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Friday, August 2, 2013

Hands of the Ripper (1971) (Synapse Films' Blu-ray Review)

I’m new to Hands of the Ripper which is to say that prior to seeing this release I was aware of the film, but had never had the opportunity to watch it. I am a fan of most things Hammer. That includes The Snorkel (if you don’t know what I’m talking about then you can try and pick it up cheap as a part of a multi-movie collection). I also happen to be a fan of that extra red blood used in most Hammer features, but have a preference for the Universal Monster inspired films and their sequels. Sure I love The Gorgon, The Reptile and The Devil Rides Out, but those are monster or demon pictures. How does a movie about Jack the Ripper or Jack the Ripper’s ghost or a girl possessed by Jack the Ripper stand up to the films that Hammer is known for?

Synopsis (from Synapse/DiabolikDVD):

An infant girl watches in horror as her father, the infamous “Jack the Ripper” , brutally murders her mother. Years later, young Anna (Angharad Rees0 is now under the care of a fake psychic and has been forced into prostitution. At the end of a séance one evening a woman mysteriously killed. Dr. John Pritchard (Eric Porter) suspects Anna is the murderer but cannot understand how she could do this unspeakable act. Using new Freudian psychoanalysis techniques, Pritchard experiments on Anna and discovers a shocking secret. The spirit of “The Ripper” is alive and well and may be possessing his own daughter. Can this evil be stopped before it’s too late?

Not From the Synapse Release

It’s not Curse of Frankenstein. It’s not Dracula. What you get from this release is a blood fest in all it’s early 70’s Crayola glory (think H.G. Lewis without the guts). That’s not exactly a bad thing though. It’s just different than I’m used to. It is a Hammer film through and through with the same production value as films of its age that doesn’t quite have the same proficiency for taking off lady’s clothes but is certainly naughty in subject matter. This isn’t late Hammer that precludes the 80’s Hammer’s House of Horrors that has a different look and feel from the rest of the Hammer films (toward they end it seemed Hammer was trying to reclaim the style that made Amicus great and not its own identity). It might be best to compare it to films of the mid to late Hammer cycle and perhaps films by the same director. Check out Taste the Blood of Dracula and Countess Dracula if you enjoy Hands of the Ripper in look and storytelling. Peter Sasday has a style all his own completely different than a Freddie Francies or Terence Fisher. You like the Karnstein trilogy? This is a good movie for you to branch off into non-vamp Hammer fare.

The quality of this disc is great. Synapse Films generally doesn’t put out a bad release or at least I have never seen a bad Blu-ray release. I cannosft speak to the quality difference between this and other releases of Hands of the Ripper because this is my first time putting them on to see how the fit me. I don’t think you’ll take issue. I didn’t notice any flaws, audio good, menus good. As a special feature you get a brief featurette about the background behind Hands of the Ripper including some of what was cut from a the US release. The still gallery feature on the evolution of Hammer gore didn’t really grab me as I’m familiar with most of their blood lettings. This will be excellent for the new fan to Hammer horror looking for some new pics to explore.

Synapse Films has been getting their hands on some terrific Hammer releases as of late and doing them justice. The Hammer House of Horror was a complete edition with all the extras you could possible have on a disc from a series that didn’t exactly change television. Their release of the Twins of Evil is stunning and helped me explore the rest of the Karnstein trilogy. Fans of Hammer, this is a must pick up disc. Newbies, it’s a solid movie that represents what was good about the studio, competent and fun but don’t go in expecting Peter Cushing and Chris Lee to battle it out.

You can order Hands of the Ripper through DiabolikDVD HERE or stop by Synapse Films and enjoy the entire catalog including their Hammer features HERE.

-Dr. TERROR

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