Alphabetical Movie – The Lodger
Hitchcock’s The Lodger is loosely based on the story of Jack the Ripper. It seems possible that the ripper will continue to be the most famous serial killer of all time for the simplest of reasons – he was never caught.
How many stories can you tell about Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer? One. There is no rampant speculation about who they were or what they did. We all know.
You can make one movie about Ted Bundy and you’ve pretty much covered the story.
Jack the Ripper, on the other hand, could be anyone. He could be a time travelling alien! He could be professor Moriarty! He could be a lady! He could be Abraham Lincoln (the assassination was faked so he could emmigrate to England and fulfill his darkest desires)!
And we can make movies and television shows and write books about all those possibilities because there isn’t anyone who is going to complain about fictionalizing someone about whom we know nothing. Nothing beyond the fact that he killed a lot of women, anyway.
Until he stopped.
One assumes this is because he died because death or prison are about the only thing that can stop a serial killer. However, maybe he stopped killing because he used a time machine to travel to modern times. I mean, that’s one of the many possibilities left open to us, right?
There are many fictional characters who have been through any number of revisions through the years. Sherlock Holmes is a great example. Yet Jack the Ripper is a real person (more or less) who has gone through the same process.
He is, to some extent, viewed through the lens of the era that is telling the story because he is such a blank slate.
He’s just a guy.
At least we think he’s a guy. Most serial killers are guys so it’s a fair assumption.
As a writer, I can understand the love affair with the Ripper because creating characters from scratch can be a challenge. Sometimes you just need a few details to start the process. The Ripper gives you a place, a time and a series of events. The rest is up to you.
You know where and when this person lived. You know a few things about what he did. Now come up with everything else. Have fun!
As a comedian, if I were writing a story featuring the Ripper, I’d probably end up writing some darkly comedic story about this poor schlub who ended up being in the wrong place every time some freak accident ended up in a horribly mutilated Whitechapel prostitute.
I’m not saying I’m going to write that story, mind you. I’m just saying that I *could* write that story and when I did, nobody would be telling me that I wasn’t being true to the memory of the Ripper.
Honestly, I think there’s a little bit of the Ripper in every modern serial killer story. He’s the legend that creates the Hannibal Lectors and Dexters of our current times.
And yet he remains an enigma. He inspires a great deal of creativity precisely because they only way to actually know anything about him is to make it up.