on 14 November 2006
Welcome to Hammer's outstanding "Hands of the Ripper", one of the studio's last movies and one of their best. Previously only available as a box set with two far inferior British 70's horror movies "The Monster" and "The Uncanny", it is high time this film was decreed worthy of a stand alone release.
The story tells of Anna, a young girl who is actually Jack the Ripper's daughter, and who was traumatised as a toddler by witnessing a vicious killing (seen in the prologue). Now an adult, she is prone to murderous seizures which provide the many grisly highlights of the film. It sounds rather lurid, but the film takes the subject seriously, and as a whole, the plot is tremendously engaging. Anna's rages are only triggered by a specific set of circumstances, and the script creates a surprising and clever staging for each one, following on every time with a suitably gory slaughter. The film features great performances from its prestigious cast, particularly Angharad Rees who is luminously beautiful as Anna, and Eric Porter as the doctor who realises her identity but is compelled to try and cure her rather than turn her in (as well as falling for her charms, as she has no recollection of what she does when she goes into a trance). Of course, he also wants to be the person who makes the medical breakthrough in curing her, and it is this ego trip as much as anything that prolongs the mayhem before Anna is stopped. The murder scenes are all very well done, and quite gruesome too, especially the dazzling broken mirror murder and then there's the hatpins...(ouch!)
But even though Anna is essentially innocent, in the movies such a situation can only end in tragedy, and the climax of the story is quite downbeat and very effective. The period London setting, the photography and the directing all fall perfectly into place, and "Hands of the Ripper" can be judged as one of Hammer's greatest acheivements.
Sadly I can't comment on the Newtork DVD as I bought the Carlton one that I got from a split box set (it has a very good picture by the way), but I hear they have done a good job with it. A commentary by Angharad Rees has been added, which sounds great, along with stills and a trailer, plus an episode of the old TV show "Thriller", also starring Rees, though it is not connected with the film itself.
The quality of the film is supposed to be better too, and although the Carlton DVD is perfectly good, I might even upgrade and get it for the extras, and it certainly has a much better sleeve - the Carlton one is dire! If you haven't owned this film before, I would suggest that now is the time to buy a copy.
on 25 July 2008
'Hands of the Ripper' is a Hammer movie from Peter Sasdy, the same guy who directed the lamentable 'I Don't Want To Be Born', and it's in a different league. Superior in every multitudinous way you can possibly think of, and then some.
It's a sharp, aggressive picture. A slight departure for Hammer in that there is a VERY sympathetic 'monster'; this is no unthinking fiend from the murk and fog, but a vulnerable and frightened young girl called Anna. Traumatized by an unspeakable horror from her childhood; conditioned by years of abuse, then finally hidden away; forced to participate in her guardian's shameful exploiting of recently bereaved people in her fraudulent role as a medium.
That she snaps will come as no surprise. The trigger, something as innocent as a kiss, provokes the most horrendous violence as she becomes possessed by her father's murderous spirit, and continues his trail of destruction.
Her father is none other than Victorian bogeyman Jack the Ripper: in 'HOTR's pre-credit sequence we see a hysterical Anna in her cot, witnessing her own mother's ghastly death at the hands of her scarred and blood stained father, sowing the seeds of the inevitable carnage that follows..
Later, she's taken into the care of a kindly doctor, played excellently by old Soames himself - Eric Porter, who, as an early advocate of Freud (the only thing he doesn't do is say "Ja ?" (!) ), both suspects the evil in Anna, but also believes he can help her using psycho-analysis.
An opinion not shared by nasty politician (is there any other kind?) Dysart, who believes the only cure for her is "a good, stout rope about her neck".
As it turns out, in Sasdy terms anyway, this would undoubtedly have been the wisest course of action.
There's some brilliantly unpleasant low-budget killings, including a jaw-dropping hat-pins-in-the-eye, and the film roars along like a leopard on fire; cramming all sorts of ideas and subversions across it's superbly compact 85 minutes.
Performances are exceptional. The fine Welsh actress Angharad Rees is marvellous as Anna, giving an understated interpretation.
On one hand, ferocious, eyes-ablaze and ruthless. On the other, a child, lost and innocent, with no comprehension of what's happening to her, or the devastation she's causing - either in her own environment, or on the foggy, corrupt streets of Victorian London (itself a ruthless, hypocritical monster, a theme explored just as bitingly in Sasdy's previous 'Taste the Blood of Dracula').
Despite it's lurid title, this is a serious, complex thriller with many facets and undertones, and is unmissable if you're in any way a fan of the Hammer ouvre in particular or horror pictures generally.
on 24 August 2014
I owned the Carlton DVD release & despite what a couple of people say this is an improvement. There is some grain but that is to be expected of a film 43 year's old, some people seem to expect the picture quality of a film released at the cinema today. Very happy and looking forward to Networks releases of 'Countess Dracula' & 'Twins of Evil' in a couple of weeks, hopefully 'Vampire Circus' to come!
