Black the Ripper (lost blaxploitation horror film; existence unconfirmed; 1974-1976)
Black the Ripper is an alleged blaxploitation horror film that may have been released around 1974 through 1976. The movie was a genre take on the Jack the Ripper story.
It is thought that Frank Saletri (the writer of the earlier genre horror movie Blackenstein) may have been the director, but Black the Ripper is otherwise shrouded in mystery. Due to the extremely obscure nature of the film, it cannot be confirmed if it finished production or ever saw a theatrical release.
From the early to mid-1970s, a number of movies made by and starring black actors were released in order to appeal to African-American urban audiences. The genre was nicknamed "blaxploitation" and the resulting films are celebrated today for their freedom to show off a uniquely Black point of view, including several new takes on classic horror and other established genre properties. Besides this niche focus, many blaxploitation films were independently produced on small budgets; the results generally lacked mainstream marketability, playing mainly in smaller theatres in larger urban centres.
Black the Ripper was first mentioned in a brief note in the May 8th, 1974 issue of Variety magazine that named Saletri and a cast of unknown actors, and indicated the film was two months into production. Later that year, on December, an advertisement promoting its future release was included in an issue of Monsters of the Movies magazine.Months later, the February 25th, 1976 issue of Variety claimed that the film was planned as a Memorial Day release.
This release didn't happen. Indeed, the movie would be forgotten entirely until 2013, when a user of a website for obscure films claimed to have seen it once while browsing torrent files. Another user of the same website released what are supposedly the only known screenshots.
Those who claim to have seen it say that the film seems hastily put together and incomplete, with several seemingly missing scenes. There is an opening credit sequence over a song credited to Mara Farmer, but no ending credits. In the opening credits, alongside Saletri as director, Michael Finn is listed as writer. While not confirmed, it is possible that this is the same Michael Finn who directed the 1974 genre film The Black Connection - especially given that movie was filmed in Las Vegas, where Saletri was known to have lived.
The film is claimed to open in a karate studio, where a character named Mike is training students. The training is interrupted by a phone call from a student who informs Mike that he will not be in due to his sister being murdered. The student further discloses that he had told his sister not to go to an ex-pimp named Sideback. Mike begins to take the investigation into his own hands after the police are of no help. As he is asking a prostitute questions about the murder, a voice is heard calling him off-screen and Sideback appears in the flesh.
A fight between Sideback and Mike breaks out. Both are arrested and jailed but later cleared when another murder occurs. After this, the film is said to abruptly shift focus to a mild-mannered Caucasian accountant named Todd, whom we first see interacting awkwardly with his attractive black secretary Carla. Todd asks Carla out on a date, and when she politely declines mutters "You deserve everything you’re going to get, strumpet" to himself as he walks away. The film then cuts to Todd sleeping where he dreams of picking up a black prostitute in Victorian-era London.
The film cuts back to Mike who is somehow now in charge of the police investigation, and also in a relationship with Carla (any scenes establishing either of these things are presumed to be among the lost). He receives an anxious call from her, as she has noticed the case in the paper and had overheard Todd mumbling to himself. The cops agree to keep an eye on Todd. Later in the evening, Mike is at Carla's house but has gone for food when Todd strikes, killing Carla's roommate. Mike returns just as Todd is trying to kill Carla. This leads to the final fight and results in Todd being thrown out of a third-story window.
Cast and crew
- Directed by Frank R. Saletri
- Written by Michael Finn
- Hugh/Hugo Van Putten/Patten (possibly playing Mike)
- Bole Nikoli
- Renata Harmon
- Marva Farmer
- Dale Bech
- Tiger Joe Marsh (only mentioned in the Monsters of the Movies ad)
- Liz Renay (only mentioned in the Monsters of the Movies ad)
It is also possible though not confirmed that Antonio Fargas (previously best known as informant Huggy Bear on Starsky & Hutch) played the character Sideback.
The existence of Black the Ripper has yet to be confirmed. While a few people have claimed to have seen it and the website DailyGrindhouse.com has an article that goes into great detail about the film, it is not available in any official form, and no one named as connected with the production has come forward to describe their involvement. It is also worth noting that the aforementioned DG article was published on April Fools Day.
Several of the screenshots attached to this article have since been identified as having been lifted from other productions, although the few remaining unidentified ones (shown below) are consistent both with each other and the film's likely production values.
At best, Black the Ripper seems to have been hastily produced -- or perhaps salvaged after being initially scrapped, which would help explain the disjointed nature of the finished film -- for a possible minor local release, similar to many blaxploitation films of the time, and simply was not thought worthy of preservation.