A Movie A Day: MAN IN THE ATTIC (1953)
Jack the Ripper. What a revolting, stupid name.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
MAN IN THE ATTIC is another title that I bought simply because it was a horror movie twofer disc that had a movie starring a favorite actor. I didn’t read anything about it, but I knew the title MAN IN THE ATTIC and that it starred Jack Palance. Sold!
Then, to my great pleasure, I find that Palance isn’t just playing some random creepy dude, but Jack the Ripper himself.
I love Jack the Ripper tales. There’s something about the foggy period London setting and the overall mystery surrounding the true life brutal slayings that is endlessly fascinating to me.
There’s so much room to play with this history because there’s a perfect mixture of documented fact and still unsolved mystery.
For instance, this story is about a handsome, yet odd, Pathologist named Slade (Palance) who rents a room from Frances Bavier (Aunt Bee herself). Bavier soon begins to suspect that her new tenant is Jack the Ripper.
You’d think the movie would be about this mystery, but it instead if focuses on the possibility that The Ripper could have fallen in love. In this case, Slade finds himself attracted to the girl downstairs, a relative of the home’s owners and an actress on the cusp of fame.
We come to learn that Slade has an obsession with actresses. He loves and hates them just as he loved and hated his actress mother, a woman he believed to be beautiful, but evil after driving his father to alcoholism and an early grave.
Lilly Bonner (Constance Smith) is this girl and she finds herself in quite an interesting love triangle. She doesn’t know it, of course, but on one side she has Jack the Ripper and the other she has Byron Palmer’s Inspector Paul Warwick, Scotland Yard’s head of the Ripper murders.
The meat of the movie is in the sequences of both men in the same room, verbally sparring as Warwick becomes more and more suspicious of Slade. It’s quite interesting to see this suspicion take root because it sure seemed to me that Warwick wanted Slade out of the way in order to have Lilly all to himself more than a pure desire to solve The Ripper case.
In fact Warwick himself almost comes across as a shadier character than the actual Ripper. There’s a fantastic scene in the middle of the movie where Warwick is giving a tour of the Black Museum to Lilly and Slade (whom Lilly invites on what Warwick saw as a date). Now, this place is a shrine to the macabre and Warwick acts as if it’s a trophy room, happily pointing to a series of death masks of executed murderers and describing the history of a myriad of murder weapons.
The callousness of this officer offends even Jack the Ripper and to think this was his idea of a good date to boot makes me question the wiring of this man’s brain. And he’s supposed to be the good guy!
In fact, all the good guys seem to either be fuck-ups or kinda creepy in their own right. There’s a subplot of two cops walking their beat around White Chapel. We see them twice and each time they walk a girl home only to have the Ripper murder the lady they were just escorting. Two murders! Those guys must feel like shit!
Palance is fantastic as Slade, really selling the inner turmoil of this tortured killer. He views Lilly as his salvation and she just might well have been if things had turned out differently. He portrays The Ripper as a conflicted individual, someone who wants to be at rest, settle down with the right woman who understands and accepts him, but there’s also a significant pride in his work that we see clearly in his dialogue with Inspector Warwick. It’s a great performance and one that deserves more recognition.
I’d also like to note the beautiful and crisp black and white photography of Mr. Leo Tover whose work you know from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. It’s a right pretty picture, I tell ya’.
Final Thoughts: I found Man in the Attic to be a pleasantly surprising character study of one of the most fascinating killers in mankind’s history. I’m a sucker for Jack the Ripper tales and What If? stories, so I’m an easy mark for a film like this, but it’s a genuinely well-made flick that would make a helluva double-bill with another great Jack the Ripper What If? flick TIME AFTER TIME. This one’s an easy recommendation.
Currently in print on DVD: YES
Currently available on Netflix Instant: NO
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Monday, October 11th: NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)
Tuesday, October 12th: PROPHECY (1979)
Wednesday, October 13th: THE OTHER (1972)
Thursday, October 14th: THE MUMMY (1959)
Friday, October 15th: THE GORGON (1964)
Saturday, October 16th: MAD LOVE (1935)
Sunday, October 17th: REPULSION (1965)
Tomorrow we hit up an ‘80s schlocker called NEW YEAR’S EVIL thanks to the glorious Netflix Instant!
