Saturday, 7 February 2015

Hands of the Ripper (1971)


For me the most intriguing and interesting period in Hammer Film Productions’ long history is from 1970-76. By this stage Hammer were no longer the despised whipping boys of the critical cognoscenti but were establishment figures. In a remarkable about turn from the late 1950’s they were now the acceptable face of the horror genre in British film culture. But some things are more important than critical acceptance, and one of those things is commercial success. At the turn of the decade Hammer found themselves out of step and out of time, thanks in no small part to the cynical nihilism of hard hitting horror productions such as Witchfinder General (1968) and Night of the Living Dead (1968), and the subtle and nuanced terrors of rigorously modern films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968). The release of controversial films such as Straw Dogs (1971), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Devils (1971), and later horror titles such as The Exorcist (1973) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) would only further dilute Hammer’s horrifying visions. Hammer had little choice but to turn to nudity, increased violence, and scenes of softcore lesbianism, in a series of films which had little to differentiate them from the sexploitation product distributed with seemingly unending regularity in mainland Europe.

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