Directed by John Brahm [Other horror films: The Undying Monster (1942), The Mad Magician (1954)]
I’ve been well-aware of this film for years and years – it used to play on AMC what seemed like every week – but it took until now to see it, and I definitely found it an impressive film.
The story of Jack the Ripper is one that I’ve seen in a few other films, from the 1927 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog and the 1953 Man in the Attic, and this is probably the best one. Man in the Attic was very enjoyable, and went a very similar route as this one, but since this came first, I’ve gotta give this more credit.
We don’t see any over-the-top murders or gore, of course, given this film is from the mid-1940’s, but we do get some very suspenseful scenes and occasionally great moments leading up to what one can imagine are brutal murders. Great use of setting too – I loved those scenes where the police and civilians were enclosed in a small portion of Whitechapel trying to trap Jack the Ripper in the mist, but just unable to do so. Great, great scenes there.
I don’t know if it’s his slightly larger frame, or just his imposing physique, but Laird Cregar reminded me a lot of Victor Buono, so it should go without saying that his performance was top-notch. The sad thing is, as some of you may know, Cregar died in late 1944 at the extraordinarily young age of 30, his final movie Hangover Square being released after his death. With less than twenty roles, I think it’s a damn shame he died that young, especially since he could have had a long-lasting career in horror had he survived into the 1950’s, 1960’s, and into the 1970’s. Cregar was great here, and it’s just a shame.
Cedric Hardwicke (The Ghoul) was solid, and he had one of the more reasonable characters in the film. As his wife, Sara Allgood was fine, though not necessarily stellar (not that really a whole lot would be expected from a character like hers). Merle Oberon does pretty well in her role, and I like her interactions with Cregar’s character, as they always had an undercurrent of growing suspense. Lastly, George Sanders (Village of the Damned and The Picture of Dorian Gray) was a wee bit generic to really stand out, but got more character in the end, so he turned out well.
I was impressed with just how suspenseful this one became at times, and I was also drawn into the whole “is the Lodger actually Jack the Ripper” plot-line as more and more possible coincidences occurred. The Lodger is a strong film, and definitely a highlight of the 1940’s, so I’m glad that I finally took the time to watch this.