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Jack the Ripper Goes West (1974)

Director: Larry G. Spangler
Starring: Jack Elam, Jeff Cooper, Ruth Roman, Gene Evans
Rated R Running time: 54 minutes

Mobster Louis "Butchie" Periano ran Byanston Pictures, a less-than-scrupulous outfit who got their hands on a large number of obscure genre films in the 1970's. When Bryanston wasn't busying gypping filmmakers and theater owners out of their rightfully-earned money, they kept themselves occupied by editing and retitling their catalog. A Knife for the Ladies, if the original movie poster can be trusted, was at one time a Warner Brothers product that found it's way into Butchie's pocket. Shorn of some footage and given the slightly less lurid title of Jack the Ripper Goes West, it's a ho-hum western/mystery hybrid that probably wouldn't be much better if it were restored to its original condition.

The film is set in Mescal, a desert mining town that has seen better days, where a serial killer is preying upon the local prostitutes. Deciding that Jarrod (Jack Elam), the town's boozy Sheriff, is not up to the task of catching the fiend, the town's leaders call in a hotshot private detective by the name of Burns (Circle of Iron's Jeff Cooper). The old-fashioned Jarrod isn't too happy with this modern (complete with 70's perm) know-it-all taking over his case, and the two quickly end up butting heads. After a brief fistfight in the the jailhouse, the two men become friends and decide to work together on the case. They do a bit of detective work, which is all for naught, since the film takes a sort of surprising turn in its final act, resolving itself without the aid of Jarrod and Burns. Those familiar with Ripper-lore will probably see it coming - I'll admit that I was a little surprised.

Jack the Ripper Goes West is not as bad as it might sound. Generic and unremarkable, but not awful. The look of the production, the dialogue, and the acting all resemble a TV western show; Gene Evans (Devil Times Five) even turns up for a scene. It's an odd mix of Western and whodunit that doesn't really jibe, but at a mere 54 minutes doesn't stick around long enough to become dull. It's been cut; what and how much is anybody's guess since, not surprisingly, it doesn't seem that anybody has shown all that much interest in the film. Does the missing footage contain more nudity and gore? Does it contain scenes of Jeff Cooper blow drying his hair? Would it make the film a little more coherent? Does anybody care?

Only Butchie Periano knows, and he ain't talking.

2.5 out of 5. 


  1. I thought it looked like a made-for-TV movie.

  2. Hi Erik,
    I asked Fred Adelman about it recently and he said it was made for cinema. I have a bootleg that came from a Swedish PAL vhs and that version runs 83 minutes.

  3. Wow, that's almost thirty minutes longer than the Brentwood disc.