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Ripper-o-Rama

Lodger_2If you can’t stay up late, make sure to set your Tivo to AMC at 2:45 tonight (or Saturday morning, if you want to be technical about it). That’s when you’ll be able to catch two of the 40 or so films that have been made about about the infamous Whitechapel murderer, more familiarly known as Jack the Ripper.

First up is The Lodger, the second remake of the story first filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1927. This one is especially noteworthy for its performance in the title role by Laird Cregar, an actor who tragically never reached the fame his abilities merited.

Cregar was a very large man, 6”3” and 300 pounds, and though he was an extremely talented actor his size led producers to cast him in villainous roles, often as characters much older than his own age. His memorable performance in The Lodger led to his first lead role in Hangover Square, a part he was convinced would make him a star. Because he so desperately wanted to make a good impression, he went on a crash diet in which he lost 100 pounds in a short period of time. But the diet so weakened his system that he died shortly after completing Hangover Square, at the age of 28. His funeral eulogy was given by Vincent Price, another able actor consigned to villainous parts.

Next is 1959’s Jack the Ripper. This British production is praised by hollywoodripper.com, a great source of info for all Ripper-related movies, for its depiction of the horrible living conditions in the East End of London, where the Ripper carried out his awful deeds. It was written by Jimmy Sangster, who wrote (and later directed) some of the most memorable horror films for Britain’s Hammer Studios, including The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula.

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