HANDS OF THE RIPPER. (1971) A HAMMER FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HANDS OF THE RIPPER. (1971) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION. BASED ON A SHORT STORY BY EDWARD SPENCER SHEW. DIRECTED BY PETER SASDY.

STARRING ANGHARAD REES, ERIC PORTER, DORA BRYAN, JANE MERROW, KEITH BELL, DEREK GODFREY, MARJORIE RHODES, MARJIE LAWRENCE AND LYNDA BARON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is Hammer Horror’s contribution to the massive canon of Jack the Ripper films. Although Jack the Ripper was a real person who, in the year 1888, during the so-called ‘Autumn of Terror,’ murdered and mutilated five unfortunate prostitutes in London’s Whitechapel area, he has long since passed into legend and is fictionalised as often as Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and Sherlock Holmes.

Hammer’s HANDS OF THE RIPPER has all the sumptuous costumes and sets, rich autumnal colours (apt!) and solid performances that you’d expect from a Hammer period horror film. The women’s costumes, in particular, are gloriously flattering and their big feathery hats are the most sublime confections the world of millinery has to offer.

Even the prostitutes, the raddled whores of Whitechapel, are all played by Hammer beauties and are therefore lovely to look at, even if their Cockney accents have to sound like Foghorn Leghorn caught in a blender. Also, the plot has a few holes in it, to be sure, but what are a few holes between friends…? Let’s not be picky here, lol.

Angharad Rees plays Anna the heroine, if you can call her that, given that she’s actually the villain here as well. When she was a child in her cot, she witnessed the horrific murder of her mother by her father, who was harbouring the biggest and bloodiest secret of the era in his murderous bosom.

Now, the pretty blonde Anna is all grown up and living with an unscrupulous foster mother called Mrs. Golding, who assuredly knows a good money-making opportunity when she sees it. She pimps out the virginal-looking girl to wealthy gentlemen and forces Anna to collude with her in the phoney sėances she regularly holds.

When the self-serving Mrs. Golding is found savagely murdered after one such instance of ‘communing with the spirits’ and the petite little Anna is the chief suspect, she is rescued from the horrors of prison by a rich doctor of the mind, rather than the body, a chap called John Pritchard.

Convinced that Anna carried out the horrific killing while under the influence of her dead murderer of a father, Dr. Pritchard, a fan of Sigmund Freud’s, is determined to ‘study’ her and see how the world of psychiatry can benefit by such a study.

We don’t study our murderers enough, he complains, because we’re too quick to slap a rope around their necks. To this end, and totally convinced that his motives are pure and only for the betterment of people’s knowledge of medicine, he brings a bemused Anna home to his luxurious town house and immediately installs her in his dead wife’s bedroom and dresses her in his dead wife’s fabulous gowns. Hmmmmm.

In the first place, I put it to you that Dr. Pritchard is motivated as much by lust as by ‘learning.’ Would he be doing all this if Anna was a syphilis-ridden old hag, with black teeth and sagging tits? I doubt it very much. And he certainly wouldn’t be putting her in his wife’s pristine and beautifully preserved bedchamber.

And, what was really strange, Dr. Pritchard’s posh toff son Michael and his elegant and gracious bride-to-be, Laura, don’t seem to have any problem at all with their father bringing a scruffy little street urchin into their palatial home and into his beloved mother’s bed, of all places, and giving her the run of his dead mother’s wardrobe and jewellery.

Instead, they smile, stick out their hands and say: ‘Welcome to the family, Anna…!’ Grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre, unprecedented, or gubu, as we used to say here in Ireland in the ‘Eighties, during one of our less successful periods of government. Honestly, some countries shouldn’t be trusted with the job of governing themselves, lol.

Another person’s reaction to Anna’s sudden installation as the new lady of the house that I find deeply suspect is Dolly, the maid’s. Played by Marjie Lawrence (I, MONSTER, with Christopher Lee), Dolly seems absolutely thrilled to have a tousle-haired little nobody like Anna foisted on her as her new mistress without warning.

She doesn’t seem to say to herself, why wasn’t I elevated suddenly to the status of lady of the house, especially as I was here first? Why should this common little nobody be promoted to status and wealth in this house over me? My tits are as good as ‘ers, any day of the bloomin’ week, and if it’s sex he wants, well, I can give him that, I’ve been pleasing men in that way since I were a young ‘un, he only has to ask!’

Instead, she delights in bathing the new little cuckoo in the nest and dressing her up in her former mistress’s frills and furbelows, calling her a little doll and revelling in her improved appearance. This script was clearly written by a man. A man who surely doesn’t know women…!

Anyway, Dr. Pritchard’s lust for his charge seems to be blinding him to the irresponsible behaviour he himself is exhibiting by allowing Anna, a suspected murderer, to live in his house with himself, his son, his son’s blind fiancėe Laura, the maid Dolly and the elderly housekeeper Mrs. Bryant, who’s probably been with the doctor’s family since the doctor himself was a lad. Frankly, he’s putting his entire household at risk, in a way that he wouldn’t be if his ‘subject’ were a good deal less charming and attractive and dwelling in a locked room in the asylum.

All it takes is a simple kiss and a flash of glittering light, such as that made by a jewelled brooch or necklace, and the emotionally disturbed Anna is ‘triggered’ into another psychotic episode, one that leaves blood on her hands and not a trace in the world on her heart or memory.

Just like some of us aren’t ourselves when we’re hungry, Anna is not herself when she is possessed by the soul of her evil killer of a father. Although, when did he die, and did anyone even mention that he was dead? Was he killed by the angry mob that was pursuing him on the night he slaughtered his wife?

