"Aahh! I dreamed I was in a show where
I played second fiddle to a car!"
Hardly a day goes by that we don't get an e-mail that asks us the following:
Dear Stomp Tokyo,
Could you please review a movie where David Hasselhoff punches out Jack the Ripper?
It would be even better if that movie had Rose Marie and Clu Gulager in supporting roles.
Well, all those of you wanted to see a review of such a movie, you will wait no longer. The 1985 TV movie Terror at London Bridge (a.k.a. Bridge Across Time and Arizona Ripper) features all that, and Adrienne Barbeau too!
In a prologue set in 1888, we see Jack the Ripper interrupted while attacking a woman. Pursued by the police, the Ripper flees to the nearby London Bridge. Halfway across, the Ripper is confronted by bobbies coming from the other end. Despite the fact that London police rarely carry firearms (and never carried them until recently), they shoot him several times, and he tumbles over the side of the bridge along with one of the stones that makes up the bridge.
"Could you hide me? Pete Best is outside!"
There are numerous historical problems with this scenario. In order to be so close to London Bridge, Jack would have had to stray a bit away from his usual killing grounds in Whitechapel. Also, we're pretty sure that London Bridge wasn't electrically lit in 1888. And finally, Jack the Ripper was never caught, and no policeman ever got a look at him, let alone shot him.
By 1971 the entirety of London Bridge was moved, stone by stone, and reconstructed as a tourist attraction in Lake Havasu, Arizona. The bridge's new location, and the touristy "English Village" that surrounds it, is the setting for the rest of the movie.
It's now 1985. That stone that Jack the Ripper knocked off the bridge has been found at the bottom of the Thames and shipped to Arizona. On the eve of the "rededication" of the bridge, to celebrate the bridge being whole again, a woman takes a late night walk across it. In one of those weird coincidences that always happen in horror movies, this woman cuts her hand, then bleeds on the very stone that was recently returned to the bridge. Oh, and she managed to do this on the anniversary of Jack the Ripper's first killing.* Before you can say, "What are the chances?", Jack the Ripper himself materializes and kills the unfortunate woman in his accustomed manner.
Hasselhoff lives out every man's fantasy
-- taking a slug at Jack the Ripper.
The next morning the woman's body is found floating in the lake. Investigating the crime falls to local police officer Don Gregory (David Hasselhoff, with KITT nowhere in sight). Don determines pretty quickly that the murder was not a routine one. The cause of death is a slashed throat, and lab tests determine that the killer left behind clothes fibers and dried blood that appears to be one hundred years old.
Terror at London Bridge is far from the first film or the only film to displace Jack the Ripper in time. An immortal Jack menaced Kolchak the Night Stalker, Jack stole a time machine from H.G. Wells in Time After Time, and Jack's spirit possessed those who wore his ring in The Ripper. Even so, we have to admit that we found the premise of Terror at London Bridge quite interesting. It's a pity that that premise had to be presented in a mid-1980s TV movie.
The middle portion of the film is padded by all those predictable elements you'll find in every mid-1980s TV movie. Don spars with a perky female reporter played by Lindsay Bloom, and naturally she becomes the ripper's second victim. Then there's Angie (Stepfanie Kramer), who is Don's romantic interest. A large portion of the film is devoted to their process of falling in love, and with Don divulging to Angie the reason why a strapping virile man like him is stuck in a small town police force. When Don was a cop in Chicago, he shot a teenager he incorrectly thought was armed. This experience has left him too traumatized to use a gun, and if you don't think that won't come into play at the film's climax, you've somehow managed to not see a TV movie made in the last twenty years. We envy you deeply.
"Yes, this is the cryogenics lab. We just haven't
gotten around to freezing any of the heads yet."
Angie also has the inevitable spunky friend (and third Ripper victim), played by Adrienne Barbeau. Barbeau was a fixture in TV movies made in the 70's, and should probably get some sort of award for character acting her way through Cannonball Run, Escape From New York, Swamp Thing, and Creepshow all within the space of two years. Speaking of a fixture, Lake Havasu's police chief is played by Clu Gulager, who was in practically every TV movie made from 1970 to 1985 that involved a policeman or a cowboy. After that Clu became a bit of a cult figure for playing the role of Burt in Return of the Living Dead. Terror at London Bridge also has Lane Smith (Perry White from Lois and Clark) as a town council member who refuses to close the beaches... er, the replica English village, just because murders are happening there, and Rose Marie (Sally on the old Dick Van Dyke Show) as a motel clerk. The only person missing is Jack Palance, who was probably only kept out of this movie because the movie's producers spent his salary on Hasselhoff's hair styling.
After a promising start, Terror at London Bridge becomes just another TV movie, with nothing to make it stand out, other than the stupidity inherent in the art form. What are the chances that Angie, when running from the Ripper at the end of the movie, will just happen to run into the Ripper's lair? Pretty darned good. Will Don arrive on the scene just before the Ripper makes Angie his final victim?* No awards for a correct answer. And will Don beat his phobia of guns to save Angie's life? Only Baywatch lifeguards would have trouble figuring that one out.
* Terror at London Bridge states that the Ripper's first murder was commited August 6th, 1888. In fact, most modern scholars disregard the murder of Martha Tabram on that date as being one of the Ripper's because it doesn't match the M.O. of the later five murders, which started on August 31st, 1888. Be sure to mention us to Regis when you win the million dollars.Go back!
* The Ripper has figured out that he can go back to his own time if he spills more blood on the magic stone. How he knows this is never explained. Go back!