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London, 1888: The East End of London lives in terror following a series of brutal murders of several prostitutes. Investigating the murders is Inspector Abberline, a drug using policeman who has visions which help him solve crimes. Can Abberline stop the murderer the press are calling "Jack the Ripper" before he kills again?
There can be few people who are not aware of Jack the Ripper and over the years, there have been several people who claim to have solved the identity of the infamous serial killer. Fewer, however, have focussed on the police investigation in the affair and, whilst From Hell might sometimes only have a passing familiarity with the known facts, this different approach does at least give the plot a fresh feel.
Unfortunately, there are also times when the plotting which is rather vague and confused. It introduces plenty of the "known" facts from the Jack the Ripper case, as well as throwing its own interpretation on the events and characters. At the same time, it's not meant to be a historical recreation of the Ripper events, so some facts are missed out. This makes it a rather curious film. On the one hand, people who want a faithful recreation of the Ripper murders will be disappointed by all the invented mumbo-jumbo, whilst people who don't want the film to get too bogged down in historical detail will feel frustrated at the film's need to stick to at least some of the facts. Still, at least there's a satisfying resolution which "reveals" the identity of Jack the Ripper and works well within the context of the film itself and with some of the real-world theories about the identity of the killer.
At times, the plot appears to be rather disjointed, leaping around from one element to another without ever really focussing in on any of them. There's little by way of character arcs and plot developments simply seem to happen as and when they are needed, with no real sense of how you got there (the way Heather Graham's prostitute and Johnny Depp's Abberline go from open hostility to deeply in love in a matter of minutes is particularly unconvincing.) You get the sense that the original script was far more layered and complex and that huge chunks had to be taken out of it to make sure it fitted into a 2 hour run-time without any real thought as to the knock-on effects of such drastic cuts.
There's probably an element of truth in this. The film is based on an original comic book by Alan Moore that ran for several issues and presented a very convoluted (and interesting) tale. Much of this complexity is lost in this film adaptation and you get the feeling that the writers plundered the comic book for the elements they liked and ignored anything they thought might confuse the viewer, even if it meant the plot no longer made sense.
From Hell's real strong point is undoubtedly its cast, which features some pretty big names from both sides of the Pond. Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline, Heather Graham as final Ripper victim Mary Kelly, Ian Richardson as police chief Sir Charles Warren, Ian Holm as Sir William Gull, physician to Queen Victoria and Robbie Coltrane are just a few of the familiar faces you will instantly recognise.
The difficulty From Hell appears to have is what to do with all these characters. There are so many big names that the directing Hughes brothers seem to want to give them all a fair crack of the whip, but are unable to do so within the two hour screen time. As such, some are much better developed than others; others get a little lost. Johnny Depp, for example, is his usual reliable self as Inspector Abberline. You might take issue with the historical accuracy of his portrayal of Abberline as a junkie who relies on visions to solve crimes, but it's an interesting performance and one which works well within the context of the film.
Ian Holm is similarly excellent as Sir William Gull, long a favoured suspect for the unsolved murders. As always, Holm brings a carefully balanced performance to the role which leaves you guessing throughout whether he is actually the Ripper. Elsewhere things are not quite so rosy. Robbie Coltrane is good, but is not really given the opportunity to build much of a relationship with Depp (something which shows a lot of promise in their scenes together), whilst the less said about Heather Graham's Dick Van Dyke Cockerny accent, the better.
The film's recreation of historical London is quite compelling. It doesn't rely on lots of shots of famous London landmarks. Instead, it focuses more on the filth, squalor and over-crowding of London's East End. For a Hollywood film, the setting is actually rather accurate and the darkness and misery of the East End helps to create the right atmosphere for the film. True, there are a few times when it suffers from being obviously set-bound, but on the whole the setting adds a lot to the film; the filth and poverty of the East End matching the darkness and corruption that Abberline encounters as he investigates the murders.
What are less convincing are the murders themselves. For a film about the Jack the Ripper killings - a particularly grisly series of events - From Hell is curiously squeamish. Virtually all the murders take place off-screen and even the ones that do happen on-screen are over too quickly and are not the brutal, violent affairs which history recalls befell the poor victims. There's a curious lack of blood elsewhere in the film, too. Even though the film carries an 18 certificate, the mutilated corpses of victims are barely glimpsed and some of the horrific details of the murders (which are, after all, what has given rise their notoriety) quickly glossed over. Indeed, it's hard to see why the film justifies its 18 certificate, and the lack of violence and blood leaves you wondering why Jack the Ripper should have gone down in history as one of the first and most notorious serial killers.
From Hell is not the unmitigated disaster many claimed on first release, neither is it a brilliant film. It is a competent interpretation of the Ripper murders which throws in enough additional elements to stop it becoming another TV Movie of the Week story of the Ripper murders. Mostly saved by a strong cast (particularly Depp and Holm), it's an interesting curiosity, albeit it one you will only want to watch very occasionally.
