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HANDS OF THE RIPPER (BLU-RAY)
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Reviewed by: Andre Manseau

Directed by: Peter Sasdy

Starring:
Eric Porter
Angharad Rees
Jane Merrow
Keith Bell

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
In the 19th century, a Freud-studying doctor (Eric Porter) takes interest in a young girl named Anna (Angharad Rees). Anna hasn't had the easiest go of things. Her evil sort of step-grandmother uses her as a front for her phony business of talking to the dead. As if that wasn't bad enough, the reason she's in orphan care is because she saw her father off her own mom..because her pops was Jack the Ripper! One way or another, the family tendencies are starting to shine through- Anna is beginning to show some awfully familiar traits. Is she evil, or has she been taken over by the Hands of the Ripper?
Is it good movie?
Taking a "sins of the father" approach, Hands of the Ripper presents a colorful, violent flick that is among a small few of the classic Hammer horror flicks I've gotten to watch. Unfortunately, it's a bit off in its logic and doesn't totally make sense. The idea here is that we're not supposed to know whether or not the girl is the daughter of Jack the Ripper, or if she's acting on her own tendencies or actually possessed. It doesn't totally work, because it makes the doctor look like a bit of a fool who actually is so irresponsible that he kind of causes the death of a lot of folks in the flick (and blatantly covers them up, how amoral can you be?).

See, the age of this film unquestionably shows and ultimately it all feels a little silly. Anna's body is sold to a loaded politician named Dysart, who's among the first to send Anna into a frenzy. Anna's murderous rage tends to be triggered by kisses on the cheek and a pattern of light (almost any kind really) being shone into her eyes. Almost all of the flick's nasty bits involve Anna looking blankly into the ether and wiping people out with some pretty decent brutality (especially in this, the uncut version).

There's definitely some good stuff going on here. The acting is actually pretty great. Our doctor Eric Porter is actually quite capable in the role, pulling off some pretty intense scenes without going way over the top. On the contrary, this role is acted with the proper amount of conviction. Anna as played by Angharad Rees was also pretty good. Unfortunately a lot of the movie doesn't let us learn a lot about the true character, but her presence is fragile and against type for a film like this. On top of that, the film wasn't filmed on a crappy cheap set, but rather on location at Pinewood studios using established Sherlock Holmes sets. This is a nice, almost classy looking film in general.

So, this one's a bit bereft of logic and certainly not one of the best known Hammer films, but I had a good time with it. It's an early attempt at pseudo-psychological horror and it doesn't fire on every cylinder but some good performances, great deaths and good scenery make it a great classic horror choice.
Video / Audio
Video: The 1.66:1 widescreen format/1080p transfer is pretty top notch. The colors look great, the picture us sharp and detail levels are high. Hard to believe this picture is so old!

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 mono.. it's too bad that surround technology didn't exist back then, but this audio track is perfectly fine.
The Extras
The Devil's Bloody Plaything: Possessed by the Hands of the Ripper is a behind the scenes look back at this film, running about a half hour long. It grabs a bunch of Hammer historians who provide context, trivia and commentary about the creation of this film. It's not super exhaustive, but it's really well done. Great companion piece.

Slaughter of the Innocence: The Evolution of Hammer Gore is a series of snapshots that show you gore from various Hammer films. Neat addition.

Want some Trailers? TV spots? They're here! Another still gallery? You're in luck!

An interesting inclusion is the US TV introduction, which was mostly lost in a fire. Here you get the audio of someone introducing the film as if they were a psychiatrist. Neat!

If you're into it, you can turn on an isolated music and effects track.

A DVD of the film is also included.
Last Call
Sure, it isn't perfect but Hands of the Ripper has been given great treatment from Synapse films. If you're into the preservation of classic horror, this one should easily fit into your collection.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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