Several months ago, Severin announced a Black Friday release of the 1959 Jack the Ripper, a film I saw on its original release here in LA at the Wiltern Theater – opening day to be exact, and then several other days during its run. I really enjoyed it (I was eleven at the time) and especially enjoyed the color insert of the blood coming up through the elevator floorboards – what eleven-year-old wouldn’t love THAT? Severin’s release was limited to 1500 copies and it sold out instantly for reasons that still baffle me, and one wonders if something fishy went on or is going on because labels that release classic films can’t sell 1500 of them, and it’s not like this Jack the Ripper is that well known or beloved even by horror aficionados. Anyway, thanks to a nice HTF member I was able to get a copy, which arrived this morning and which I have now watched – all of the US cut, some of the UK cut, and a bit of the DVD with the French cut. Here’s all you need to know.
Not that long ago I’d purchased and watched Jack the Ripper on a UK DVD. The UK version seemed to be the American cut with the UK score by Stanley Black. The transfer was disappointingly full frame and not very good, so I was excited about the Blu-ray from Severin, especially because on their website they trumpeted “newly restored from vault elements,” which, by the way, for me is truly one of the most meaningless pieces of press agentry ever. And when I tell you about this transfer you will know just how deceptive their blather was and I think one would have a good class action lawsuit for advertising something with complete lies. To be clear, what you get here is three different versions of the film: the UK cut with the Stanley Black score, the US cut with the Jimmy McHugh and Pete Rugolo score, and some French version on DVD with some gratuitous nudity.
First I checked out the “newly restored from vault elements” UK transfer. The film is preceded with a title card informing us that no elements exist on this film, or not any that they could find. What we’re about to see is an open matte (zoomed in) transfer that was done on a telecine in 2005 (probably the basis of the DVD I watched). I ran the first twenty minutes – I would be surprised to find out that it wasn’t 16mm, which is exactly what it looks like. It’s no better than the DVD and that wasn’t good. Strike one and so much for “restored from vault elements.” Then I switched to the US cut, which is what I wanted to watch. That, too, was preceded by a title card informing us that no elements exist on the film and that the US cut is presented in a 2K transfer of a 35mm print held by, I believe, the Library of Congress. So, I thought, this is where the “restored from vault elements” comes in, great. The film began with the Paramount logo, which was wonderful, and Paul Frees’ Orson Welles-like opening narration over the logo – really fun and something I remember from all those years ago.
Now, here’s what I don’t expect to see from a “newly restored from vault elements transfer” – a print that looked like someone had run it about 3,000 times then put it in a washing machine. Splicy, huge scratches, blobs of dirt everywhere, and once past the logo all of that continued unabated for almost the entirety of the film. There were a few sequences that were a bit less battered, but someone needs to sit down with the people at Severin and tell them what the word “restored” means. A 2K transfer is meaningless and a waste of money if the element is in this kind of shape. But as long as you’re saying “restored” at least take the time to clean it up – this has had virtually nothing done to it, not a single attempt to remove scratches, filth, or cue marks or fix the contrast or any damn thing. The color insert of the blood coming up through the elevator floor is completely faded, rendering the effect almost sepia and therefore diluting the impact of suddenly seeing vivid red come up through a floor that had just been black-and-white. It would have taken ten minutes to fix the color – ten MINUTES. It is in something resembling its original ratio – I think it’s 1.66 on this disc, although it showed here at 1.85 naturally. Severin has a lot of gall putting out this crap at full price. And crap it is. I don’t know this label at all, but they are clearly not above lying about their product and not owning up to the truth on their website. There are extras that I don’t care about, and the French version isn’t even on the Blu-ray, it’s on a separate DVD so you know what you’re in for there – a completely unwatchable transfer. This is, in fact, the most shockingly bad Blu-ray I’ve ever seen – the worst of the worst doesn’t even come close to this travesty, and shame on everyone involved. Highly NOT recommended by the likes of me, although you can’t find it anyway, except at inflated prices. Which brings me full circle back to my original point – the quick sellout of this title is very fishy.