As a young girl, Anna is a witness as Jack the Ripper kills her mother - and Jack happens to be her mother. Now, many years later, Anna finds herself under the care of a fake psychic who not only uses her to trick her customers, but Anna is also used for prostitution. Dr. Pritchard doesn't fall for the psychics tricks, and he also sees that what Anna is put through is not right. One night he storms into the house and finds Anna a witness of another murder and decides to help her.
Any use of the word "Ripper" in an older horror, and a period piece especially, will make you think of Jack the Ripper. It's something we've seen done many times before, so it's quite a nice touch when "Hands of the Ripper" bases their story on him but then goes over to a supernatural slasher story of the daughter of Jack the Ripper being possessed by the infamous slasher. I wouldn't know how many Jack the Ripper titles had actually been made in 1971, but I'm pretty sure there were a few, but at least now that I am seeing this for the first time in 2013 it's a great twist on an old story.
As I said, the daughter of the Ripper is possessed by her father after his death. The daughter, Anna, witnesses her father kill her mother as a young girl. Skip a few years and Anna is now being forced into prostitution under the care of a fake psychic, but there is a certain trigger than brings out the... family business... out of her. It's not the most clever idea, but a shiny necklace will do just fine to bring out the ol' Ripper. She ends up killing the psychic one night, and Dr. John Pritchard, a customer of the psychic (who happens to have been keeping an eye on Anna) witnesses this from outside of the house and rushes in. He decides to take Anna under HIS care, which actually doesn't include fucking men for money even though her life thus far has seemed like a throw-out rag doing the rounds. All is well for Anna over at Dr. Pritchard's place, until her murdering side comes out again. Just another crazy bitch with daddy issues, I guess!
Despite my somewhat sarcastic tone in the above text, "Hands of the Ripper" is a good Hammer movie. There are definitely stupid plot points, but when it manages to deliver all the most important elements of a classic Hammer title you can't really complain. It's a believable period piece, it's splashed with atmosphere, the murders are quite brutal for its time and the awesome mustaches are just the cherry on top.
Synapse Films are doing fans of classic horror yet another favor with this release, it's definitely a movie I have wanted to see for obvious reasons and they not only made it possible - it's dual format and they threw in awesome extras. I probably don't have the knowledge of Hammer to really say whether this is a top title of theirs or not, but if you're new and curious then "Hands of the Ripper" and "Twins of Evil" are excellent choices. You'll certainly find some of their strongest contributions to British horror in a movie like this one - it's truly an era we will never get back, but they're strong enough to stand the test of time.