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HANDS OF THE RIPPER (director: Peter Sasdy; screenwriters: story by Edward Spencer Shew/L.W. Davidson; cinematographer: Ken Talbor; editor: Chris Barnes; music: Christopher Gunning; cast: Eric Porter (Dr. John Pritchard), Angharad Rees (Anna), Keith Bell (Michael Pritchard), Jane Merrow (Laura), Derek Godfrey (Dysart), Nadine Stapleton (Young Anna), Marjorie Rhodes (Mrs Bryant), Norman Bird (Police Inspector), Dora Bryan (Mrs Golding), Lynda Baron (Long Liz), Marjie Lawrence (Dolly), Margaret Rawlings (Madame Bullard); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Aida Young; Carlton Visual Entertainment; 1971-UK)
An overrated glossy Hammer gothic horror tale.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An overrated glossy Hammer gothic horror tale that tries to get the most tension as possible out of its uneven suspense story, as directed by the Hungarian-born London-based Peter Sasdy(“Taste the Blood of Dracula”/”Nothing But The Night”/”Countess Dracula”). It’s based on the short story by Edward Spencer Shew and is poorly written by L.W. Davidson. Off to a good start and offering a good central premise–Jack the Ripper’s daughter growing up to be a sexually repressed psychopathic killer in Victorian London, after watching from her crib daddy brutally stab mom to death. But the thriller soon disintegrates into one bloody killing after another and its moral fiber becomes on shaky grounds. It worsens further, as its lame psychological reasons for the murders try to be explained.

The film opens with Jack the Ripper, in the 1890s, escaping a London mob after killing a prostitute and when in his apartment he kills his wife by knife, with his baby daughter looking on, before she can report hubby to the police. The story picks up years later at a seance in the home of the charlatan medium Mrs. Golding (Dora Bryan), who has taken in the teenage orphan Anna (Angharad Rees), Jack the Ripper’s daughter, to provide voices from the other side during her seance. After the seance Mrs. Golding pimps off Anna to the sleazy Dysart (Derek Godfrey), a young member of Parliament. During Anna’s interaction with Dysart, she gets hypnotized by a piece of jewelry and stabs the venal Mrs. Golding to death with a fireplace poker. Widowed psychiatrist, Dr. Pritchard (Eric Porter), attending the seance, refuses to mention he saw Dysart, a member of Parliament, running from the house after the murder. Thereby the misguided shrink talks the law into letting him keep Anna in his house under his care, arrogantly thinking he can save her and find the cure to stop murders by studying her life. The good doctor, learning from Dysart how Anna killed, wishes to study her using his Freudian knowledge. The foolish Doctor unethically again covers up for Anna after she murders his loyal housekeeper Dolly (Marjie Lawrence), who was taking care of the fragile girl. It leads to an exciting climax, as set in St Paul’s Cathedral.

It was too much to believe that Dr. Pritchard was such a twit that he would not opt to have Anna imprisoned and questioned in a protective setting where she wouldn’t have the opportunity to harm others, and it was insulting to think the filmmakers thought so little of their audience by using such a weak story whose logic can’t hold up to scrutiny.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”