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Hands of the Ripper(1971)
The infant daughter of Jack the Ripper is witness to the brutal murder of her mother by her father. Fifteen years later she is a troubled young woman who is seemingly possessed by the spirit of her father. While in a trance she continues his murderous killing spree but has no recollection of the events afterwards. A sympathetic psychiatrist takes her in and is convinced he can cure her condition. Soon, however, he regrets his decision.
For more about Hands of the Ripper and the Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray release, see Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on August 10, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Eric Porter, Angharad Rees, Jane Merrow
Director: Peter Sasdy
» See full cast & crew
Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray Review
A kiss before dying.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, August 10, 2013
"Hands of the Ripper" sets the bar for gruesome violence high during its main titles, where we witness Jack the Ripper murder his wife in front of his young daughter. It's a horrifying moment that certainly establishes the tone for the feature, suggesting that anything goes in this Hammer production. Fortunately, in terms of "should I be watching this?" ugliness, "Hands of the Ripper" doesn't match its vivid opener, though it tries with multiple gory moments intended to give increasingly demanding genre fans a jolt. What's actually here is a fascinating psychological chiller that's artfully made on a low budget, trusting the power of performance to carry a heavy workload of exposition and suspense as the famed horror factory endeavors to breathe new life into an oft-told tale of serial murder.
The daughter of Jack the Ripper, Anna (Angharad Rees) was orphaned at a young age, raised by Mrs. Golding (Dora Bryan), a charlatan medium making a living holding sham séances. Prostituted by her guardian, Anna is involved in a vicious attack against her john, parliament member Dysart (Derrick Godfrey), who slips away during the bloody aftermath, which claims the life of Golding, while Freudian psychoanalyst Pritchard (Eric Porter) witnesses the event from afar. Intrigued by the confused teen, Pritchard takes in Anna, offering a place in his home that's about to be vacated by his son, Michael (Keith Bell), who's planning to marry his blind longtime love, Laura (Jane Merrow). Explaining to a suspicious Dysart that his relationship with Anna is purely professional, attempting to identify the origin of evil, Pritchard quickly becomes wrapped up in the girl's mental illness, where violent actions are triggered by flashing lights and a kiss. Failing to prevent Anna from killing more innocents, Pritchard attempts to cover up her crimes, only to put himself in harm's way.
"Hands of the Ripper" is part of a great transition period for Hammer Horror, which was moving away from the atmospheric productions that helped to build the brand name to more bloody enterprises, employing graphic content as cinematic punctuation. It seems appropriate to take on the legacy of Jack the Ripper to satisfy such demands, but instead of another procedural where men in bad mustaches dissect the killer's appetite for destruction, we have the next generation of terror, with screenwriter L.W. Davidson adapting a book by Edward Spencer Shew. "Hands of the Ripper" is an interesting take on the serial killer routine, adding a dash of psychoanalytical seasoning to its display of violence, keeping true motivations unclear at first. Does Anna understand what she's capable of? Is Pritchard's interest in the teen girl more than just professional? There are layers to the tale that hold attention, observing the doctor madly dash about to protect his investment, while Dysart gleefully moves from accused to accuser, applying additional pressure on Pritchard.
Suspense is plentiful in "Hands of the Ripper," and director Peter Sasdy ("Taste the Blood of Dracula") works the Edwardian period of the story with style, with costumes and studio backlot transformations that successfully sell the time period, helping the actors construct their characters. While it was likely slapped together for a modest amount of money, the movie doesn't look cheap -- a screen polish that extends to the gore zone visits as well. Anna's hypnotic rampage isn't exactly overwhelming, but she manages to lash out on a few occasions, slicing a throat with a broken mirror, sticking hat pins in one victim's eye, and jabbing a sword in the gut of another. The make-up effects are simple but effective, introducing shock value to a rather stately picture that's always more comfortable with charged conversations than gratuitous violence. Admirers of the red wet will be pleased, though it's easy to image the film working without such intense imagery.
While the draw of the picture is its premise, the ensemble really makes the effort fulfilling. Porter is most valuable here, embodying a gradual unraveling that's wonderfully communicated, keeping Pritchard subtlety horrified as his experiment quickly spins out of his control, also expressing a quiet loneliness that's meant to be filled by Anna's rehabilitation. As the virginal monster, Rees is ideally cast, with a look of purity that adds to Anna's frightful turn of personality once her heritage is triggered. Sasdy is well aware of Rees's appearance, repeatedly returning to dewy shots of his star, while Porter is left to make all the pained faces of realization.
Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dealing with period ornamentation and dark events, the AVC encoded image (1.66:1 aspect ratio) presentation manages the visual scheme of the movie with confidence. Shadow detail is perhaps a little thick in the deepest areas of low-lit interiors, yet blacks are adequate throughout, preserving textures on costuming and some of the more obscured particulars of Laura's wrath. Colors are stable and fresh, with elegant skintones and rich hues from fabrics and set design. Red blood is also key, maintaining its powerful presence. Detail is quite handsome, offering a close inspection of facial nuances and extremes of gore, while studio sets also convince with their depth. Print damage isn't much of a concern (some nicks and debris are detected), and grain is tastefully managed, adding a filmic appearance.
Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA track does a fine job managing the film's original sound design, maintaining a balanced crispness despite the limited nature of the mix. Dialogue is confident and clear, managing accents and interplay without any distortion, while extremes of violence and suspense maintain composure, rarely hitting any shrill peaks of discomfort. Atmospherics are healthy. Scoring hits the occasional crackly high, but remains quite welcome, supporting the visual experience with gusto, blended satisfactorily with verbal exchanges. There's depth here with limited means, making the listening event enjoyable.
Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The final act of "Hands of the Ripper" takes a few bold visual steps, displaying creative use of rear-projection technology to sell the whispering gallery interior of St. Paul's Cathedral, while the actual final shot is painterly in design, sending off the killing spree on an unexpectedly poetic note of salvation. Of course, this directorial consideration doesn't comes as a complete surprise, as the entirety of "Hands of the Ripper" is smartly crafted and satisfying, making the viewer care about these characters while they revel in squishy genre antics.
Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray - April 29, 2013
Independent U.S. distributors Synapse Films have revealed that they are planning to release a combo pack edition of Peter Sasdy's Hands of the Ripper (1971), starring Eric Porter, Angharad Rees, and Jane Merrow. The release is set to arrive on the market in J ...
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