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An old antique ring turns a college professor into a homicidal maniac when he puts it on. The ring originaly belonged to Jack the Ripper, and the Ripper's spirit possesses whoever wears it. Written by
According to the DVD commentary track, director Christopher Lewis choose special effects make-up artist Tom Savini in one of his acting roles from the suggestion of The Ripper's own special make-up effects crew a few days before shooting commenced. They were fans of his. They spoke on the phone soon after. He was paid $15,000 according to the DVD commentary and flown in for only one night of work at a Tulsa, Oklahoma small packing plant (for Jack the Ripper's revealed final sequence). Savini also complained to Christopher Lewis that the body double of Jack the Ripper on all the other non-Savini starring sequence looked very little like him, if any. See more »
Finally got around to picking up a copy of this on DVD. Maybe my thoughts turned to it in part because Halloween is approaching.
I was surprised to discover a commentary track on the disc, especially the fact that on it, Christopher Lewis repeatedly talks about the quality of the script. I couldn't help but respond out loud "Then why did you treat it like one of the Ripper's victims?" In fairness, some of the discussion regarding budgetary limitations (for instance, in the area of lighting) explains why certain elements of my original drafts were eliminated, but it's still a frustrating watch for me to see the way certain things were thrown into the final shooting script that either had no story justification, changed the nature of one or more characters, incorporated lines that only made sense in connection with eliminated scenes from prior drafts, or just generally turned the premise of the thriller I'd written inside-out.
Let me just say this. Dance scene, among other things, not mine. In script, his fiancée was a theatre professor, and Harwell walks in during the first day's class during which she is teaching her improv class using an exercise known as "The Asylum," wherein the students spend the hour adopting some sort of fake psychosis. Hence, the Nurse Ratchet line. Harwell's dream sequence was more complex and of greater significance, and there were no actual murders occurring prior to Harwell putting on the ring.
Also, business and dialogue involving brass bed, not mine. I simply had her convincing him to join her in browsing an antique store near where they were having lunch.
The driving force of my original story was that the protagonist became increasingly aware that he had some connection to the series of murders, but in ways that were only evident to him, so there was a lot of internal torment going on. At the urging of Lewis, a later draft did introduce the notion that Steve was picking up on things. And Steve, incidentally, was essentially a younger version of Harwell, not the annoying geek in the final version.
There are too many differences between my climax/ending and what was in the final version to go into here. I'll just mention one. In my original, Jack had no dialogue. I wanted him to be akin to an evil spirit, with his silence actually reinforcing the fear, like the shark in "Jaws" or the vampire in the silent "Nosferatu" (yeah, I know he had title cards, but it's not the same as actually speaking like in the Herzog remake). Lewis felt that if Savini was gracious enough to accept the role, he should have some dialogue, so I tried to craft something that sounded right, while dropping vague hints at his motivation. Unfortunately, the most telling line in terms of motivation got mangled and having no coherent meaning. More unfortunately, I wasn't invited to be an ongoing part of the process, so I didn't realize the changes that had been made until I managed to invite myself onto the set for the one night of shooting with Savini.
Contrary to Lewis' mis-remembered comment as to whose idea it was to recruit Savini, it was mine. Having been impressed by his performance in George Romero's "Knightriders," I thought that if we was that good an actor, he'd probably like to do more of it, but likely wasn't offered many opportunities due to being in demand for his makeup talents. I've since apologized to him.
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