The Horror Honeys: The Devil Came to Whitechapel...

The Devil Came to Whitechapel...

True Crime History in Horror Films with Head Honey Kat & Revenge Honey Linnie!

So far, we've looked at the film history of the infamous Miss Lizzie, and the tragic tale of Bonnie and Clyde, but even if you combined the two, you wouldn't come CLOSE to the prolific pop culture presence enjoyed by the notorious Jack the Ripper. There is a very distinct reason Jack the Ripper has remained a cultural mainstay for well over one hundred years: mystery. Despite multiple claims over the years to have finally discovered the Ripper's identity, we really still don't know anything about him. Because of this, authors and filmmakers can craft any story they'd like to fill in the gaps, and as such, we've been blessed with a plethora of media that claims to tell the "true" story of Jack the Ripper.

So will we ever know the Ripper's identity? Or where he disappeared to after a string of brutal murders? It's unlikely. Which also means, we haven't seen the last of The Ripper in film, literature and television!

Thank the gods, am I right?

The Real Jack the Ripper: 
In 1888, five murders were committed in an area of London known for being a melting pot of social unrest, villainy and all manner of vices. The fact that the Ripper murders were all of low born prostitutes should not have resonated with the wider society of London in this era, but the coverage of the local newspapers made a veritable frenzy of the case, and even gave wily Jack his horrifying nickname.

Victims attributed to Jack the Ripper:
  • Mary "Polly" Nichols, murdered on 31st August 1888.
  • "Dark Annie" Chapman, murdered on 8th September 1888.
  • Elizabeth "Long Liz" Stride, murdered on 30th September 1888.
  • Catherine Eddowes, also murdered on 30th September 1888.
  • Mary Kelly, murdered on 9th November 1888.
However, there are several other murders that, while not directly linked to the Ripper, are listed among the Whitechapel Murders and occurred within the Ripper's period of activity.  
  • Emma Smith murdered on 3rd April 1888.
  • Martha Tabram (also Turner), murdered on 8th August 1888. - Martha Tabram is an alleged victim of the the Ripper's in the film adaptation From Hell, but the connection is tenuous.  
  • Rose Mylett, murdered on 19th December 1888
  • Alice Mckenzie, murdered on 9th July 1889.
  • The Pinchin Street Torso, discovered on 10th September 1889. (a fucking TORSO)
  • Frances Coles, murdered on 13th February 1891.
The most chilling aspect of the murders was not only their calculated nature, but the way in which the killer celebrated the deaths. The Ripper's letters to Scotland Yard are an interesting collection of sadistic taunts, and some expert trolling by the killer himself. While there were many false letters received by Scotland Yard by those falsely claiming to be the Ripper. While the majority of the letters received by Scotland Yard have been determined to be false, the letters that have been identified as the Ripper's own (due to containing unreleased case information) are truly terrifying. The "Dear Boss" letter is the most celebrated of these:

“Dear Boss,
I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal.

How can they catch me now. I love my work and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha ha. The next job I do I shall clip the ladys ears off and send to the police officers just for jolly wouldn't you. Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight.

My knife's so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance.
Good Luck.

Yours truly
Jack the Ripper

Dont mind me giving the trade name. Wasnt good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands curse it No luck yet. They say I'm a doctor now. ha ha” 

The identity of the Ripper has never been truly confirmed, despite claims to the contrary (seriously, it wasn't the barber, are you kidding me?) and the suspects, numbering in the hundreds, range from literal nobodies (immigrants who melted away into the shadows of the population boom of the Industrial Revolution) to artists (a painter, Walter Sickert, is my personal favorite theory), the Masons (everything is their fault, amirite), members of the Royal household (Prince Albert Victor, being one of the more ridiculous claims - the murders being an act of revenge for the aggressive case of syphilis that he suffered from), and Lewis Carroll (yes, the Alice in Wonderland author...).

While the activities of Jack the Ripper took place in a small part of London, his crimes resonated throughout the country and shook every tier of the social classes from whores to royalty. The edge of his knife is felt in cinema, theatre and beyond. In this capacity, Jack the Ripper did indeed give birth to the twenty-first century, and his reign of terror echoes even today as we continue to be fascinated with his story and brutal unsolved crimes.

Read more about Jack the Ripper HERE

Jack the Ripper in Film & Television
Obviously, there was no way we could cover every instance of Jack the Ripper or his likeness being used in film or television. Because we'd be here all day. Instead, we have picked five of our favorites (or just the most interesting) each. If you have a favorite we left off the list, don't take it personally. 

