Jack "The Knife" Palance...
Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein | under the rubble | 10/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A mysterious pathologist named Slade (Jack Palance) takes a room in a boarding house in London, run by a woman (Frances "Aunt B" Bavier) and her husband. Of course, this happens during the infamous Jack The Ripper murder spree, which adds menace and suspicion to the proceedings. Slade not only takes a room, but also works on secret projects in the attic! He comes and goes like a shadow and stays out all night "working". Could he be the Ripper? Scotland Yard is stumped and 5,000 cops can't catch the fiend. Is he right under their collective noses? Palance is restrained and enigmatic as Slade. He is like a seething predator under a cloak of calm. I liked him in this. The story isn't historically correct, but is enjoyable enough for late night viewing..."
Jack the Ripper with Poverty Row charm; not very good but en
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 06/21/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Jack the Ripper...what a revolting, stupid name!" says Mr. Slade. He has every reason to be offended. Note that while elements of the plot are discussed, almost everything is laid out for the viewer in the film's first 15 minutes. It's 1888 and Jack has been at work off and on for several weeks. His victims are all women who have been entertainers at one time or another. Jack's knives leave messy leftovers.
Late one night with the London fog swirling around the gaslit streets, Mr. and Mrs. Harley (Rhys Williams and Frances Bavier) hear a knock on their door. It's a Mr. Slade (Jack Palance) who is answering their notice of a room to let. He not only takes the room but also their small, third floor attic. He needs it, he tells Mrs. Harley, so that he can conduct his experiments. Mr. Slade is a pathologist. He seems nice enough, the Harley's dog takes to him at once and he pays a month in advance. When he learns that the Harley's niece, Lily Bonner (Constance Smith), will be staying in the house, and that she is a showgirl on the stage, he is obviously distracted. Her act, Lily Bonner and Her Girls, is getting a lot of notice. We even get to see her do two full numbers. Prince Edward is seen clapping approvingly. But the swirling fog keeps blanketing the city, more women are found brutally cut to death, and Mr. Slade keeps returning home at very late hours. The police put every resource they can into the hunt. Queen Victoria makes it clear that no married man could be capable of such crimes and recommends that all bachelors be rounded up. The police investigation is led by Inspector Paul Warwick (Byron Palmer), a smart copper who is attracted to Lily as soon as he meets her. And it seems that Slade is attracted to Lily, too. He confesses to Lily that his unease and loneliness is due to his mother, a woman "incapable of love, only lust," who left home when he was a child. His father took ten years to drink himself to death with absinthe. "Did you ever see your mother again?" Lily asks Slade. Yes, he says. She'd become a street walker. I saw her once. We also have a sense of Slade's unbalanced torment. Often his late evenings are spent simply in lonely and unhealthy contemplation. "Sometimes I walk close by the river," he tells Lily. "The river is like liquid night flowing peacefully out to infinity." We know what's coming; there are no surprises. After a rousing night-time chase through London's damp streets, the last thing we see is the swirling waters of the Thames.
Oh, what a grade B hamfest this movie is. I mean that in a kind way because the movie is fun to watch. There are so many things wrong with it that the movie has a kind of endearing, well-intentioned amateurishness about it.
Jack Palance, young and tormented, with his small sunken eyes, prominent cheek bones, strong chin and heavy brow, does a credible job. So do Frances Bavier and Rhys Williams. But the rest of the cast...Byron Palmer as Inspector Warwick can scarcely act. He has a handsome, unformed face with a plump little mouth. The actress playing Daisy, the young maid in the Harley household, tries earnestly to do a good job. Variations of English accents come and go, and wobble around like the light from the oil lamps. "Asking" becomes "awsking" and "nasty" becomes "nawsty." The stunt double driving the horse-drawn carriage at the climax bears little resemblance to Palance. Constance Smith as Lily Bonner is not a natural singing entertainer. Her Girls are as ragged as dancers as Smith's English accent is. Some of the dialogue is so ripe it's just tasty. "You're the same as my mother," Slade shouts, "the same as all of them...mocking love and living for lust! Your beauty must be cut away!"
