Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ripped a New One: "The Ripper" (1985)

Christopher Lewis, who is Loretta Young's son and has punished horror fans over the years with tripe like "Blood Cult" and its sequel "Revenge" pulls off a master stroke of bad cinema, using the good name of Tom Savini to sell an excruciatingly awful video.

I write video, and not film, because this production was shot on videotape. The opening scene has Jack the Ripper stalking and murdering a woman in Victorian London, or in this case, Oklahoma. The setting may be the late 1800's, but the traffic lights and automobiles tell us someone forgot to check their shot before hitting RECORD on the tape deck. Fast forward ninety years (and ninety minutes) to an anonymous university where Professor Richard Harwell (Tom Schreier) is teaching an improbable course entitled Famous Crimes on Film. The class is going to study real crimes, then see how Hollywood reenacts them. The class pet is Steve (Wade Tower), a know-it-all film buff and his right hand girl Cindy (Andrea Adams). Richard is getting it on with Carol, the university dance teacher. By the way, Richard calls her "honey" throughout the entire film, and I did not know her name was Carol until the climax. Carol is portrayed by Mona Van Pernis, a vaguely pornographic name if I have ever heard one.

Carol and Richard shop in an antique store and Richard finds a garish ring only Liberace could love. It just so happens that the ring belonged to Jack the Ripper himself, and Richard puts the ring on and cannot get it off. Soon, the town starts experiencing horrific murders, and Richard seems to be sleeping an awful lot. He dreams of the murders being committed by the world's most notorious serial killer. We never see Richard commit the crimes, but you would think a dark figure in top hat and cape might be stopped for questioning by Oklahoma authorities.

Cindy gets rubbed out, and Steve puts it together that Richard is the Ripper. The desperate, laughable finale involves Carol being taken hostage by the Ripper's spirit (Tom Savini), while Steve tries to save her.

Tom Savini, who is better known for his makeup work and good acting in films like "Knightriders" and "From Dusk till Dawn," is top billed and appears on the video box cover. However, he does not appear onscreen until the final five minutes. Let me repeat that: he does not appear onscreen until the final five minutes. There is a dark figure who commits the murders throughout the video, but it ain't Tom.

The gore effects are not great, either, as plastic skin and kool-aid like blood are more than evident. The cast is awful all the way around, but they cannot be blamed. With this kind of material, they are given nothing to work with. Savini looks lost. He wears weird contact lenses, and speaks with an American accent, playing Britain's infamous killer. Lewis tries to make this a bigger production than it is, but he is such a lousy director that his name should be avoided at all times.

Taped in the 1980's, the video is a time capsule. Recoil as suspenseful calls are made on rotary phones! Delight in a dance number that makes "Staying Alive" look like Nureyev! Pant as major plot points revolve around such past icons as Trivial Pursuit and "The People's Almanac!"

How bad is this video? I must go to work overnight at a local department store in a while. I have been drinking diet soda all night for the caffeine so I can stay awake. My bladder fills in no time, causing frequent trips to the little boys room. Shutting this tape off so I could drain myself of bodily waste was the highlight of my evening.

"The Ripper" is awful in so many senses of the word, you deserve the mental anguish you will experience if you ignore my advice and watch it. You have been warned... (*) out of five stars.