Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray Review
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Written by L.W. Davidson from a story by Edward Spencer Shew
1971, Region A, 85 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on July 9th, 2013
Eric Porter as Dr. John Pritchard
Angharad Rees as Anna
Jane Merrow as Laura
Keith Bell as Michael Pritchard
Derek Godfrey as Dysart
Dora Bryan as Mrs. Golding
Kids are pretty resilient. They tend to bounce back from whatever life throws at them. But they also learn from their environments. If a child has an abusive parent, it is more likely than not that they themselves will be abusive to their children. If there is drug or alcohol abuse in the household for a young one, that pattern is generally going to continue into adulthood. To say Anna (Angharad Rees) has some issues after seeing her mother brutally murdered by her father when she is but a young child is an understatement. And did I mention that her daddy was Jack the Ripper. This girl is paying extra fees when she travels because she has a lot of baggage.
Years after that traumatic event, we find Anna has been taken in by phony medium Mrs. Golding (Dora Bryan) and has been making the young lady help her scam her clients out of money by doing things such as make noises at opportune times, or moving curtains, you know, the usual. That on its own is shady enough, but Golding takes her scumminess to another level because she also whores Anna out to those who are willing to pay. This behavior of her keeper clearly reaches a boiling point when Anna strikes out against her john - a high-ranking government official, who manages to escape with some scratches – and brutally murders Golding. A psychoanaylist, Dr. Prithcard (Eric Porter), who happened to be at the séance reading that night takes an interest in Anna and takes her into his home with the hopes of studying and maybe even curing her. Good luck with that, Freud.
Hands of the Ripper is a joy to watch. Yet another Hammer film I had not seen before, I expected this one to be a straight-up Jack the Ripper killfest (I clearly had not read any plot synopsis before diving in). That in itself would have been just dandy with me, but what I got instead is a damn decent character study and thriller. While there is gore to be found in the film (including a wonderful eye stabbing), it's the kind that complements the story rather than overtaking it.
Angharad Rees is wonderful as the troubled/possessed Anna, seamlessly bouncing between a naïve, wide-eyed doe of a girl and a woman completely filled with rage and anger and back again. She's at her best when she's at her most innocent, but that's what makes her violent outbreaks more shocking.
Dr. Pritchard's actions may look noble, but he's really kind of an asshole. He doesn't seem to be helping Anna for her own good, but more for himself – be it to gain fame or just for his own knowledge. But it quickly becomes clear that he has bitten off more than he can chew, and Porter's slide from selfish psychiatrist to one who is clearly regretful to what he has done is impressive.
Hands of the Ripper is a mean-spirited movie. The ending (while more than just a little bit hokey) is not a happy one, and Rees' wonderful performance makes you really feel bad for Anna. Here's a girl who not only saw her mother murdered by one of the most well-known serial killers in history, but since then she's been treated as an object, either for men's sexual pleasures or professional ones. Top it off with her mental problems that may be more than just in her head (which is probably something that's more fun when it's revealed in the film rather than my review) and you find it's really hard to blame her for the pile of bodies she leaves in her path.
Porter and Rees do a great job with an already enjoyable script. Add to that some of the nice effects found throughout, and you're going to want to check out Hands of the Ripper. This clearly won't be one of your go to 'feel good' films, but it's one of those interesting movies where at the end of the day there really is no antagonist or protagonist, just some people in messed up situations regardless of whether or not they put themselves there.
Video and Audio:
Hands of the Ripper is presented here in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. It's a great looking disc with natural flesh tones and solid detail found throughout. Blacks are suitably dark and while the colors aren't jumping out at you, they are nice and balanced. The picture does get fuzzy and at times there is some noticeable print damage, but overall Synapse Films continues to impress. These guys don't slack.
The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 Mono audio is crisp and clear and sounds great throughout. Dialogue is always audible and is never overtaken by either score or sound effects.
- The Devil's Plaything: Possessed by Hands of the Ripper
- Slaughter of Innocence: The Evolution of Hammer Gore
- U.S. Television Introduction
- Original Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots
- Hands of the Ripper - Motion Still Gallery
- Isolated Music & Effects Track (Blu-ray Only)
There are quite a few features to be found on this Blu-ray, but the one that stands out far and above all others is The Devil's Plaything: Possessed by Hands of the Ripper. Coming in at just under 28 minutes, the piece is conglomerate of interviews and discussions on the film's place in the Hammer universe. It's well worth a watch as it's much more than a standard behind-the-scenes piece as it goes far deeper.
Slaughter of Innocence: The Evolution of Hammer Gore is a six-minute slide show of some of the gore effects from various Hammer movies.
The U.S. Television Introduction piece is exactly what it's titled. Because of the heavy cuts the film suffered to be shown on American television, a new opening was made with Dr. Prithcard being interviewed about his book. Sadly, it's only an audio piece due to the original film not being available, but it's quite interesting nonetheless. This one runs just over seven minutes.
Rounding it out are trailers, TV spots, a still gallery and an isolated music and effects track.
A DVD version of the film is also included.