Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.
Tom Savini has had a very successful mustache for many successful years. Does that have anything to do with the success of The Ripper? Of course it does.
Riding the wave of Blood Cult, which turned a $1,000,000 profit from a $125,000 investment, director Christopher Lewis and producer Bill Blair quickly returned for another dose of SOV anarchy. Taking the general template for their previous hit and upping the gross, The Ripper moves just as slowly as its older sibling, but delivers more laughs. Also, special effects maestro Savini receives top-billing, but appears in the film for exactly five minutes. Translation: you can watch this more than once.
Richard, a nerdy college professor teaching a class called “Famous Crimes On Film,” finds a ring in an antique shop. The exact same ring, it seems, that’s featured in a book about Jack The Ripper. Richard’s fiancé wants a brass headboard from the antique shop. Instead, Rich throws down a Grant and buys the ring for himself. Insomnia! Dinner theater nightmares! A top hat-wearing villain disemboweling women! At the same time, a couple of homely college kids engage in extended make-out scenes (“You sure are SWEET tonight!”) while a gratuitous Blood Cult plug unfolds on a TV screen. Savini (as Jack the Ripper’s cat-eyed spirit incarnate) shows up, does his worst Montag impression from The Wizard Of Gore, then exits. We also get a throat slashing by telephone cord and a round of Trivial Pursuit.
The Ripper lasts for 104 minutes. Every scene drags on for much longer than it should. The videography is washed out, grainy, and paints most of the cast in an unattractive light. Add the intense violence and you’ve got a film that should, by all means, make for a dismal experience. Thankfully, the quirks (that woman with the very large glasses, a Jazzercise sequence) and semi-competent atmospherics provide just enough amusement to even things out. It’s no top-drawer classic, but you can throw it on, possibly fall asleep, and still enjoy.
Entertainment value notwithstanding, The Ripper was another hit for United and Bill Blair. This film’s profits allowed them to expand and move forward as SOVs began to flood rental stores. Blair split his company into a new division, VCI Home Video, to differentiate from United’s upcoming releases. Consolidated in the late 1990s under the name VCI Entertainment, the company still thrives today, all from a couple of regional video productions. And Tom Savini’s mustache.