Well, even if he wasn’t, who else would be possessing Anna and driving her to kill? I told you there were a few plotholes, didn’t I, but they don’t really affect the overall pleasing experience of viewing this gorgeous Hammer offering.

PS, I loved the scene set in the Whispering Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and also the inspired casting of Lynda Baron, aka, the busty Nurse Gladys Emmanuel from OPEN ALL HOURS with Ronnie Barker, as Long Liz, one of the prostitutes murdered by Jack the Ripper.

She’s just perfect as the tart with a heart as big as all outdoors. But, if Long Liz was killed by old Saucy Jack, how come she’s still alive fifteen years later and still working her patch? Ah, who cares? Her magnificent bosoms say more than tight, foolproof plotting ever could…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nothing night lads

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. (1973) DIRECTED BY PETER SASDY. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. SCREENPLAY BY BRIAN HAYLES. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, DIANA DORS, GEORGIA BROWN, GWYNETH STRONG AND KEITH BARRON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an odd little curiosity of a film which I was thrilled to discover recently on DVD. It stars two of Britain’s most iconic horror stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, as well as the ravishing Diana Dors, one of that country’s most beautiful actresses ever.

I would have given the film a different title, as I’m not sure exactly what ‘Nothing But The Night’ refers to and it sounds a bit wishy-washy. Maybe it’s part of a quotation or something. Even something like ‘Island Of Terror’ or ‘Island Of Horror’ might have been a slight improvement. Weak as both suggested alternatives undoubtedly are, at least you’d know from the off what kind of film you were dealing with.

It starts off with a group of annoying schoolchildren on a bus. Was it their screechy rendition of ‘Ten Green Bottles Standing On A Wall’ that caused the bus driver to crash the bus and kill himself? Whatever it was, the bus driver is dead and the lead child, a girl called Mary, is hospitalised.

A doctor called Peter Haynes decides that she’s suffering from repressed trauma because she has repeated nightmares about fire. He enlists Peter Cushing, as his supervisor and the head pathologist of the hospital Dr. Mark Ashley, to help him get to the bottom of it. What can a pathologist do to help? Well, if Mary dies in a fire, I suppose he can perform the autopsy, lol.

Christopher Lee as a retired copper called Colonel Bingham then asks his friend Mark Ashley- yes, our pathologist- for help as well, because a good chum of his has died and Colonel Bingham suspects foul play. The chum who died was a Trustee of the Van Traylen Foundation, a foundation which runs an orphanage in Scotland, and three Trustees in all are dead by now in mysterious circumstances. That’s well suspicious, obviously.

By an incredible coincidence, Mary Valley, the fire girl (played by Gwyneth Strong, aka Rodney’s bird from ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES), is one of the Trustees’ orphans. Also, there were three more Trustees aboard the bus that crashed. Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.

Dr. Haynes is convinced that there’s more to Mary’s case than meets the eye. He gets involved with a sexy, supercilious reporter lady called Joan Foster, who thinks she knows it all and who is trying to re-unite Mary with her birth mother Anna Harb, and therein hangs an interesting tale. Could there be a story in it for Joan?

Played by Diana Dors in a messy red wig, Anna Harb is portrayed as a crude, common-as-muck ex-prostitute who spent ten years in Broadmoor and had Mary taken away from her for working as a prostitute while the child was in her care. That seems unfair, as clearly Anna Harb was only doing it so that she and Mary could eat, but whatever. The state (in most countries) has always been unfair to women.

Now Anna wants her child back but the Trustees are determined that this won’t happen. They whisk Mary from the hospital off to the island on which their orphanage is situated, leaving poor distraught Anna Harb with no choice but to follow her daughter to the island in secret.

Sir Mark and Colonel Bingham head to the island also, to investigate the deaths (suicides or murders?) of the three former Trustees. They are accompanied by Inspector Cameron, well played by Fulton Mackay (one of the stars of the sitcom PORRIDGE) with his brilliant Scottish accent.

What they discover on this isolated island would put you in mind of poor old Sergeant Neil Howie coming to Summerisle to investigate what he thinks is the case of a missing child in the 1973 mystery film THE WICKER MAN. What he discovers there is the stuff of nightmares, and Christopher Lee as the arrogant and aristocratic Lord Summerisle is the puppet-master expertly pulling the strings behind the nightmare.

Now the boot is on the other foot for Christopher Lee. Here, as the terribly English and upper-crust ex-copper Colonel Bingham, he experiences first-hand the terrors that the island holds for strangers and outsiders such as himself, while his chum Sir Mark unravels scientifically the exact truth behind what has been happening here on the mysterious island.

There’s at least one very gruesome death in the film, as well as a rather spectacular end scene involving Christopher Lee which, without giving anything away, made me want to yell at the screen: ‘Come on Chris, you’re Dracula, you’re Saruman, kick their asses! Knock ’em down! Flatten the little bastards! Are you gonna let them tread all over you like that?’ It felt rather demeaning to see him lying in the mud like that, but he was clearly overpowered, lol.

He looks so handsome too in his lovely hound’s-tooth jacket and beige overcoat (probably both his own), with that furry caterpillar of a moustache clamped to his upper lip for dear life. I prefer him without the moustache but it does make him look even more distinguished than usual. He’s more than manly enough to carry it off.

Peter Cushing looks and sounds immaculate here, as always, and the two leading men are so natural and easy with each other that it’s not at all hard to picture them being friends with each other in real life, two good mates who worked together and genuinely liked and respected each other. God bless ’em both. They were magnificent. Hope they’re resting in peace together now, the pair of ’em.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor