Monday, 9 September 2013

Hands Of The Ripper (1971)

Absolute trash given that elegant touch from Hammer, Hands Of The Ripper is a film that many fans have a soft spot for, despite how ridiculous it is. And, boy oh boy, is it ridiculous.

The plot concerns a young woman named Anna (Angharad Rees), a woman troubled by the fact that she's the daughter of Jack The Ripper (AKA "Saucy Jack" to fans of This Is Spinal Tap). Not only is Anna troubled by her parentage, she has also been traumatised in such a way that anything shimmering and sparkly can set her on a quest to murder whoever is nearby. When he discovers this fact, Dr. John Pritchard (Eric Porter) is quite fascinated, and endeavours to do what he can to "cure" the girl. But is there something else to it? Perhaps something evil that can't ever be cured.

Based on a story by Edward Spencer Shew, Hands Of The Ripper features a script by L. W. Davidson and direction from Peter Sasdy. Davidson had not written any script before this, and would write none after, whereas Sasdy was a bit of an old hand at Hammer (having directed the likes of Scars Of Dracula and Countess Dracula). He wasn't ever the best of the talent working at the studio, but he has a nack of impressing fans with the bloodletting on display.

While I would normally say that it's always a shame to watch a Hammer film that doesn't feature some of their better-known players (Cushing, Lee, Ripper), in this case I don't mind. It's hard to think of just how the aforementioned stars would have worked with the material. They MIGHT have improved the whole film, even ever so slightly, but there's also a chance that the ridiculousness of it all would have dragged them down to its level. As things stand, the cast here all do solid, if unmemorable, work. Angharad Rees does most of her acting in a trance-like state, which seems to be for the best, while Eric Porter has to keep a brave face on as his character makes increasingly silly decisions with increasingly weak reasoning. Derek Godfrey is superb for every moment that he's onscreen, Dora Bryan is enjoyable in her small role, a manipulative medium, and Lynda Baron is fun as a prostitute named Long Liz, but nobody else makes much of an impression. Keith Bell and Jane Merrow, in particular, are far too bland as a young couple caught up in the events, the former being the son of Porter's character and the latter being his blind fiance.

Yet, despite its many flaws, I enjoy the film. Give it a watch some time, you might end up feeling the same way.


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