I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that anybody who takes more than a passing interest in serial killers and the like has probably gone through the ‘Jack the Ripper’ phase.

For me it was back in 1988, when a wealth of material made its way into print and onto screen to mark the centenary of the London murders.

I lapped it up then and have done ever since, so when anything comes along that makes a reference to saucy Jack I usually take a gander.

It’s fair to say a lot of the films have been pure tosh (as anyone who has sat through the David Hasselhoff-starring Bridge Across Time will testify), but at least Hammer try something a bit different here.

The hook this time is that it is the daughter of the Whitechapel menace that is carrying on her father’s work – when in a trance of course.

The movie starts in 1888, with a rowdy mob tracking Jack through the streets after one of his murders.

Turns out he is a scarred fellow, who stabs his wife to death in front of young daughter Anna.

Fast forward  15 years and Anna is now an attractive young woman, earning her keep as a dogsbody for a dodgy psychic.

But after Anna skewers the doddery old fool (played by the late Dora Bryan) after being triggered by some flashy jewellery, Dr Pritchard (Eric Porter) takes her under his wing, determined to study her homicidal tendencies.

Naturally he cannot keep a lid on things though, enabling director Peter Sasdy to throw in a splashy murder every 20 minutes or so to keep things ticking over.

The Ripper connection does not actually come to light to the other assorted characters until the final half an hour or so, allowing a frenzied finale at St Paul’s Cathedral that sees plenty more violence.

Porter produces a fine turn as Pritchard, but obviously Angharad Rees (who sadly passed away herself in 2012) is the central focus here in the role of Anna.

She does a decent job of switching between warm emotion and enthusiasm and cold-eyed vacancy, and is also easy on the eye.

Sasdy, who also helmed the likes of Taste The Blood Of Dracula and Countess Dracula, is an assured presence behind the camera, and the pacing holds the audience’s interest throughout.

There is also the usual nice level of Hammer period detail and at 90 minutes the whole thing is a pretty brisk romp.

Hands of the Ripper is not the best Jack flick to hit the screen, but it is certainly an enjoyable watch.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.