Coroner (9) Coroner

George Lusk (Michael Gothard) first comes to the attention of Chief Insp. Frederick Abberline and Sgt. George
Godley at the Coroner’s Court. Lusk is in the company of journalist Benjamin Bates (Jonathan Moore) of The
Star, hearing testimony from Dr. Llewellyn (Michael Hughes) about the first of the Whitechapel murders.

Suspects arrive Suspects arrive (2)

Lusk helps stir up the crowd when two of the other suspects, Richard Mansfield and Robert James Lees, appear
in public.
Read more... )
Reviews

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: “A perfect whodunit.”

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Jack the Ripper lashes the viewer with the insistent thrust of a Dickensian epic.”

SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER: “This carefully wrought, brightly scripted movie manages the near impossible.”

~~

Glenn Erickson on DVD Savant

… The story of Jack the Ripper continues to fascinate audiences. The famous 1888 London serial murder case was documented in detail, killing by bloody killing. Forensic evidence, including photographs of the murder sites and the victims, are a matter of public record. As the killer's identity was never discovered the case is still controversial, with scores of hypothetical solutions. Social reformers used the killings to bring attention to the horrible living conditions in crowded lower-class areas of the city. Author Jack London wrote scathing essays based on his observances of poverty and squalor in Whitechapel, the district where the Ripper killings took place …

The most satisfactory historical effort so far is this lavish two-part TV miniseries from Euston Films, Thames Television and Lorimar. It was produced for the centennial of the killings … and made news for its rare TV appearance by Michael Caine. Caine praised writer-producer-director David Wickes, for whom this was actually a second go at the story. Wickes had directed a previous English TV show on the same subject in 1973, that was applauded for sticking to the facts of the case.

The Jack the Ripper miniseries has its factual flaws and anachronisms but by and large is an exciting and complex large-scale recounting of the murders. The three-hour running time gives plenty of elbow room to sketch out political elements of the story usually omitted, such as the activities of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee …

Chief Scotland Yard Inspector Fred Abberline (Michael Caine) must climb back on the wagon when he's assigned the Whitechapel murder case, a horrific mutilation murder. Under the watchful eye of his superiors, Abberline and his partner Sgt. George Godley (Lewis Collins) engage the help of Robert Lees, a psychic (Ken Bones), prostitutes Kate Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly (Susan George & Lysette Anthony) and sketch artist Emma Prentiss (Jane Seymour), a previous sweetheart of Abberline's. As the murders mount so does the pressure to put an end to the case -- public uproar is turning ugly. Fred and George investigate the famous American actor Richard Mansfield (Armand Assante), who nightly transforms from Jekyll to Hyde before terrified audiences. But the only consistent clues that Abberline can put together point in a very sensitive direction --- to someone involved with the Royal Family ...

The dapper Fred Abberline must answer to closed-mouthed bureaucrats concerned that he'll get drunk and fumble the case. Out in the streets he's confronted by coarse working men, arrogant criminals and Marxist agitators. A nervy reporter (Jonathan Moore) openly fans the flames of scandal. Abberline is inundated with opportunists, gadflies and obstructionists. Adding to his troubles, the local police are anxious to discredit him as well.

Numerous actors serve as transparent red herrings, while Inspector Abberline pursues the case as best he can. Local police cynically "round up the usual suspects" to give the impression that they're doing something constructive. Fred's superiors remove bodies and clean up a murder site in an attempt to keep a lid on a case that can cost them their jobs. When a shoemaker's apron is found at a murder site, the police are forced to lock up leather workers to protect them from lynching by the Vigilante Committees ...

The presence of Michael Caine helped producer Wickes attract a superior cast. Armand Assante is properly suave as the high-toned actor. He's greatly aided by some anachronistic but startling makeup effects. Jane Seymour is on hand to offer a romantic possibility for Abberline, and Susan George and Lysette Anthony are women of the night terrified at the thought of becoming the Ripper's next prey. Cult actor Michael Gothard (Herostratus, The Devils, For Your Eyes Only) plays George Lusk, the rabble-rousing leader of the Whitechapel Vigilantes. I think Gothard has more dialogue here than in the rest of his filmography put together.1

Full review

1 A blatant exaggeration, but it makes a valid point about the under-use of Michael’s talent.

~~

At-A-Glance Film Reviews

In 1888, when the real life Jack the Ripper was caught, the court records were ordered to be vaulted for one hundred years and the details of the case kept confidential. This film claims to be based on these top secret Home Office files; the filmmakers believe their ending the correct solution to the mystery.

