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DVD Review: Hands Of The Ripper Special Edition (1971)

Handsoftheripper_1 You could argue that by the early 70s, Hammer was struggling to find new angles for the traditional horror movie - after all, how many times can you mould heaving bosoms, angry mobs and vampires into a new story? Well, they could go contemporary (like Dracula AD 72) or they could attempt a different type of horror tale, as was the case with Hands Of The Ripper, now reissued in Special Edition format.

It's actually a very interesting change of direction too. The story, as the title suggests, is based on the Jack The Ripper crimes in Victorian England. Hammer runs with the "what if..." plotline - what if his daughter is possessed with the Ripper's evil, carrying on his killing spree?

The tale starts at the home of a fake psychic (played by Dora Bryan), a woman who has taken in a girl called Anna, orphaned at an early age. A psychiatrist leaves a seance, but is alterted by a scream - when he arrives, the woman is impaled on the door - and the daughter is the only person in the room.

With insufficient proof of who killed the woman, the girl isn't charged - instead, she is taken in by the Psychiatrist (Dr Pritchard, played by Eric Porter). Investigating her past, he discovers she is the Ripper's daughter - and with further murders taking place, it becomes obvious that the girl is responsible.

As a story, it's very well thought out - and well put-together (it even made it out as a novel). The murders are shocking because they're within what seems like an everyday period drama (although the film was banned or cut in some countries because of the bloodshed). And the Victorian setting itself is very convincing, down to the finest detail. What the film does lack is a touch if the unexpected. Once we know the daughter is the killer, we know she's going to kill again - and the murders themselves are so well signposted, it does take the away much of the surprise/shock factor. Saying all that, there is a slight twist at the end - but I'll not spoil your enjoyment by telling you what it is.

Certainly an entertaining horror and something a little different from Hammer. No classic, but certainly worthy of your time and money if you're a Hammer fan.

Extras on the DVD:

Booklet on the Ripper tale and the movie itself
Commentary featuring Angharad Rees, Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
Episode of the excellent Thriller - Once The Killing Starts (featuring Angharad Rees)

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