Monday, February 4, 2019

Terror at London Bridge (1985) (TV)

... aka: Arizona Ripper
... aka: Big Blue
... aka: Bridge Across Time
... aka: Der City Cop (The City Cop)
... aka: Le retour de Jack l'éventreur (The Return of Jack the Ripper)
... aka: Masakra na London Bridge (Massacre on London Bridge)

Directed by:
E.W. Swackhamer

In a pre-credits sequence set in 1888, Jack the Ripper is hunted down, shot and killed by an angry mob on the London Bridge. Since then, the bridge has been moved to the U.S. and meticulously reconstructed stone by stone in the desert tourist trap of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. While the relocation project was mostly completed back in 1971, there was one missing stone that didn't make the trip that has since been found at the bottom of the Thames River, been shipped to Havasu and added to the bridge. On their way to Las Vegas, newlyweds Dave (Michael Boyle) and Alice Williamson (Barbara Bingham) stumble into town late one evening. Alice decides to go check out the bridge on her own, cuts her finger on some scaffolding, bleeds on the bridge and ends up awakening the long dormant spirit of Jack the Ripper himself. She does not return to her hotel that night.

The following day, right after the re-dedication of the bridge's "true and final completion," Alice's corpse is discovered floating in the river by river tour / fishing boat operator Angie (Stepfanie Kramer). Her throat's been cut and she has clothing fragments under her fingernails as potential evidence. The pathologist also discovers a different type of blood mixed in with Alice's, which means the same knife has possibly been used to murder someone else. Samples are sent off to Phoenix to be tested. In the meantime detectives Don Gregory (David Hasselhoff), who transferred there from Chicago only a month prior, and Joe Nez (Randolph Mantooth) are assigned the case. They face hurdles in the form of city councilman Anson Whitfield (Lane Smith), who wants the murder written off as a one-time mugging by a transient as not to effect tourism. Don, a true crime buff, knows better.

San Francisco Dispatch reporter Elaine Gardner (Lindsay Bloom) shows up in town to do a story and gets Don to speak to her, promising it will be off the record. Instead, she prints his theories about the killing in the paper, which infuriates Don's boss, Police Chief Pete Dawson (Clu Gulager), who's more in the city council's corner than his own detectives. When test results from the fabric and second blood samples return, both prove to be over a century old. The reporter then disappears without a trace, with all evidence pointing in the direction that she never even left town.

Meanwhile, a mysterious, sinister-looking British man (David Fox-Brenton) checks into a flea pit run by nosy old lady Alma (Rose Marie). While he doesn't provide a home address, he does sign the register Edward Latting Esq. The following day, yet another British man, the tall and debonair Roger Eddington (Paul Rossilli), shows up at the library looking for books on modern American history. It seems he has some catch-up work to do. Roger claims to be working in the village as a tour guide but expresses how lonely and homesick he is to librarian Lynn Chandler (Adrienne Barbeau). Lynn, a single lady and Angie's best friend, agrees to go to dinner with him. After crossing paths with both Brits, Lynn ends up the next victim and her throat-slashed body is discovered floating in the lake by a group of schoolkids.

Despite two murders, one disappearance and the ripper going so far as to send taunting letters to the press, Chief Dawson is still reluctant to close down the village until the killer is apprehended, which means Don is pretty much on his own in stopping the psycho. He's able to eventually draft Angie (whom he's - of course! - become romantically involved with) and Joe into helping him out, which involves a pursuit through a horror museum and a slaughterhouse and back to the bridge, where the ripper reveals he's using the blood of victims to return to 1800s. Not sure how that's supposed to work out but, whatever.

This competently directed and produced, though formulaic, NBC TV movie movie seems like it was made to give Hasselhoff and Kramer something to do between seasons of their hit NBC shows Knight Rider and Hunter. And though most of the cast is pleasant or professional enough to keep this at least passable as a "There's nothing else on..." time filler, the plot (devised by Logan's Run writer William F. Nolan) lacks complication and the film is simply too predictable and bland to provoke much interest. The bridge was also used as the centerpiece of Ulli Lommel's (much more entertaining and intriguing) film OLIVIA (1983).


This Charles Fries production debuted on NBC TV right before Halloween in 1985 under the title Bridge Across Time. Most of its subsequent VHS releases (starting in 1990 on the Fries Home Video label) have used the Terror at London Bridge title and restored some blood that had to be cut from TV showings. There are multiple DVD releases as well, including a 2013 one from TGG Direct that pairs it up with Night Game (1989).

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