Hands of the Ripper (1971)

Hammer hit all the monster cues before 1971: vampires, mummies, werewolves, lesbian vampires, you name it. By 1971, it was time for something different. Something that mixed the Hammer sophistication audiences had come to expect with plenty of the gore they now wanted. Peter Sasdy was tapped to direct — you may know him from films like Taste the Blood of Dracula and Countess Dracula. To me, he’ll always be the guy behind the criminally unknown Welcome to Blood City and the criminally awesome The Lonely Lady.

The infant daughter of Jack the Ripper witnesses his last murder, as the killer murders his wife (and her mother, of course) when she catches on to the fact that her husband has blood all over himself and that he’s just returned in the middle of the night from Whitechapel.

Strangely, while we see Jack the Ripper’s face clearly — it’s a mess of syphilis scars — and hear his voice and people recognize him, no one ever says who he is. Ever stranger, the actor who played him has gone uncredited and all Hammer records as to who played him have vanished. Even director Peter Sasdy wouldn’t reveal who it was!

Fifteen years later, his daughter is fully grown and possessed by the spirit of her father, entering into trances where she’ll kill people and not remember what happened afterward. That’s a career danger, as she’s now the adopted daughter of a phony spirit medium and that kind of job requires one to go into said trances. To top it off, the old phony then tries to sell her adopted daughter’s virginity!

But it all works out. After all, a psychiatrist wants to help her and is convinced that he has the cure. Dude, this is a Hammer movie. This isn’t going to end well for anyone!

The second Hammer film about Jack the Ripper (after 1950’s Room to Let), this was paired in America with the superior Twins of Evil, which is probably my favorite vampire movie ever. This is a combination Gothic horror/proto-slasher/giallo/possession film that is pretty much ahead of its time. And hey! Someone gets their eyes put out with knitting needles. So there’s that.

You can watch this with an Amazon Prime subscription.

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