Accurate or not, this is an outstanding film, especially so given that it was made for television. The character portrayals are solid, as is the screenplay, but the acting -- top notch work from nearly everyone -- takes the spotlight. Michael Caine, who plays the lead detective on the case, won a well-deserved Golden Globe for his performance.

At-A-Glance Film Reviews

~~

Television Heaven

… Wickes wrote, directed and produced 'Jack The Ripper' for the Euston Films/Thames Television partnership, responsible for 'The Sweeney' over a decade earlier. It was made for television and was screened in two parts, the first on Tuesday 11th October 1988 and the second concluding instalment following a week later on October 18th. Each instalment began at 9pm but took a break at 10pm allowing transmission of ITN's 'News At Ten', often the custom for the ITV network …

The mini-series boasted extremely high production values for a British television programme and had an all-star cast. Playing the lead role of Inspector Frederick Abberline was Michael Caine, in his first acting role for British television for twenty years. Caine had spent most of the 1980s resident in America, so his casting represented a considerable coup for the production team. Playing his sidekick Sgt George Godley was former 'Professionals' star Lewis Collins.

Both Inspector Abberline and Sergeant Godley were real-life people, as indeed were most of the characters in this drama. And Abberline was without doubt at the centre of the Ripper investigation - but the drama takes liberties with his character. In fact, from the moment when we are introduced to Abberline as an alcoholic with crumbling respect from his fellow policemen the alarm bells start ringing and rightly so - for despite the wealth of research that went into this production it is at best a badly warped version of history and at worst 99% fiction …

Abberline then becomes suspicious of police surgeon Dr Rees Llewelyn (Michael Hughes) on account of him initially missing the victim's abdominal mutilations. Next he gets a visit from Queen Victoria's personal clairvoyant, Robert Lees (Ken Bones), who claims to have had visions of the killer, which leads to the detective paying attention to American actor Richard Mansfield (Armand Assante), then performing on the London stage in "Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde". Such is his convincing performance of playing a man who can be sane one moment and insane the next, Mansfield immediately becomes a top suspect! And just to confirm his theory, Abberline seeks advice from the Queen's surgeon Sir William Gull (Ray McAnally) who agrees that it is theoretically possible for a man to switch between sanity and insanity.

The next victim, Annie Chapman, is found in Hanbury Street and Abberline continues to quiz Dr Llewelyn who takes exception to being suspected. So Abberline suspects him even more. Then Lees is run over by a coach and informs Abberline about it. Not just any coach, but a black coach with a crest on its side. The Royal coach. Checking to see if the coach has been out lately, Godley by chance gets talking to coach driver John Nettley (George Sweeney) who tells him how clever he is and how he has been teaching himself medical and anatomical knowledge. Another suspect.

Meanwhile the public have been outraged by the murders and a vigilante committee has been set up by George Lusk (Michael Gothard), whilst in reality Lusk and his committee mainly acted as street patrollers and helped to set up reward money for the capture of the killer, in this production they are an unruly mob bent on revolution and overthrowing the police and the monarchy!

The Central News Agency receives a letter from a 'Jack The Ripper', claiming to be the killer. Abberline believes that it is genuine because it refers to cutting off the victim's ears, something that happened with the last murder but, on Abberline's instructions, was withheld from the press. Another piece of fiction because the extant photo of Chapman's body shows her ears intact! September 30th brings two more murders - Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes (Susan George). This time we see the killers in action. Yes, KILLERS because it is the work of two men - the driver of the royal coach and its mysterious passenger. Dr Llewelyn, Mr Lees and Mr Mansfield all start behaving more suspiciously and just to make matters worse George Lusk's mob make the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Charles Warren, decide to resign. And then Superintendent Arnold, Head of H Division, begins acting suspiciously too ...

… "Jack The Ripper" is nothing more than a dramatisation based on real-life events and should not be regarded as fact. Its plot failings are compensated for through good production values and its strong cast and is an enjoyable, if not classic, piece of British television that is perhaps more likely to satisfy those who know little about the Ripper crimes than those who are better informed, though until something better comes along Ripperologists will keep coming back to this one.

The original transmission of the opening episode broke into the top ten ratings for that week, being watched by 14.1 million viewers, an excellent achievement given its timeslot.