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Oct. 10, 2010, 7:56 p.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 7:56 p.m. CST
I could have been first. I'm such a loser!
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:01 p.m. CST
by frank cotton
wouldn't mind a few that aren't a million years old...
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:25 p.m. CST
Every time I see his name, I get great nostalgia for his old Ripley's Believe it or Not show that he hosted back in the 80s. That man could convey creepy like no other actor, even as a host setting up documentary-like segments. Never heard of this movie. I'll have to see if I can find it.
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:30 p.m. CST
Jesus Quint. Have you seen ANY horror films?
Oct. 10, 2010, 8:38 p.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 9 p.m. CST
I'm surprised Quint didn't mention that this is based on the Marie Belloc-Lowndes novel The Lodger, which was Hitchcock's first feature (though he changed the ending so the lodger is not Jack) and was made, extremely well, with Laird Cregar in 1943 or so by John (Hans) Brahm. That's one of the best creepy thrillers of the 40s, one of the few that comes so close to the kind of air of mental unhealthiness we've had in recent serial killer movies; it (and its followup with Cregar, Hangover Square) are highly recommended.
Oct. 10, 2010, 9:03 p.m. CST
Seriously where's the story?
Oct. 10, 2010, 9:43 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Jack...don't forget...your lucky deck!
Oct. 10, 2010, 9:56 p.m. CST
by Dr Eric Vornoff
...but you didn't notice this was a remake of the lodger? Next you'll be telling us you haven't seen Pandora's Box.
Oct. 10, 2010, 11:18 p.m. CST
Where? where is the cool news , I looked under the bed but it wasn't there , and obviously not on this webshite...I mean site.....errr....????ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Z Z Z Z ! *
Oct. 10, 2010, 11:19 p.m. CST
Oct. 10, 2010, 11:29 p.m. CST
...is that they invariably claim to "have always been fascinated by X topic", describe their fascination in some half-assed way, and then prove their ultimate ignorance. Look at any given 10 reviews by an AICN staffer, Harry is especially good for this, and you'll see this pop up in 7 or 8 of them. If the film is about giraffes, you'll get some nonsense about how "giraffes have always endlessly fascinated me. Their long necks, their spots, those weird horns...what else can I say? How do they stay upright for so long? Simply a fascinating and wondrous beast that has interested me from time immemorial." When, of course, they haven't given giraffes a single thought in their lives. So though Quint says he's fascinated by Jack the Ripper he doesn't mention Pandora's Box or The Lodger, the latter of which this film was directly based on. The only other film he mentions is Time After Time, a geek classic one doesn't need to be "endlessly fascinated" by this time period or figure to have seen and, I'd wager, the only other Ripper film he's seen. I'm sure The Prophecy review will say something like, "Ah yes, strange alien fetuses...I've always been fascinated by them. The way they're gnarled and look like an egg has been a great inspiration *random life event*." Etc. Keep an eye out for this in other AICN reviews and you'll see it time and again. Not trying to hate on Quint, he seems like a good dude, but is this a requisite skill all AICN writers need to learn? Seriously, don't worry about proclaiming your deep personal history with a subject unless it's actually true.
Oct. 11, 2010, 12:11 a.m. CST
That seems to be a harsh assessment in this case...being interested in Jack the Ripper might not mean you like Jack the Ripper movies...but maybe he's just into the books. But yeah...I do agree with you that happens a lot with some other folks around here... Also..good review...I love this Column.
Oct. 11, 2010, 12:15 a.m. CST
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Oct. 11, 2010, 12:48 a.m. CST
Get ready to be freaked out by a crazy but hot Catherine Deneuve.