Hands of the Ripper is directed by Peter Sasdy and written by L.W. Davidson and Edward Spencer Shew. It stars Eric Porter, Angharad Rees, Jane Merrow, Keith Bell, Derek Godfrey, Dora Bryan and Marjorie Rhodes. Music is by Christopher Gunning and cinematography by Kenneth Talbot.
The infant daughter of Jack the Ripper witnesses the brutal murder of her mother by her father. Now a young woman she is deeply troubled and seems to have inherited her father's murderous instincts. An eminent psychiatrist takes her in to his own home in the belief he can benefit medical science by studying her at close quarters...
A nifty late horror entry from Hammer Film Productions, Hands of the Ripper boasts the usual period delights and a on form cast doing justice to the intriguing twist on Ripper lore. The murders are delightfully gruesome in that colourful Hammer way, the Freudian beats penetrative and spicy and the suspense is well orchestrated by old pro Sasdy. Sasdy also has a keen eye for fluid camera techniques, and with Talbot making good use of shadows and light, it's an all round well constructed production that looks higher on monetary value than it actually was.
Naturally full of improbabilities and cliché contrivance, Hands of the Ripper is still a horror film of considerable substance. From the attention grabbing opening sequence as Jolly Jack returns home from his work, to the breath holding finale set at St Paul's Cathedral, it delivers many treats for fans of Hammer Horror. 7.5/10
You can see why Hands of the Ripper ended up on the wrong side of a double-bill with the terrific Twins of Evil [Blu-ray] [US Import], but while it's not quite strong enough to stand on its own and is never quite as successful as it could be it's still an interesting spin on the Jack the Ripper genre. This time round it's not Jack whose doing the ripping but his daughter Anna (Angharad Rees), whose been traumatised as a child by seeing her father murder her mother and goes into hypnotic homicidal fits of rage every time she's shown affection. Which isn't a problem until Eric Porter's psychoanalyst rescues her from the clutches of Dora Bryan's fake medium and Derek Godfrey's randy MP, partially because he's about to lose his son to marriage and is looking for someone to fill the filial gap but largely because he senses a good case study coming on. But when he finds out what he's capable of, he becomes dangerously obsessed with proving he can cure her, and you just know that's not going to end well...
People may mistake his actions for kindness but Porter is not exactly likeable, driven by scientific curiosity rather than compassion and more than happy to accept and cover up the odd murder if it adds to his understanding of psychopathic behaviour, meaning our sympathies are with the unwitting killer here even as she murders those who try to help her in increasingly gory fashion. Even though Porter's anti-hero is a disciple of Freud, the film remains ambiguous as to whether it's insanity or possession that drives her to kill, along the way dropping hints that the Ripper was royalty and that Lynda Barron's prostitute's interest in Rees isn't entirely professional. It's directed with real imagination by Peter Sasdy, who elevates the film with sometimes subtly intelligent visuals (there's a memorable early shot of Porter and Rees separated by a curiously placed full-length mirror in which a fireplace is reflected that hints at later revelations) and draws strong but not overstated performances from a cast that eschews Hammer regulars for stage and TV performers - you could easily see another director casting Peter Cushing and Michael Ripper in Porter and Norman Bird's roles. Rees gives great confusion and inner torment, Porter fleshes out his character with revealing small details like the quietly disapproving look he gives his blind future daughter-in-law while Jane Merrow manages to turn that potentially thankless role into the strongest supporting character in the film.
Despite the low budget, it's an elegant affair: even at their small Bray Studios Hammer's Victorian gothic horrors were always richly designed affairs belying their low budgets, and with the move to the more expansive Pinewood Studios this makes good use of old props from earlier films (according to Sasdy, parts of M's office from the Bond films made their way into Porter's study without anyone knowing) and the Baker Street set built for The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes to give it a big more of a sense of scale even if the budgetary limitations make it look very underpopulated. Christopher Gunning's classical, melodic score counterpoints the hidden violence, knowing when to hold back as in the genuinely operatic but underplayed climax in the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul's that leads to Hammer's classiest closing shot.
The film had different censor cuts in both the UK and US - in the UK the hatpin murder lost a brief shot while in the US it was other murders that were trimmed - but both the US and UK releases are fully restored with all the originally censored footage included. Where the UK DVD from Network had an audio commentary by the late Angharad Rees, Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, an episode of the British 70s Thriller TV series Once the Killing Starts, stills gallery, original British theatrical trailer, and booklet (their forthcoming Bu-ray dropping the booklet and Thriller), Synapses' Region A-locked Blu-ray and DVD combo release offers a strong but not outstanding 1.66:1 widescreen transfer (the UK DVD was nearer 1.78:1) and a different extras package. Pride of place goes to a new half-hour making of documentary includes featurette The Devil's Bloody Plaything - Possessed by the Hands of the Ripper that features Peter Sasdy and extracts from an audio interview with Rees among the talking heads like Joe Dante and covers a lot of ground in its 28 minutes - Hammer's early 70s decline, producer Aida Young's rise in a male-dominated industry and her unique way of dealing with the UK censor, the film's use of music and the way what could have been a throwaway schlock horror achieves a genuinely tragic dimension unique in the Hammer canon among them. There's also the audio from a bizarre opening framing sequence added for the heavily cut 70s US TV broadcast with Severn Darden's author talking pointlessly about the novel he's written about the events to explain the psychology and pad out the running time (the picture is lost), a couple of stills galleries, isolated music and effects track; stills gallery, 3 US TV spots and the US theatrical trailer.
