Hands of the Ripper (1971)
Apart from the opening credit sequence, the London settings of the late 1800’s and the ample cleavage shown on actress Marjie Lawrence one would be hard pressed to connect this film with the famed Hammer studios that gave birth to the second cycle of horror films and made star commodities out of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
In the opening moments of the film we are shown the fiery demise of Jack the Ripper. Before the scene fades out he has murdered his wife in front of what we assume to be his young daughter of about five years of age. The script by L.W. Davidson then moves us ahead a number of years to a medium conducting a seance.
Attending the sham hosted by medium Dora Bryan is Eric Porter as a bearded Freud type of character. He’s there to disprove the events that are about to take place. While the seance proves a failure in general, Porter is about to meet a young lady who might be the cause of a grotesque murder soon to follow.
Angharad Rees stars as young woman who seems a bit of a lost soul. She’s been found at the scene of the mediums death. Porter suspects she may be the murderess but at the same time believes he may be able to unlock the mysteries of the mind and therefore cure her. He’ll need to work fast as his housekeeper is about to feel her wrath in a bloody demise that the censors had trimmed upon the films initial release.
While our good doctor Porter seeks to cure the young lady he makes the mistake of slowly falling in love with her. Secondly he has welcomed her into his home where his son and soon to be daughter in law are set to speak their vows. There will be another cruel murder before Porter engages in a race against time to save his loved ones from Rees and her apparent possession by her Father the Ripper.
Peter Sasdy who had already directed the enjoyable Taste the Blood of Dracula continues moving the studio towards what I would term an art house horror film. The films final shot is so impressive it gave me pause to think it might be the studios most affecting. It combined with the crescendo of music from credited Christopher Gunning only adds to it’s emotional impact.
Eric Porter takes the role usually reserved for what would normally be assigned to Peter Cushing or even perhaps Andrew Keir. He does so splendidly. The character itself is very much like Cushing’s arrogant Baron. “All in the name of science.” While his intentions are admirable, he easily sets his medical goals above the laws that govern society.
As a fan and collector of all things Hammer this was one of those films that took years to catch up with. Despite purchasing the film poster about twenty years ago it wasn’t until recently that I finally saw the film thanks to the first rate release on blu ray from Synapse Films. Enough bonus material to make me wish they had the rights to more titles in the Hammer catalogue. So far they have put out excellent versions of Vampire Circus, Twins of Evil and Countess Dracula.