Director: Albert Hughes & Allen Hughes
Running time: approx. 122 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
RELEASED: 2001, Cert.18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 120 mins
DIRECTOR: Albert Hughes (as The Hughes Brothers)
PRODUCER: Don Murphy
SCREENPLAY: Terry Hayes & Rafael Yglesias
MUSIC: Trevor Jones
Johnny Depp as Det. Inspector Frederick Abberline
Ian Holm as Sir William Gull
Robbie Coltrane as Sgt. Peter Godley
Heather Graham as Mary Kelly
Ian Richardson as Sir Charles Warren
Katrin Cartlidge as Annie Chapman
Lesley Sharp as Kate Eddowes
Susan Lynch as Liz stride
Paul Rhys as Dr. Ferral
FILM ONLY REVIEW
It is 1888, the scene is Whitechapel in East London, and Jack The Ripper is murdering prostitutes.
Inspector Abberline spends most of his spare time spaced out on laudanum and opium, and via his altered state of mind, has visions which come in the form of semi-dreams. These visions are predictive in nature, assisting both him and his partner Sgt. Peter Godley make headway in trying to solve the Jack The Ripper murders.
Meanwhile, a group of prostitutes who each eventually end up as Jack The Ripper's victims, are being harassed by their pimp who is demanding money from them that they don't have.
However and regarding Abberline's and Godley's investigations, not all is straightforward when Abberline falls in love with Mary Kelly, the Ripper's final victim, and a strange under-cover Freemason cult's activities are under close observation.
To learn more, you must watch this rather complicated film yourself.
The opening to From Hell is rather good, as the atmosphere of a dank, dark, dirty, squalid Whitechapel in 1888 is put across pretty well. The only thing I'd take issue with is that I believe the streets would have been dirtier, but everything else has been filmed what I'd imagine to be spot-on.
Onto the prostitutes (from the Victorian era, can we call them hookers? No, I don't think it fits somehow!). A couple of good actresses were chosen, such as Lesley Sharp and the late Katrin Cartlidge, but I don't think this film provided either of them with their best roles. The conversation between all the prostitutes who are friends in the film is probably not authentic to how the real individuals would have carried on back in 1888, yet I doubt very much if in true life in Jack The Ripper's times, his victims would have had any connection with one another aside from walking the streets of Whitechapel late at night, touting their bodies.
Heather Graham wasn't too bad as Mary Kelly, but bearing in mind she was born and had spent the first few years of her life in Ireland (Mary Kelly I mean), there is no trace of an Irish accent there, and I feel it would have been more authentic to convey even just a slight brogue....but Mary Kelly's speech came out as pure East London.
Although it is a refreshing change to see actors portraying people from the East End of London speak in the right accent, a lot of the dialogue which passed between the prostitute friends - Jack The Ripper's victims - wasn't appropriate to the late Victorian era, being more from the late 20th century to date. Surely working class East Londoners would use phrases such as "Oh Lor" or "Cor Lummy" rather than "F*** you!"?
A few things connected to the very little we actually do know about Jack The Ripper are put across falsely in From Hell. Just one of many, is the insinuation that the Ripper was definitely right-handed....if you read a copy of the actual police records noted at the time, it was strongly believed the killer to be left-handed, judging by the angle his knife was used to slash at his victims, plus the L-shaped incision which he always made across and up the abdomen then through the chest to the throat, would have been the work of a left-hander.
Aside from these historic and conversational discrepancies, From Hell is actually quite an interesting film which is otherwise well put together and it is very entertaining to watch. The boredom factor is low, despite the film perhaps being a little too long, and every moment is constructively filled.
It is very sad that this is by no means Johnny Depp's finest hour, and I've seen him take other lead male roles in other films with far more finesse. He seemed out of his comfort zone in From Hell, especially when it came to the way he spoke, but he did act out the scenes where he was zonked out of his head on the laudanum and opiate preparations pretty well.
My favourite actor from the whole cast was Robbie Coltrane as Sgt. Peter Godley, Abberline's partner, assistant and right-hand man. Robbie put quite a lot of energy into this role, and although he didn't come across all that differently to what he did in the TV programme Cracker, he is by far the best of the bunch in From Hell.
There are some bizarre sequences in From Hell which go further and further down some borderline bonkers avenues as the film draws slowly to a close, but they are nonetheless quite well done and very entertaining.
The storyline has so many slings, arrows and offshoots that I found myself becoming seriously confused, yet despite my state of bafflement, very little of the high entertainment value was lost, and I was easily able to watch to the end....OK, not knowing what was supposed to be going on at times, but it somehow didn't really matter.