Full review

~~

Hal Erikson on Rotten Tomatoes

The TV movie Jack the Ripper endeavors to shed new light on one of the most notorious unsolved cases in history. The Ripper, of course, was the London serial killer who, in 1888, killed and disemboweled five prostitutes.

Michael Caine stars not as the Ripper but as a Scotland-Yard inspector who is assigned to the case. The trail of evidence leads Caine to some astonishing suspects--including at least one member of the Royal Family.

As the public clamors for an arrest in the case of the unsolved evisceration murders of five East End prostitutes, Abberline narrows down his list of suspects: the four most likely to have committed the murders, according to the inspector, are American-actor Richard Mansfield (Armand Assante), Queen Victoria's personal psychic (Ken Bones), a certain Dr. Acland (Richard Morant) and socialist-gadfly Lusk (Michael Gothard).

The British government is also pressuring Abberline to produce the killer. Unfortunately, if Abberline were to publicly release all the clues at his disposal, the revelation would probably rock the Empire to its foundations.

Rotten Tomatoes

~~

Digital Fix

… The production value reflects the fresh injection of cash with most of the money seemingly going into the sets and the period costumes - the global feel is not really that of a TV drama but rather a film though the plotting and script betrays its TV origin with unnecessary cliff-hangers cropping up regularly for US ad-breaks. The film was originally split into two parts to be shown on different nights and the DVD echoes that by not merging both parts together ...

The direction is generally quite good with most of the cast performing well... The general speed of the film does seem a little slow at times and would have been substantially edited were it a cinema release but the overall quality of the production makes it a good piece of well researched TV drama that stands up to repeated viewings and the test of time.

Full review
Jack the Ripper was a two-part TV dramatisation of the investigation of the infamous murders of London prostitutes. According to Television Heaven, the original transmission of the opening episode was among the top ten ratings for that week, being watched by 14.1 million viewers.

Four different endings were originally filmed, to keep the conclusion of the investigation a secret, until the show was broadcast.

The two one-and-a half-hour episodes were shown on 11 and 18 October 1988.

Michael Gothard played George Lusk, leader of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. In the film, Lusk is portrayed as a political rabble-rouser and Marxist revolutionary, and is one of the suspects.

In real life, the activities of Lusk’s organisation mainly consisted of putting up posters and offering reward money.

Casting

In correspondence, the Director, David Wickes says:


"On Ripper, I wrote Michael’s character George Lusk as a 19th century Marxist. One of Lusk’s lines (to Michael Caine) was 'You can’t even protect ordinary working people'.

Most actors would have used a sneering tone and left it at that. Not Michael Gothard. He took me aside on the set and said he wanted to speak the line as if it were something his character had repeated hundreds of times — a mantra for meetings and speeches ... 'ord’ry workin’ peep-ul!'

Brilliant. In one second, we knew that Lusk was a professional activist, a man of slogans and sayings instead of original thoughts. 'Great,' I said, 'Do it'.

Now, that’s what I call an actor.

... Michael had a screen presence unlike that of any other actor with whom I have worked. He could frighten an audience with a glance. His soft, husky voice was electrifying and he knew how to use it to maximum effect.

Each time I welcomed Michael to the set, I knew that we were about to get something special in the can. There are very few actors in that category."

More details on Jack the Ripper from David Wickes Productions

Per Digital Fix: “Though they had originally started to film on video with a different cast (with Barry Foster in the lead), a vast sum of money was put up by CBS on the condition they made it into a much bigger production with US recognisable stars in it thus the inclusion of Michael Caine, Jane Seymour and Lewis Collins ...”

Per IMDB: “Michael Caine was persuaded to return to TV for the first time in nearly 20 years because of David Wickes's powerful script. Caine later described Wickes as "the nicest, fastest Director I've worked for, and the master of filming Victorian London."’

This was the second film in which Michael Gothard had worked opposite Michael Caine, the first being “The Last Valley” in 1971.

In 1979 he had worked with Lewis Collins on an episode of “The Professionals”: “Stopover.”

More recently, in 1982, he had worked with Lysette Anthony, who had played Rowena, his unwilling betrothed, in Ivanhoe.

The stunt arranger on ‘Jack the Ripper’, Peter Brayham would also have been well known to Michael, from “Stopover” and “Arthur of the Britons.”

