Hands of the Ripper

Production Year: 1971
Release Date: 07/09/2013
Studio: Synapse
Collection Number: 1215

Hammer Studios is a British company that was founded in 1935.  The company found success throughout the years but wouldn't really find it's niche until the mid 50's when a number of horror films were created under the Hammer banner.  Among the films stories featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy were the most successful eventually spiraling off and creating a number of different sequels, this trend would continue onward throughout the 60's.  When the early 70's hit things had changed, their once popular brand of horror wasn't raking in the same amount of cash, and by the mid 80's the company had truly fizzled out.  Hands of the Ripper is regarded as one of the best pictures Hammer had to offer during that last wave of films.  It's as unique as it is violent and for the first time Synapse has given eager horror fans a chance to view it completely uncut with a newly restored high definition transfer.

Anna (Angharad Rees) was just a toddler when she saw her father plant a knife firmly in her mother's gut.  Normally kind of act would be alarming, but when your father is Jack the Ripper murderous activity is the norm.  Fast Forward seventeen years later and the poor girl is now under the care of a "psychic" who pimps her out nightly for a little bit of scratch.  Business is good and Anna does a great job maintaining various parlor tricks to lure in customers, but it's soon discovered anytime she sees a flickering light followed by an intimate embrace her father takes hold of her soul and blood begins to flow.

Seeing an opportunity to help a damaged schizophrenic girl, Dr. John Pritchard (Eric Porter) takes her in and treats her as one of his own.  He doesn't believe this to be a possession but a clear psychological issue and uses Freudian techniques to attempt to diagnose her and solve her mental issues.  He becomes a little too attached as things slowly begin to get worse, the Doctor must question his methods and theories regarding her mental health which now clash with the obvious: That she is possessed by the late Jack The Ripper.

As far as Hammer Horror goes plenty of people are familiar with their many renditions of Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Mummy.  It's a pity a nice little film like Hands of the Ripper is often overlooked.  It takes the interesting (real-life) legend of Jack the Ripper and turns it on it's head using a young woman to channel him and commit further crimes posthumous.  It's an interesting and effective take on the legend all wrapped up in a pre-slasher package.  Also endearing is the doctor-patient relationship this film brings to the table, an odd almost subtle love story between an eager doctor and a damaged young woman.

Synapse's restoration looks marvelous.  There are a lot of blu-ray doubters who feel that older films do not benefit from a high definition transfer.  This is the kind of release that really shows those theories to be rubbish.  The 1971 film benefits from this medium, displaying a great picture quality full of detail and natural color.  There's a distinct grain intact thwarting an examples of DNR or edge enhancement; just the way a release like this should be handled.

A 2.0 Mono track accompanies the film and was handled much like the transfer.  It's clear and all the dialogue audible.  Christopher Gunning's score is prominently displayed in an isolated music/effects track, it's one of the finer musical scores Hammer would ever produce and it's nice to have such an audio track.

The Devil's Bloody Plaything is the main featurette on the disc, a short documentary covering the film while also expanding upon some of Hammer's tribulations during the 70's.  It brings together a handful of actors along with a few Hammer historians and is a brief, but well appreciated watch.  

Also on the disc- Slaughter of the Innocence: The Evolution of Hammer Gore is a short look at the history of some of the companies best gross-out scenes told though various pictures.  An audio file containing the US Television Introduction is next, followed by a trailer, Tv Spots, and another still gallery.

Hands of the Ripper was one of the last great pieces of cinema Hammer films would create.  The company was notorious for the horror outings of the 60's and generally their last wave of films tends to be overlooked.   This is a pity and it's nice that a company like Synapse is willing to give few of these films the treatment they so rightfully deserve.  For horror fans of 70's shock Hands of the Ripper does not let down!