British giallo sets tough London cop Bill Rowan (Gilbert Wynne) hunting a Jack-the-Ripper type serial killer who has slaughtered his wife (Linda Marlowe). Chief suspect is leering cocky jack-the-lad Pete (Donald Sumpter) of the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am school of seduction. In an era when pornography and “perversion” were beginning to shake off the shackles of comformity and strippers, prostitutes, voyeurs and transvestites condemned as evils to be stamped out, this skirts the boundaries between sexploitation and heavy moralising.
Chief among those embarking on a moral crusade is hypocritical puritan Judge Lomax (Jack May) who spurns his attractive wife (Justine Lord) while indulging in cross-dressing. Needless to say, his clerk, ostensibly another upholder of the moral fabric, is a porn addict. As the body count grows, Pete manages to needle Rowan sufficiently for the cop to consider any nefarious means to put him behind bars.
Knives flash in the dark, the killer wears black leather, victims writhe on the ground as they are slashed to pieces, and coupled with the unusually high nudity quotient it is surprising that this picture passed the British censor. The movie never drags and there is enough incidental sleaze to keep the viewer interested. As a historical document, it details the point at which the country hovered between reined-in respectability and full-on sexual freedom.
Operating here under the pseudonym Lewis J. Force, Canadian director Lindsay Shonteff (The Million Eyes of Sumuru, 1967) conjures up a darker vision of a London so often presented in glorious tourist tones with nastiness seeping into every corner of society. Veteran Jack Lord (A Twist of Sand, 1968) captures well the double life of a decent man undone by what is perceived to be indecency and his later scenes are quite moving. Donald Sumpter (The Black Panther, 1977) is excellent as the taunting petty criminal while Gilbert Wynne makes a decent debut as a leading man. In small roles are Justine Lord (Deadlier than the Male, 1967) and Linda Marlowe (Big Zapper,1973 – directed by Shonteff).
Jack the Ripper was such an ingrained element of British culture that any movie featuring a similar villain gave audiences the creeps. British television cops were beginning to move out of the shadow of Dixon of Dock Green and into the new age of The Sweeney and while giallo did not catch on among home-grown filmmakers there was considerably more focus on hardened criminals such as Get Carter (1971) and Villain (1971).
While the British B-film was moving increasingly towards sex comedy, this fits more succinctly into the Pete Walker sex’n’violence pictures of the 1970s which have attracted retrospective critical interest and for all its flaws, which can mostly be attributed to a low-budget, this is surprisingly impressive in places.