11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Way too good a Hammer film to be as obscure as it is today,
This review is from: Hands of the Ripper [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.