Why on earth buy this movie or watch it? Well, all these faults give it a kind of Poverty Row charm. The film is trying hard to be a Jack the Ripper psycho-thriller. The producers just couldn't round up the talent or the budget to come close, but they tried. It's a very close re-make, we're told, of the 1944 film, The Lodger," which starred Laird Cregar. There's also a good deal of nostalgia, in my opinion, around many of the old programmers from the Forties and early Fifties. Sure, this is a movie to watch while folding the laundry or paying bills. The price is right, so why not?
The DVD picture looks fine. There are no extras of any significance."
Ripper still at large!
Steven Hellerstedt | 08/15/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
THE MAN IN THE ATTIC was the fourth film based on Marie Belloc-Lowndes' 1912 novel "The Lodger," a fictionalized account of Jack the Ripper. Alfred Hitchcock filmed it first as a silent and years later as a sound film, and English director Maurice Elvey surveyed it once in 1932.
This 1953 version, by Argentinean director Hugo Fregonese, is pure Hollywood hokum. The actors, who are supposed to be Victorian Londoners, sound more East St. Louis than East Side. The murders bear only the most superficial similarities to Ripper murders. In other words, the two that occur during film time occur in Whitechapel and the victims are women. Worst (if you're into historical accuracy), or best (if you're into entertainment value), are the two musical production numbers, which are pure 50's-era Hollywood schmaltz. The songs, "You're in Love" and "The Parisian Trot," were written by musical director Lionel Newman, whose score adds its weight in gold to the tense atmosphere.
Jack Palance stars as the mysterious young man who arrives late one night to rent rooms from an eccentric older couple. Palance plays Slade, a young pathologist who craves solitude, comes and goes at the oddest hours, and generally behaves in a manner that has everyone wondering where he was when the latest Whitechapel murder occurred. With his high, bony cheekbones and narrow, deep set eyes underneath a brooding brow the young Palance is able to convey sinister menace without softly hissing a line of dialogue. It's a good thing, too, considering the fluff he's surrounded with. The prettiest fluff sticks to young Constance Smith, a transcendentally naïve young woman, the daughter of Slade's landlord and a music hall star who at one point through a continental bump and grind at Prince Albert.
THE MAN IN THE ATTIC is too silly to be much of a thriller, although it does have its moments of high tension.
Folies Bergère meets the Police Gazette
Annie Van Auken | Planet Earth | 07/14/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This VCI disc has clean sound and a clear picture. No extras provided beyond chapter access.
Hugo Fregonese's serious take on the Jack the Ripper story, MAN IN THE ATTIC (1953) has a curiously campy ooh-la-la number 20 minutes in. While a bevy of cuties gaily warbled "You're in Love" and sashayed their stuff on screen, cash registers at theater refreshment counters all over America probably rang with equal gaiety. And there's two more such interruptions later on. Argentine-born Fregonese, husband of Faith Domergue, broke new ground here with his amalgam of the serial killer and musical genres; unfortunately, "Attic" doesn't have the panache, melodic appeal or element integration of Tim Burton's SWEENEY TODD (USA/UK-2007).
The story opens with promise: a nicely executed foggy night scene where a reeling floozy is snuffed almost in sight of two "crushers" who patrol eerily vacant Whitechapel streets. Next, Mr. Slade (Jack Palance), a self-proclaimed pathologist, rents two rooms and a chazerai-cluttered attic from Helen Harley (Frances Bavier) and her husband William (Rhys Williams). Shades of previous "Lodger" films when Slade objects to wall art; the eyes of ladies depicted "follow" him, you see.
The Harleys' niece, Lily Bonner (Constance Smith) is introduced immediately after, as is a time-padding popcorn-pushing stage number.
Palance nicely underplays his role of the suspected Ripper, adding just a smidgen of neurosis. Even so, Hitchcock's silent version of THE LODGER (UK-1927) is superior to this one. My preference however is for THE PHANTOM FIEND (UK-1932). In this dark early talkie, Ivor Novello reprises his earlier "Lodger" character, bringing to the reworking a Slavic accent and some considerable pianistic skills.
Seems it's hard to keep music from sneaking like Jack himself into several variations of the Whitechapel Killer story. I'll have a Diet Moxie (no ice) with that popcorn, please.