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

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October 2013

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