Hands of the Ripper

I never realized how much Peter Sasdy rocks.  If you're like most eremitic cave dwellers, you've never heard of the guy.  Seriously, who isn't familiar with the gentleman who engendered The Stone Tape (a made-for-TV favorite here at RR Inc.) and Taste the Blood of Dracula?  Almost everyone on Earth?  Really?  Well, that's a shame.  Sasdy seems to have had a knack for picking tidy, magnetic scripts.  The pictures I've seen of his share a deft sense of structure and storytelling.  They immediately dry-gulch the viewer with a grapnel, a visceral hook that waylays like soldiers in ambuscade.  I once fucked like soldiers in ambuscade.  It wasn't pretty.  In fact, don't look up "ambuscade."  I've already revealed too much about my thrusting techniques.

God, that was the worst paragraph ever written.  But you came here to brush up on your Hammer knowledge, didn't you?  1971's Hands of the Ripper strikes a euphonious parity between the storied studio's Gothic output and the seedy kitsch of, say, Twins of Evil.  It boasts the best of both worlds.  The death sequences are showy (in a crimson-colored way, natch), and we are treated to...um, the female form.  On the other hand, the cast is positively poised.  Eric Porter is affable and dignified as Dr. Pritchard, a chap who volunteers to take care of a disturbed girl he suspects of murder.  This isn't just any kind of murder, though.  What am I saying?  Sure it is.  Isn't it?  Oh, who cares?

The angelic Anghared Rees plays Anna, the pestered daughter of one Jack the Ripper.  She saw Mommy being offed by Daddy.  That's enough to gall any dreamboat cherub.  There is a bloodlust inherent in her stare, and it can be triggered by specific stimuli (lambent jewelry, a peck on the cheek).  She becomes "possessed" by her father's spirit.  That probably constitutes a spoiler, but it's obvious that Anna is the killer from the get-go.  The entertainment value is mined from proper character development and the suspense generated by a virile, healthy third act.  Granted, said suspense could not exist without glaringly stupid decisions made by our trusted protagonist.

It takes Dr. Pritchard an awfully long time to put two and two together.  Maybe I'm dense, but I was nonplussed by the cathedral bit.  How can Anna hear Laura's whispering?  I couldn't tell where the actors were standing in relation to one another, which might be the only denigration I can direct at Sasdy's camerawork.  Get it?  Direct?  It's a pun, bitch!  Woo-hoo!  In all relative seriousness, Hands of the Ripper is a prizewinner.  The pace is methodical, the leads are sturdy and the foul play is appropriately brutal.  I'd put this stalk-and-slash vehicle up there with other Ripper romps such as From Hell and Bob Clark's Murder by Decree.  Robert Z'Dar says, "Guess it's back to work for me.  I demand a raise."

No comments:

Post a Comment