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Article Archive >> Entertainment

Movies From the Black Lagoon: Assault! Jack the Ripper

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Assault! Jack the Ripper - 1976, Unrated

A nerdish pastry chef and a saucy waitress team up for a brutal killing spree in this Japanese effort, which has finally landed on our shores thanks to the good folks at "Mondo Macabro."
This gory effort is required viewing for trend watchers who want to see where horror cinema is headed. Ten years ago Hollywood began churning out remakes of Japanese horror films (Ring, Pulse, and The Grudge) and then proceeded to mine the 70's for remakes of classics (Halloween, Friday the 13th,and even Prom Night) so it's clear, to the Lagoon anyway, that the next cycle of remixes will be 70's Japanese horror films. If that's the case then they'll probably remake this film first (and botch it completely).
The story begins at a fancy restaurant where a new waitress finds that she may not have the temperament for the job, as it's not customary in Japan to dump hot coffee on old guys who come on to the help. She catches the eye of the shop's pastry specialist and he agrees to give her a ride home when it begins storming outside. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker who seems to be off her meds. The first clue to her mental state should have been the hospital gown she's rocking but they miss their ride on the clue express until the young lady begins disrobing and smearing her body with wedding cake. They opt to drop her off on the street but she decides to hang on to the vehicle long enough to be dragged to a gruesome death.
The couple panic and hide the body in an auto graveyard but discover that the experience has ignited their libidos. Rather than split they stay around for a tryst, which continues at her apartment. The next day sees the chef avoiding her at work and this doesn't sit well with our hostess who decides to make him jealous by going parking with the customer she rebuffed on her first day of work. The plan works and the two become an item but that's a bad thing for everyone else.
They embark on a spree that begins with convenient victims but soon gets personal and finds them hunting down the wife of the lecherous customer who reunited their passion. In between killings they enjoy the odd picnic and a spaghetti dinner but trouble beckons when the chef decides hunt alone. It all leads to a decidedly grim finale in which the chef attacks a dormitory full of nurses. The waitress shows up but will she stop him, join him, or become his next victim?
This is a well-constructed terror yarn but it's not for the squeamish.
The killings are violently rendered and there is an overall sense of nihilism that keeps the film honest but will alienate any viewer hoping for a denouement that sees justice served. That said there is a lot to recommend here, as the film pulls no punches. A minor complaint is that the soundtrack consist of 70's "LaLa" music that might make you consider doing harm to someone if you have to hear it for too long but the film's saving grace is a lean 74 minute running time that sees no frame wasted. Check it out for an honest take on thrill killing that was inspired by two American crime cases (the Lonely Hearts Killers and Richard Speck).
Best Line: "Killing is easier the second time. Let's try again on our day off."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.

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