Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Movies

Red Jack's Starring Roles

Mary Ann 'Polly' Nichols
Mary Ann 'Polly' Nichols

Early in the morning of Friday, August 31 in 1888, Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols went out into the streets of London's Whitechapel area to earn her keep. A man grabbed her and slit her throat with two powerful strokes, leaving her with severe cuts to her abdomen. She was the first of five prostitutes to become the official list of victims attributed to an unknown killer dubbed Jack the Ripper.

Annie Chapman
Annie Chapman

The next victim after Nichols was Annie Chapman, discovered on September 8. Her stomach was ripped open, her intestines pulled out, and her throat cut. Her bladder, half of the vagina, and the uterus had been removed and taken.

Elizabeth Stride
Elizabeth Stride

A note that arrived to the Central News Agency on September 27 raised hope of a lead. Begun "Dear Boss" and signed, "Yours Truly, Jack the Riper," the author claimed that he "loved" his work and would continue. By the end of that month, on September 30, there were two victims on the same night: Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Two weeks after the "double event" came a letter and box "from Hell" to the head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, with a half of a kidney preserved in wine. The note's author indicated that he'd fried and eaten the other half. He taunted the police to catch him if they could.

Catherine Eddowes
Catherine Eddowes

The last official victim was Mary Kelly, 24, who on November 8 invited a man into her room and closed the curtains in preparation. She was found the next morning nearly obliterated, with many parts cut off and a great deal of blood and gore decorating the room.

Movies about Saucy Jack are more common than mosquitoes in a swamp. Newton says, "There are not less than 76 novls, 25 motion pictures, eight stage plays, three short-story anthologies, two poetry collections, one rock opera, and one computer game." Hitchcock's 1927 The Lodger to the time Jack turned up via the importation of the London Bridge in Lake Havasu, Arizona, in Terror at London Bridge (1985). Sherlock-Holmes-meets-the-Ripper tales include A Study in Terror (1965) and Murder by Decree (1978). In one rendition, it turns out that Holmes himself is the Ripper In Hands of the Ripper (1971), it turns out that Jack had a daughter, and she grows up to continue her father's legacy.

One of the most recent Jack the Ripper films was From Hell (2001), a title taken from one of the letters often attributed to Jack, starring Johnny Depp as the opium-addicted Inspector Frederick Abberline. Although there's little evidence supporting the romantic theory that the Ripper's atrocious acts were the product of a Masonic conspiracy surrounding a royal cover-up, this theory nevertheless garners widespread — and enduring — attention.

A likeness of Jack the Ripper
A likeness of Jack the Ripper

Based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore, the plot of From Hell features the conspiracy idea. The Duke of Clarence has fathered a child with an East End shopkeeper, a scandal that must be quashed. Agents for the Royal Family kill the new mother's friends to silence them, and thus it turns out that, besides prostitution, that's the common link among all of "Jack's" victims. They weren't sex murders at all, but simply a way to keep a family secret.

 

Since we're going back in history, let's look at two of the earliest serial killer movies ever made. The first one was also somewhat influenced by London's Ripper.

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