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  Hands of the Ripper Her Heart Belongs To DaddyBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Peter Sasdy
Stars: Eric Porter, Angharad Rees, Jane Merrow, Keith Bell, Derek Godfrey, Dora Bryan, Marjorie Rhodes, Lynda Baron, Marjie Lawrence, Margaret Rawlings, Elizabeth MacLennan, Barry Lowe, A.J. Brown, April Wilding, Anne Clune, Katya Wyeth, Norman Bird, Molly Weir
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Some years ago, Jack the Ripper was terrorising London and when he was about to be revealed, he managed to escape the angry throng and make his way back home. But his wife was not to be fooled, and when she saw the blood on his hands she realised who he was, suffering for this revelation as he killed her in front of their daughter Anna who was sitting aghast in her cot. Move forward a few years and the girl (Angharad Rees) is employed to provide the voices for a fake medium (Dora Bryan) who thinks she can find another way of making money from her...

For some, Hands of the Ripper was the last of the truly great film Hammer films ever made, during their first incarnation at any rate, and its reputation as an unusually sensitive horror about the sins of the fathers visiting themselves on their offspring only grew down the decades. Yet most of that was down to the performances of Rees, then about to hit stardom on television in Poldark, and her co-star Eric Porter, playing the kindly but misguided Dr John Pritchard who takes Anna under his wing. They made for a well-observed surrogate father-daughter relationship, with seemingly neither of them able to stop the mess that engulfs them.

But this was as much dependent on the psychology of the plot as the bond between Pritchard and Anna, and as far as that went it was pretty shaky, not much more of a step up from some dodgy psychodrama where the sight of a flashing object will send the murderer over the edge through no fault of their own - it's their demons which make them do it. Such is the case here as Anna simply needs to catch a glimpse of an object flickering away, then get a kiss on the cheek, and she's suddenly a homicidal maniac grabbing the nearest implement and turning it into a weapon for her purposes. All the way through the film takes Pritchard's opinion that she is not responsible as fact.

So even though he's long dead, it's Jack the Ripper who is the true villain of the piece for so warping the girl's mind at an early age when she was innocent that she cannot get over it now she is becoming an adult. Rees, in spite of wandering around in a traumatised stupor for much of the time, sold this aspect with her essentially unaware of her disastrous potential for murder so we can well see the purity of the girl inside the body of the killer, but the manner in which she ends up bumping someone off every ten minutes, or so it appears, grows increasingly absurd, not quite laugh out loud material but Pritchard's denial that she's a danger and his drive to examine her mind to discover what makes her tick are fairly ridiculous.

Surely it would have been more sensible to put her away where she can no longer place others in peril, then examine her to investigate his pet theories on why certain people are driven to kill? Only if he did that there would be no horror for this Hammer horror, so scene after scene of Anna stabbing various maids and prostitutes and whatnot play out over the course of the narrative, a veritable bloodbath - this was one of the goriest efforts of this studio, evidently attempting to bring in the punters with further sensationalism, hairpins through the eye and swords through the midriff and all. This left the film pulling in two different directions, the violent and the tearjerking, which were fine up to a point, but didn't merge together too well in the final production. With additions such as a blind fiancée (Jane Merrow) to Pritchard's son for last minute suspense at St Paul's Cathedral, you could see what they were aiming for, but it was more silly than insightful. Music by Christopher Gunning.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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