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.
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.
Of 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.