Cast photo

Jack the Ripper cast

IMDB entry
This quotation is kindly offered by Michael Gothard's former girlfriend N.B., from a letter he wrote to her on 23 March 1988.

Michael Gothard had worked with Michael Caine on "The Last Valley" in 1971; when Gothard wrote this letter, he had recently been reunited with Caine, to work on David Wickes' film, "Jack the Ripper."

"My reunion with M. Caine, after more years than both of us care to remember, went affably and smoothly, although the nervous director went an intense shade of pale when he tried to introduce us, and neither of us proffered our hands, and I said "we're old enemies."

You could have heard the proverbial pin crash to the floor for a couple of seconds in that studio, until Caine, ever the diplomat, said "we're always enemies in films."

Return of director to normal life, realising that he had not made the worst career move of his life in casting me. In fact, Caine and me had made our salutations a few minutes before."

Caine and Gothard in "The Last Valley" Caine and Gothard in "Jack the Ripper")

In "The Last Valley", Gothard had played Hansen, a mercenary, who rebels against his leader The Captain, played by Caine. In "Jack the Ripper", Gothard was to play political agitator George Lusk, who is a thorn in the side of Caine's Chief Inspector Abberline, and is also one of the suspects for the Ripper murders.
In this story about the Hundred Years War that ravaged Europe, Michael Gothard played Hansen, one of a band of marauders led by The Captain (Michael Caine).

“The Last Valley” was filmed at Halliford Studios, Shepperton, England, and in Trins, Tirol, Austria.

Filming seems to have taken place during 1969, because there were 40th Anniversary showings on 24 and 27 September 2009.

Per an uncredited source, he may have got this role as a result of his performance in “Michael Kohlhaas.”

"In [Michael Kohlhaas], Michael Gothard played the part of a young soldier who joined Kohlhaas' band, but who, refusing to obey, looted for his own gain, and finally died by hanging. His truculent performance, especially in the last scenes with Anita Pallenberg, earned him a very similar role in “The Last Valley”, James Clavell's ponderous allegory."

Quote taken from Michael Gothard Tribute Site

It also seems likely that Michael’s performance in “The Last Valley” may have led to him being cast as Kai in “Arthur of the Britons.” He even wears the same studded tunic in both productions.

“The Last Valley” was the second project on which Michael appeared with Brian Blessed (who played another mercenary, Korski) – the first being “The Further Adventures of the Musketeers”, and the third being “Arthur of the Britons.”

Harry Fielder, a stuntman/extra/stand-in with whom Michael had worked on the “Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)” episode, “When the Spirit Moves You”, was an uncredited pillager in “The Last Valley”, and would later work with him on “The Devils.”

Michael Gothard would also work with Michael Caine again, on “Jack the Ripper.”

Incidentally, Michael Caine has confessed that (unlike Michael Gothard) he is a terrible rider, and was lucky to escape unharmed during “The Last Valley.”

"I am absolutely useless. I act as though I can ride. In “The Last Valley,” I led a charge. If I'd have come off, they'd have all run over me.”
Full article.

Watch "The Last Valley" on Youtube:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

Details on IMDB

Reviews

This Island Rod

"… the rapacious Hansen (Michael Gothard) is given to stirring up trouble, eventually raising a rival band of brigands to contest the valley …

The evocation of a blasted, cruel, evil epoch isn’t as ineffaceable or provocative as that in Ken Russell’s 'The Devils' from the same year (they both sport cast member Gothard, with his gift for portraying multiple varieties of creep) but shares some imagery and mood, combined with high-riding sweep of narrative."

Full review

Deitmar Zingl in 70 mm News:

“Michael Caine is especially fond of TLV. It's one of his own favorite movies. He uses a slight German accent for his role as Captain Hauptmann, the cool warrior with a wounded soul.

Omar Sharif is the romantic intellectual, some kind of Zhivago lost in Germany. Per Oscarsson is a religious fanatic priest, wonderfully over the top, as most of the religious fanatics, even today. Florinda Bolkan is the independent woman in a male dominated society and pays a high price for her independence.

More wonderful actors are Nigel Davenport, Arthur O‘Connell and the wild and angry Michael Gothard as Hansen. His performance resembles that of Klaus Kinski in "Aguirre, The Wrath of God" although that came two years later.”

Full review

Other reviews of “The Last Valley.”

DVD Talk
In Stereo
New York Times
Cane Toad Warrior
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