Hands of the Ripper is a shockingly neglected and obscure little atmospheric masterpiece from Hammer Studios. It's a veritable showcase of classic horror at its best, with several somewhat bloody scenes thrown in for good measure. Beautifully shot and scored, the film simply oozes the aura of Victorian London, and the cinematography of the final shot is, ahem, to die for. The entire cast is wonderful, particularly Eric Porter and Angharad Rees, the latter being a delightful young actress I had never encountered before.
I know you're probably wondering if the film is about Jack the Ripper. Well, yes and no. The story is ostensibly about his daughter. You can imagine how screwed up in the head a daughter of Saucy Jack might be; now imagine that this little girl saw her father murder her mother right in front of her eyes. Freud would have wet himself over such a poor, young thing. Now a young lady, we find Anna working as a fraudulent medium's secret little helper. The madam isn't above selling Anna's body to certain gentlemen, either. Following a "séance" attended by the good Dr. Pritchard (Eric Porter) and others, no less than a man of Parliament (Derek Godfrey) stays behind to indulge in some special favors. A scream later, Pritchard has run back into the house (encountering the fleeing Parliamentarian at the door) to find Anna in a somewhat catatonic state and the medium quite dead. You would think Pritchard would accuse the man he saw fleeing the house at the time of the murder, but he has plans of his own. Having grown fascinated with the breakthrough work of Freud in Vienna, Pritchard thinks he can cure the girl (if she does turn out to be the murderer) and, at the same time, finally acquire the answers as to why people commit murder in the first place.
Having brought Anna home with him, Pritchard finds her to be the meekest of creatures, a veritable delight to be around. If it weren't for her bad habit of killing people for no good reason, she would be a beacon of female virtue. In her defense, she is quite unaware of her murderous actions, as she falls into something of a trance each time the violence rises up in her. Pritchard, not yet knowing the facts of her childhood, believes her to be schizophrenic, but more than one character ultimately voices the opinion that Jack the Ripper himself possesses her body whenever a certain stimulus causes her to break with reality. Either way, Dr. Pritchard has bought himself some trouble - and just days away from his son's marriage, too.
OK, the plot is a little less than perfect, but I loved this movie. You just can't beat Hammer Studios when it comes to producing old school horror films heavy on suspense and characterization. Those looking for quick bloody thrills should probably look elsewhere, as this film's rather limited gore is sprinkled here and there throughout the film, but those who appreciate horror in all its facets should be particularly impressed with this overlooked 1971 Hammer Studios gem.
on 20 August 2014
Oh this is a good release, not only have Network released a terrific looking blu ray of a favorite Hammer film of mine but they've added a great episode of Thriller (Once the Killing Starts staring Angharad Rees) on the disc as well. It's like staying up late on a Friday night in the '70's all over again. I hope this trend will continue in their horror releases. Nice one Network.
on 11 November 2015
Another classic Hammer production, not one of the most well known, but easily one of the studio's best, with a very interesting and unique take on the Jack The Ripper formula, with a concept never done before or since, like Hammer's 'Dr Jekyll And Sister Hyde' another timeless classic with the late-great Ralph Bates, also 'Blood From The Mummy's Tomb' with the very beautiful & attractive Valerie Leon, what happened to her?, also the wonderfully sinister James Villiers, the point being that like those other classic Hammer film's, Hands Of The Ripper', the studio produced a fascinating, unique, innovative and refreshingly new take on a traditional story done time and time again, but this is an individual spin on Jack The Ripper, Hammer at it's most classic and it's best, you can't fault it, great film, price and all, this is why Hammer is such a legend!
on 4 January 2008
Plenty has been said about the movie itself, so I'll comment on the quality of the DVD. I was disappointed in the mastering job. The first 25 minutes looked very good, but starting about minute 25 until minute 33, and periodically thereafter, there was a white speckling of the film. It looked as though parts of the image were badly scratched, most visible about every third frame during this 8 minutes. Same defect appeared in the Thriller episode.
After my initial review, I tried the disk on a still newer player, which was set to interlaced scan, and the disk played perfectly. So, had a problem with a fairly new Pioneer player, and no problem with a newer LG recorder/player. You may have no problem with this disk. Consider this review a five star for the film, and four stars for possible disk problems.
on 10 May 2015
early 70s Hammer, where the spirit of Jack The Ripper, is passed from him into his daughter. who is taken in & studied by a psychologist.
must see for Hammer fans