18 January 2007 | Coventry
Jacqueline The Ripper!
Particularly all the sour people, who continuously claim that the Hammer Studio ran out of inspiration and professionalism during the early 1970's, should view "Hands of the Rippers", as this is still a highly inventive and marvelously put together period piece. The basic premise of this film is perhaps one of the most ingenious ones ever to come out of the legendary British studios and director Peter Sasdy presents the wholesome with great emphasis on both suspense AND gory bloodshed! The French version's title (which I own) literally translates as "The Ripper's Daughter" and this sums up the synopsis much better than the official title ever could. During the opening sequence, the notorious late 19th Century London serial killer Jack the Ripper is identified by his own wife and their little girl Anna painfully witness how her mother too gets slaughtered by her father the monster. Years later, the shy and introvert girl is under the custody of a phony spiritual medium/female pimp but her traumatic memories come to the surface and force her hands to kill as well. Dr. John Pritchard, an early follower of Sigmund Freud, takes Anna in his house and hopes to cure her disturbed behavior by using therapy. However, since he doesn't know what exactly inflicts Anna's murderous rage, several more people (even inside Pritchard's household) are killed. "Hands of the Ripper" lacks a bit of star-power (no Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee in the cast), but the film is fast-paced and the originality of the plot results in multiple tense sequences. Moreover, the setting of London during the turn of the century is greatly captured, with people slowly recovering from the actual Jack the Ripper murder case and reverting too easily to fear & hysteria when it seems there's a new maniac on the loose in the city. The murders are sensational and really, really gruesome and they're extra shocking since nearly all victims (all but one, actually) are sympathetic characters you didn't wish this cruel fate for. This is also one of more intelligent Hammer films, as the screenplay efficiently blends together historical horror with accurate psychological theories and yet still manages to throw in some pure camp and typical Hammer-brutality! The climax, set in the St.Paul Cathedral's gallery of whispers, is breathtaking and almost hauntingly poetic. Truly one of Hammer's most underrated and sadly forgotten horror-highlights.