impressed with this body of work. Kinski did a fantastic job of creating this hellish creature devoid of fear and compassion. The raw power in his eyes alone will send shivers up your spine as you sit in the comfort of your own couch. This was awesome to see, but then on the other side of the spectrum the voice and sound that came from Kinski's mouth was embarrassing. You were scared, yet laughing at the same time. This is the first time that I have ever experienced this feeling while watching a film. Kinski pulled me into this film, but the sound yanked me back out.
Before you expect too much from this film, you need to realize that this was a B-rated horror film. The young women show their breasts, they run into the woods instead of into safety, there are dark alleyways and implausible characters. This is not a film to win awards, but to a newbie into the world of Jesus Franco, it was fascinating. This was not in anyway the caliber of From Hell, because it is a slasher film to the utmost degree. It was somewhat of a tame slasher film, but nonetheless one in that genre. Sexual instability is the culprit in Franco's eyes that built this mass murderer known as Jack the Ripper. While Franco does skew the truth a bit about the actual murders involved with Jack the Ripper (throwing the bodies in the Themes, etc.), it still makes an interesting story.
Overall, it was decent. After I watched it and thought about it for some time, I had a better respect for the film. It wasn't the greatest, yet it wasn't horribly bad. The dubbing caused me the most irritation, while Kinski raised the bar on this film. If you go into this film with high expectations, you will be utterly disappointed, but if you go in with an open mind and an ability to laugh, than it may just be up your dark alley. The DVD packaging is impressive, yet very misleading. The transfer of this film to DVD is impressive for it being made in 1976. Again, not expecting a lot will lead to a better film experience. You should also accompany this film with your favorite six-pack of beer and your most eccentric friend. Sit back, relax (as much as you can with this film) and enjoy the next hour and a half.
Grade: ** out of *****