Peter Medak’s militant parody is a scathing attack and indictment of the British noblesse oblige and society’s infantile religious beliefs. Peter O’Toole is the paranoid schizophrenic black sheep of the family who thinks he is Jesus Christ incarnate. When his father dies (in a masturbatory auto-erotic asphyxiation scene) he is left the entire estate…but the extended family has other plans. The uncle comes up with a foolproof plan to have his deluded nephew marry his (the uncle’s own) mistress, father a child, then have “JC” committed to an insane asylum. While in custody, his Psychiatrist attempts to cure him of his god-complex by having him battle another patient who refers to himself as the Electric Messiah. When our protagonist loses this epic battle of faith and miracle, he finally acknowledges his real name Jack. The doctors believe this recognition of self is ultimately the cure for Jack. But he actually becomes Jack the Ripper, then murders his aunt and condemns the butler for the act. Now that Jack is “perfectly normal” he fits right in to the British Elite and joins the House of Lords.
The film plays like some bizarre stream-of-consciousness sermon and much of the dialogue seems improvised, insane, and wildly idiosyncratic. O’Toole hangs from his cross and spouts religious non-sense and non-sequiturs with the invigorating belief of any priest at Sunday Mass. JC is crazy when he teaches peace, love and understanding but Society only accepts him when he becomes Jack the homicidal maniac. The final scene with the decaying corpses in the House of Lords depicts the rotting Patriarchy in which Jack is now accepted. THE RULING CLASS condemns both Religion and Capitalism with Jack as the avatar of a Church and State gone mad, birthing a fanatical elitism from their incestuous Union.
Final Grade: (B+)