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

Tonight... nothing but golden curls will do... 

Adapted from a novel, The Lodger is one of Alfred Hitchcock's first horror/thriller films (one that he called his first suspense film), and as a silent film where the music plays a pivotal role, it's easy to see where the aesthetic for his future scores has been schooled, as well as his penchant for icy blondes.  

"The seventh golden haired victim..."

Blondes don't always have more fun in Hitchcock's world, and the killer in this silent film is called "The Avenger," and his crimes are specifically directed at "fair haired" women, which makes me giggle. The police are baffled, but what is one to do in an era of boarding houses full of mysterious strangers from points unknown who can disappear at a moment's notice? There's really no cinematic experience greater than 20s era overacting. As classically trained stage actors struggled to find their footing within a new medium, the transition of this time period is a fascinating one made even more interesting by the fact that we are watching a young Hitchcock find his resonance.

Full of suspicion, doubt, and duplicity, The Lodger is a wonderful introduction to Hitchcock's suspense fueled world. The landlady suspects that her newest boarder is the killer sought by police, but is he really? Only time, and the love of her fair haired daughter, will tell... ~HH

True Crime Rating: 3.5 scalpels out of 5

Yes... that's the FULL movie... 
and no, I don't know what's up with the modern music that keeps appearing, but just go with it. 

Pandora's Box (1929)

Silent film Pandora's Box is the kind of movie you probably haven't even heard of unless you were a film student, which is a real shame. Starring Louise Brooks as siren-like flapper, Lulu, Pandora's Box charts the rise and fall of a young woman who's sexuality acts as a double-edged sword throughout her tragic life. Most tragic, however? When Lulu is forced to turn to prostitution to survive, she takes pity on a sad young man one Christmas Even and invites him back to her flat for a night of free passion. Unfortunately, that young man happens to be Jack the Ripper. Featuring a performance from Brooks at the height of her career, Pandora's Box is one of the bravest and most sexually explicit films to come out of the pre-code silent era of film. ~RH

True Crime Rating: 5 scalpels out of 5
The most fabulous hair of the 20s... Oh, Louise Brooks, you saucy dame.

The Lodger (1944)

John Brahm's The Lodger is perhaps the best-known adaption of Marie Belloc Lowndes' novel of the same name. In this version of the story, Jack the Ripper is killing "actresses," because thanks to the Hays Code, a "woman selling her virtue" was a no-no unless "good taste was emphasized..." And since I doubt anyone understood what that meant then any better than we do now, actresses it was! When a couple is forced to take in a lodger due to financial difficulties, the wife begins to suspect their lodger is Jack the Ripper. Which could be a real problem, since their beloved niece, who is living with them, is an actress. Not terribly accurate but fairly frightening given the stringency of code-era horror films, The Lodger is a classic worth adding to your collection! ~RH

True Crime Rating: 4 scalpels out of 5

A Study in Terror (1965)

Who could possibly be better suited to hunt down a criminal like Jack the Ripper than Sherlock Holmes himself? A Study in Terror is one of the few Holmes films that is based on story that wasn't written by Arthur Conan Doyle, which is probably why the story is a little... hinky. While A Study in Terror is a fabulous addition to the Holmes canon, and unlike in real life, Holmes uncovers the Ripper's identity, writers Derek and Donald Ford didn't dally too much over the history. The murders are committed out of order, which is frustrating when you are a student of Ripper history. However, John Neville makes a fabulous Holmes, and Donald Huston is wonderful as Dr. Watson. If you can overlook the historical inconsistencies, A Study in Terror is great fun. ~RH

True Crime Rating (for accuracy): 2 scalpels out of 5
True Crime Rating (for entertainment): 4 scalpels out of 5

Time After Time (1979)

If there is one thing I love the crap out of, it's revisionist history! In Nicholas Meyer's wholly original film, author H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) discovers that his very own friend, surgeon John Leslie Stevenson (David Warner) is Jack the Ripper. But alas, Stevenson has used Wells' personal time machine (stay with me) to escape to the future and elude capture! The future being 1979. Because Stevenson doesn't have the return key, the time machine returns to 1893 without him, at which point Wells follows Stevenson to 1979 and tries to track him down before he can ply his trade in the future. Time After Time is utterly insane and makes NO logical sense. BUT WHO CARES? Malcolm McDowell in a motherfucking time machine!

True Crime Rating (for accuracy): WHO CARES? TIME MACHINE!
True Crime Rating (for entertainment): 4 scalpels out of 5
You WEAR that bow tie, Malcolm!

