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The Secret Identity of Jack the Ripper (1988)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Drama | TV Movie
A panel of experts examines the five main suspects in the Jack the Ripper murders and determines which of them is the most likely to have committed the crimes.



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Credited cast:
Paul Begg ...
Research expert
Announcer (as Regis John Cordic)
John Douglas ...
Himself - FBI Special Agent
William Eckert ...
Himself - Forensic Pathologist (as Dr. William Eckert)
Daniel Farson ...
Himself - Author
Martin Fido ...
Himself - Crime Historian
Melvin Harris ...
Himself - Author
Himself - FBI Special Agent
Aaron Kosminski ...
Himself (archive footage)
Jan Leeming ...
Herself - Reporter
Anne Mallalieu ...
Herself - Queen's Counsel
Donald Rumbelow ...
Himself - Crime Historian
Frank Spiering ...
Research expert
Himself - Host
William Waddell ...
Himself - Scotland Yard


A panel of experts examines the five main suspects in the Jack the Ripper murders and determines which of them is the most likely to have committed the crimes.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »





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(archive footage)|
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[last lines]
Peter Ustinov - Host: Goodnight, ladies and gentlemen. Oh - sleep well.
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Fact Based And Credible
9 November 2014 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

This is a documentary of the famous unsolved case of 1888 in the Whitechapel district of London. After a brief summary of the case, the program structure alternates between three major elements.

The first element is a re-creation of the murders of the five canonical victims: Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, and Kelly. A second element is an analysis of the crimes by five crime "experts". And a third element consists of a basic profile of the five leading ripper suspects. Added to these three program elements are discussions from authors and researchers, who give their opinions. Peter Ustinov hosts the program and directs the flow of discussion among the three major elements.

The re-creations are quite good. Costumes, production design, acting, and dim lighting convey what must be a fairly realistic Whitechapel setting at the time of the murders. Background music is appropriately eerie and mysterious.

The five "experts" sit at a semi-round table with a live audience behind them. The experts are from both the U.S. and England, and all are affiliated with some powerful institution. The five leading suspects have their photos on a wall behind Ustinov. Given that there have been dozens if not hundreds of suspects proposed as the ripper, the program gives no indication of how the top five were selected.

At the end, each of the five experts gives his or her opinion on which of the five suspects is most likely Jack the Ripper. Since the "experts" represent official institutions, their choice is institutionally safe and predictable. Their conclusions are the only thing about the program that I would criticize.

The program aired in 1988, and is a kind of state-of-the-art overview of the case at that time. Since 1988 other suspects and theories have been proposed. Despite being a bit dated and despite the conclusions reached by the "experts", "The Secret Identity Of Jack The Ripper" is a program that is well worth watching. It is fact-based and low-key, and goes out of its way to avoid sensationalism and contrivance. And Peter Ustinov is the perfect host.

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