In cinema there’s no shortage of Jack the Ripper movies, They all feature the same foggy evenings and dark alleyways where women fear to tread, but this picture by producer-directors Robert Baker and Monty Berman, is a very original and suspenseful version that solves the mystery and identifies the killer. The film focuses on the police, frustrated by the lack of concrete clues, useful witnesses, and pressure from the media and government officials. They’re “inept and incompetent” according to the locals and the higher ups, so Scotland Yard inspector O’Neill (Eddie Byrne) asks for help from an old American friend, police detective Sam Lowry (Lee Patterson). A possible break comes when they learn the Ripper asks his victims if they are Mary Clark or know where Mary might be.
Sam gets quite a nasty welcome from the Whitechapel lynch mob because he looks more like an American cowboy (even though Patterson was Canadian) and asks way too many questions about the Ripper. Nearby is a hospital for poor women, where of course all the doctors carry leather surgical bags full of sharp instruments just like the killer, where any of the patients could be Mary, and where one of the surgeon’s assistants is a sweet hunchbacked, deformed mute (Endre Muller) who becomes the lynch mob’s prime suspect.
One woman at the hospital is the almoner, sheltered but spunky Anne (Betty McDowall). Her surgeon uncle Tranter (John Le Mesurier) is stressed out, goes on mysterious calls, makes dangerous mistakes in the O.R and is obsessed with his niece’s safety, making him one of several fine suspects or a big red herring. Anne’s safety also becomes Sam’s concern; their courtship adds a nice little romantic subplot and gives Sam the chance to save her when a discharged patient becomes the Ripper’s next target. The couple’s secret date to a dancehall is cute in itself, but also sets up one of the murders, of a rookie dancer who had no clue the dancehall doesn’t make enough off beer sales and is actually a front for a VIP escort service (giving us more potential suspects). As you see, the story nicely presents a large number of threads, players and suspects, all diverse and well-developed. Their connections and the suspense build slowly and surely, clicking into place in a way that’s unpredictable and inevitable, which is a nice touch in a story that’s been told so many times.
Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster works on the theory forwarded in Leonard Matters’ 1929 book that theorized the Ripper was a surgeon searching for the woman who infected his late son with syphilis. The satisfying thing here is that the Ripper’s identity is revealed to the inspectors and others at the hospital, but since the Ripper dies in a most poetically just way nothing can be proven and the case remains “unsolved.” When he’s crushed by an elevator, there’s a single shot in colour, showing a small pool of blood squirting up through the floor, a fun shocker in a great, atmospheric, noirish black and white horror mystery.