Hands of the Ripper (1971) Peter Sasdy

Ripper

Who knew Jack the Ripper had a daughter? I didn’t. Well, Hands of the Ripper a 1971 Hammer film assumes it’s so and naturally, she’s a daddy’s girl. Murderous as her dear old dad. Young Anna’s (Angharad Rees) problems begin after she witnesses, as a very young child, old Papa Jack murdering her mother. Some 15 years later we see Anna has been taken in and cared for by Mrs. Golden (Dora Bryan) a fake medium and part time pimp. Not exactly an agent of the Children’s Aid Society!

When a Member of Parliament pays for the young girl’s sexual favors, actually taking her virginity, her harrowing memories of her mother’s brutal death trigger psychotic episodes turning her into a maniacal killer. A Dr. Prichard (Eric Porter) takes the poor girl in. Prichard, an early student of Freud, believes he can find a cure to Anna’s deep rooted “problem.” Unfortunately, while under the doctor’s care Anna continues her murderous rage.

hands_of_the_ripper_blu-ray_This Hammer film is an interesting and rather smart offshoot of the Ripper legend handled well thank to an intelligent script by L. W. Davidson (based on a story by Edward Spencer Shew) and some excellent atmospheric turn of the century London sets. A combination of psychological horror/thriller and slasher film, long before the term slasher was even born. The murders are actually quite graphic for the times. Making it even more shocking is that most of the murdered victims are of sympathetic characters. The haunting and poetic ending takes place in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Directed by Peter Sasdy, Hands of the Ripper is an underrated and lesser known Hammer film.

Sasdy was primarily a TV director, though he did make a few feature films including Hammer films Taste the Blood of Dracula and Countess Dracula however, he is most famously known or more accurately infamously responsible for the Pia Zadora fiasco, The Lonely Lady, based on Harold Robbin’s best-selling novel.

Ripper4Of the cast, Eric Porter is probably best known to both U.S. and British audiences for his appearances in films like Day of the Jackel, The Thirty Nine Steps (1978) and the mini-series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years among many other works. The young and attractive Angharad Rees who played Anna had a long career in British TV as well as film including Under Milk Wood with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole. She sadly died in 2012 at the age of 68.

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9 comments on “Hands of the Ripper (1971) Peter Sasdy

  1. Angharad Rees also was a major character on Poldark, a bbc tv show set in Cornwall during the time of America’s Revolutionary War. The show was recommended by Classic Film and TV Cafe, blog site, when he reviewed Top Ten Brit tv shows that made it to America, usually via Masterpiece Theater. Poldark was on his list, and netflix streaming carried it for a while.

    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Jenni! I really was not familiar with her. POLDARK sounds interesting. Hopefully, it pops up again somewhere.

  2. Rick says:

    John, so glad you picked THIS underrated Hammer pic. As mentioned above, Angharad Rees was also wonderful in POLDARK. Eric Porter may be best known as Soames on the first television version of a THE FORSYTE SAGA. He gives a brilliant performance in that series, which probably led to the creation of MASTERPIECE THEATRE on PBS. You are right, though, about HANDS OF THE RIPPER being graphic. It’s also very, very sad.

    • John Greco says:

      Rick, Your Rick, HANDS OF THE RIPPER is surprisingly sad film with a few very surprising twists. Interesting film, not just a typical horror flick.

  3. Brian says:

    I recall seeing a heavily edited version of this years ago. The other reviews I’ve perused all mention the graphic violence, apparently bad even by contemporary standards. This fits into the late Hammer strategy of taking familiar horror tales and adding bizarre twists on top of the sex and violence. But it apparently ups the ante in the gore dept. over such other Hammer oddities as Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. I’m sure its obscurity is also due to the lack of immediately familiar Hammer names in the cast.

    • John Greco says:

      Brian, Some good points. I’m sure the lack of familiar names has at least a partial affect on the film being better known. It does deserve to be better known, I will say that. Thanks!

  4. doriantb says:

    John, I admit I didn’t know about HANDS OF THE RIPPER, but now that I know it’s from the folks who brought us POLDARK, I’ll have to check it out!

  5. Sam Juliano says:

    Yep, I do own the blu-ray of this exceedingly underrated Hammer. Fabulous review John!! Yes, the dispatching of the sympathetic characters always make a film even more disturbing. I also like the director’s COUNTESS DRACULA, which you mention here. Great stuff!

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