Oct. 11, 2010, 1:23 a.m. CST
by frank cotton
there's only so much time in a day - no one can watch everything
Oct. 11, 2010, 3:38 a.m. CST
This movie is another adaptation of the book THE LODGER, or you could say a remake of the two previous movie versions, the first a silent movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. So, basically, MAN IN THE ATTIC is THE LODGER by another name. And with plot changes, as in, in the two previous movies were dubious or ambiguous about the innocence or culpability of the lodger as a murderer. I have been collecting the various film adaptations of The Lodger story, and there was a recent remake/re-imagining/whatever it's called this days made in 2008 (i think) with Hope Davis as the landlady and Alfred molina as the cop in charge of the investigation, and it's set in LA.
Oct. 11, 2010, 6:20 a.m. CST
...you're doing another pedanski film?!?! the bank transfers from france to austin must be innumerable! you guys will just not stop whoring his shit!
Oct. 11, 2010, 8:18 a.m. CST
You said some stupid fucking shit.
Oct. 11, 2010, 9:47 a.m. CST
...Grant Morrison's Red Jack in The Doom Patrol: Jack the Ripper is God who's divine powers have diminished over the years. He's grown quite insane and the Ripper killings were botched attempts at creating new lifeforms using human body parts as building blocks.
Oct. 11, 2010, 9:48 a.m. CST
...great Bowie album.
Oct. 11, 2010, 9:54 a.m. CST
or was it the pickles? Aunt Bee knows.
Oct. 11, 2010, 9:58 a.m. CST
You telling me that Jack The Ripper was a guy who was trying to pull a Frankenstein, in that comic? He was building himself a bride?
Oct. 11, 2010, 9:58 a.m. CST
destroyed portable gaming as we know it. I can get up from my theater pc and continue my game on anything with a screen. We need to let Jobs know that he will be killed outright if he attempts to prevent this service on iPad. Just fucking murdered
Oct. 11, 2010, 10:01 a.m. CST
Poorly done, with a bad Hitchcock impersonator and stupid collapsing fourth wall ending.
Oct. 11, 2010, 10:03 a.m. CST
onlive till they release an iPad app for it. The service is simply the most revolutionary thing that has ever happened in interactive entertainment delivery. Brought to you by the geniuses who invented everything your using now
Oct. 11, 2010, 10:40 a.m. CST
has anyone seen the original Lodger film? I'm a huge fan of Hitchcock but am umfamiliar with his really early silent era work, and would be interested to know what folk think of his first ever feature film
Oct. 11, 2010, 10:41 a.m. CST
was my favorite Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde combo in that old Dan Curtis TV production from '68 or whenever.
Oct. 11, 2010, 11:09 a.m. CST
I have seen most of it, still to see the 3rd act. Mostly plays like most silent movies, but there's some Hitchcockean touches which are fun to notice with hindsight. Visually it's pretty impressive, Hitch really learned lots from his stay at UFA.
Oct. 11, 2010, 11:31 a.m. CST
It is his first surviving movie. He made movies before THE LODGER, but they are all now lost movies. Happened a lot during the silent era. In fact, there's more lost movies then those that are still around and known from that era.
Oct. 11, 2010, 12:46 p.m. CST
by The Dreaded Rear Admiral
Someone uploaded quite a few good episodes of "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" to YouTube. THat was one I watched yesterday, followed by the interestingly named "Chopper". Heh, if I say The Chopper's name three times, will The Chopper appear?
Oct. 11, 2010, 4:19 p.m. CST
Oct. 11, 2010, 6:50 p.m. CST
Oct. 11, 2010, 6:53 p.m. CST
Such a great way to catch up on movies we've never seen. You inspired me to do the same Halloween marathon. Now on my second year, I'm posting write ups as well. Will be interesting to see how much overlap we have (since both using Netflix Instant). Check it out http://wp.me/165o5 Follow along for updates on twitter @dumbricht
Oct. 11, 2010, 10:16 p.m. CST
may look this one up
Oct. 12, 2010, 5:22 a.m. CST
thanks for the info. I didn't know he had made films prior to The Lodger, but it's a shame they are now lost. Anyways, I hope to be able to see this film at some point. I think the earliest Hitchcock film I have seen is Blackmail, which is a really entertaining movie
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