HANDS OF THE RIPPER (1971) Movie Review – The Harrowing House of Hammer

We here at The Paper Masque are no strangers to Hammer Films. Hell, around half of the movie reviews done this year have focused on the output done by the legendary B-movie warehouse. But every now and then, among the studio’s typical stomping ground of vampires, Frankensteins, and supernatural gothic stories, there is a rarer breed of Hammer Horror that will occasionally peek its head out and try something noticeably different.

Such is the case with Hands of the Ripper.

How is this movie different you ask? Well in all fairness, it does have the obvious trappings one might expect from a movie under this category – A murderer, the corruption of an innocent beguiled by a deeply imbedded psychological wound, and on a base level, we also have the same Hammer brand of bright-red blood and gore spurting from the lesser-known, yet competent character actors we’ve come to expect.

Taking all of this into consideration, the question that is becoming more and more present is how is Hands of the Ripper unique from other Hammer Horrors.

The answer lies mainly in the manner in which it is presented and the tone it exudes. As mentioned previously, the mention of Hammer would immediately bring to mind images of Christopher Lee as Dracula or Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein for those in the know, and by and large, these infamous staples in the studio’s cannon were all made by a consistent creative team and, more prominently, by consistent directors.

Image courtesy of veehd.com

Terence Fisher is more than likely the figurehead of Hammer’s film directors among others such as Roy Ward Baker and Freddie Francis. But in many entries from the studio’s classic period, there was certainly a thread of sameness that ran though the work of these film-makers.

Peter Sasdy is not a name that would be as immediately recognizable to devotees, yet along with directing this movie, he did get his feet wet with Taste the Blood of Dracula and Countess Dracula for Hammer previously.
Add in a story with very little-to-no supernatural aspects and a cast that does not include any of Hammer’s trademark actors or actresses, and we’re already looking at an unconventional project.

What is captivating about Hands of the Ripper is that it treads a fine line that often teeters between trashy and artsy. With a storyline that is basically an early example of a period slasher flick counterbalanced with some quite impressive sets and locations along with a commendable array of performances, especially in the case of Eric Porter, the movie is surely one of the better examples of Hammer Horror from a period that is often maligned – and sometimes, rightly so.

Hands of the Ripper is what someone might call a ‘deep cut’ in the Hammer oeuvre. It isn’t anywhere close to being a popular title, nor is it one that is often discussed in documentary material that centers on this genre perhaps because it didn’t go over well upon release, or maybe it was a bit ahead of its time. But for those on the lookout for a Hammer film that takes the risk of treading down an uncharted route, this is one to seek out.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

~ Stephen

Vía Letterboxd – The Paper Masque blog