Jack's Back (1988)

Make no mistake... Jack's Back is turrrrible. The movie, about a Jack the Ripper copycat killer, a doctor, and his identical twin brother, makes not a lick of goddamned sense. I'm not even sure writer/director Rowdy Herrington bothered to pick up an encyclopedia before making this movie. But none of that matters, friends, because... 28-year-old James Spader. Seriously. Nothing else matters. Just look at that fucking fox. ~RH

True Crime Rating (for accuracy): 0 scalpels out of 5
True Crime Rating (for entertainment): 5 sweaty James Spader's out of 5

The Outer Limits ~ "Ripper" (1997)

Part history, part science fiction, the 11th episode of the fifth season of The Outer Limits was a fairly racy topic for a syndicated television show in the late 90s. Opening strong with the idea that far from being perpetuated by a single person, the crimes of the Ripper were committed by an alien entity that would burst from the chests of its victim before forcing itself into the mouth of its next host. Stay with me. Jack (Carey Elwes, hello!), a doctor with a taste for Whitechapel whores and absinthe sees the entity at work, but is unable to communicate what he has seen. Plus, there's that opiate addiction. Tsk Tsk, doctor. 

Plagued by a Cassandra Complex, our dear, flawed, Jack knows the truth but alas, no one will listen to him. As the entity stacks up a more and more obvious body count with names connected to the actual case, Jack finds himself wrongfully accused of the crimes and his explanation of what he has seen just sounds, well... ridiculous as fuck. The Outer Limits was one of my favorite shows growing up, while a little strange in concept, Ripper is an interesting attempt to explain the Whitechapel murders, and as per usual, there's a little twist at the end that leaves you wanting more. Closure is for chumps.

True Crime Rating: 3 scalpels out of 5
An alien entity? Bitch, please.

Love Lies Bleeding (1999)

Another Ripper movie featuring Malcolm McDowell? Craziness! As is this movie, which is... kind of awful. I watched it because, 1) it starred Faye Dunaway, and 2) it focused on journalist Catherine Winwood, i.e., a woman's point of view of the Ripper's murders. Except nothing in Love Lies Bleeding is particularly accurate, and it's disappointingly boring. I can't in good conscience recommend it... unless you are a huge Faye Dunaway fan. ~RH

True Crime Rating: 1 scalpel out of 5
Who needs accuracy when your costumes are fucking fab?

From Hell (2001)

Yes, another movie featuring Johnny Depp and a few really bad British accents, but overall, From Hell remains of my personal favourite True Crime/Graphic Novel film adaptations. Even though it's embellished to the nines with too much Shakespearean reference (ugh), and the addition of a drug induced clairvoyance that didn't actually exist, I truly do love this film. Featuring real crime scene photos (amazing), some great FX makeup work, and the always wonderful Ian Holm in an unexpectedly creepy role, I can't find too much to dislike about this film that doesn't swirl around my distaste for Heather Graham (sorry not sorry). 

I'm also exceedingly intrigued by the various guesses as to the actual identity of the Ripper, and the exploration of Royal Physician, William Gull as the culprit is a historical favourite - everyone loves a royal conspiracy. The case files from the Ripper murders have been a lifelong obsession for me, and the autopsy photos have been in my personal makeup reference files for years. From Hell (and the graphic novel) do the unsolved cases justice, and while an era appropriate (and overused) Masonic spin exists, the Hollywood gloss is unmistakeable. From Hell is still a favourite re-watch of mine regardless of the shiny re-telling. I'm also a big fan of some of the period correct attitudes towards women and depictions of the epic class struggle of Victorian England. ~ HH

True Crime Rating: 3.5 scalpels out of 5   

The Lodger (2009)

Of all of the "Jack the Ripper" themed films I've seen, The Lodger is the most... baffling. Relocating the scene of the drama from London to Hollywood doesn't make a lot of sense, especially when you notice that it's raining ALL the time. WHY IS IT RAINING ALL THE TIME IT NEVER RAINS IN LOS ANGELES GAH!? But outside of that, there is way too much going on: a detective is hunting down a killer that is copycatting a killer that copycatted Jack the Ripper... MEANWHILE IN THE SUBURBS: A couple take in a lodger, whom the wife is suspicious of, but she's on pills so we aren't supposed to trust her anyway. Also, WHY IS IT ALWAYS RAINING? Director David Ondaarje has never made another movie and after The Lodger, it isn't hard to see why. ~RH

True Crime Rating (across the board): 0 scalpels out of 5

Which is YOUR favorite Jack? Who would you like to see
next in our series? Let us know on Twitter: @horrorhoneys and @linnieloowho