Without giving anything away, I found the identity of Jack The Ripper in the film to be incredibly far-fetched, yet on the other hand I suppose it must be remembered that From Hell is entirely fictional, merely being a make-believe interpretation of the actual Ripper events....which still to this day remains steeped in unsolved mystery.
Due to the film's topic, there is of course a degree of slasher-ama in From Hell, but as far as any displays of blood, guts and entrails is concerned, it's fairly low key. There are a couple of scenes which might make some of the more squeamish amongst us feel like losing our dinner, but I've seen far, far worse in other films where various arrays of slicing instruments are the tools of the trade.
Overall and in summary, I certainly wouldn't say that From Hell is in any way a brilliant or even a good film, but it does contain at least a little historic authenticity (also don't forget that it equally contains lots of non-authenticity) and it is a gripping, interesting couple of hours' viewing. If you are a Jack The Ripper connoisseur/freak/anorak/geek, you might find From Hell a bit irritating in parts, but as a straightforward Victorian slasher drama it's very entertaining. I think to gain full enjoyment from this film, one must turn a deaf ear to some of the dialogue and to just take the whole production as it stands, a piece of somewhat ludicrous, but very watchable absolute fiction.
At the time of writing, From Hell can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.10 to £9.96
Used: from 13p to £8.23
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
From Hell is another film starring Johnny Depp. It is set in 1888 and Depp plays Inspector Fred Abberline. He is trying to find out who the murderer is when they start to find bodies of London prostitutes on the streets. He becomes attracted to one of the women who's friends are being murdered and the incidents start to become more personal as he is worried she will be the next victim.
This is the story of Jack the Ripper and I thought it was a really good story, better than other stories that I have read or seen in a film as it delved into some of the theories that were going round at the time and made it a really interesting story.
Johnny Depp was brilliant as Fred Abberline, he had his normal weird ways about him, which really came out in the bits where he was taking the drugs and hallucinating and having psychic insights into the murders. I thought he did a good job with the London accent, being born in London myself, he did a better job than one or two of the other actors in the film especially one of the girls who kept changing from posh English voice to cockney and back again in one sentence.
Robbie Coltrane had an unexpected role in the film as Depp's sidekick sergeant. He was also really good in the part and very believable. I liked the way he made his character this big hard Scottish police man but who cared for his friend and Inspector.
The scenery in the film was quite dark and sinister when out in the streets exactly as you would have thought it would have been and you could really imagine what life would have been like back then for the poor folk who lived and worked there.
The main actors in the film were
Johnny Depp - Inspector Abberline
Heather Graham - Mary kelly
Ian Holm - Sir William Gull
Robbie Coltrane - Sergeant Peter Godley
Ian Richardson - Sir Charles Warren
Jason Flemyng - Netley
If you haven't seen this film before I would recommend you give it a try as it is a good story and it keeps you watching till the end of the film.
The film is directed by Alert Hughes and Allen Hughes. It is rated an 18 in the UK and the film lasts for 122 minutes.
London in the 1880 was not a safe place. The street were full of working girls who were threatened by a ruthless man demanding payment from them on a weekly basis and when one of them is murdered the finger of suspicion is pointed at this man. The murder is a strange and brutal one so the expertise of Inspector Fred Abberline is called for.
Inspector Abberline has psychic abilities and he dreams of things which are going to happen or the details of things which have already happened which enables him to solve cases. He is called upon for this specific murder as it was so brutal and vital organs have been taken from the body. Abberline has to try and work out who would do this but when other working girls start to be murdered he has to find out who would have the knowledge and talent to be able to remove the organs in the precise way in which they have been taken.
Will Abberline be able to use his psychic abilities to solve the case of the now named murderer, Jack the Ripper or will London be destined to be run by this notorious murderer and is there a method to his killings?
I really did want to watch this film as it stars a favourite of mine, Johnny Depp but the storyline was not one which I though I would enjoy and I thought it would actually terrify me. I have to say I did manage to get through the whole of the film without having to look away or fast forward parts. I found the storyline and the way it was told to be excellent and very easy to follow.
Johnny Depp took the lead role of Inspector Abberline and he was excellent. He looked the part and I loved how he used his crazy eyes to show us when he was under the influence of drugs so he could get his visions. He really did make his role very believable and interesting. I liked how not much of his past was told to us at the beginning of the film as it made him seem very mysterious. He worked well with all the other actors and actresses in the film and he had a good partnership with Robbie Coultrane who played his Sergeant. Robbie was a surprise actor in this film for me but he too did a great job.
There are a lot of good supporting actors and actresses in this film and I have to say it was nice to see the British playing the majority of the roles. They were all good and there was also a very good mix of characters which gave the film some needed depth and variety.
The film was based in London back in the 1880's and I have to say all of the sets and scenery looked very good and well made. A lot of effort must have been put into making the costumes and props look so good and authentic for the year it was based on. The music was also a very big part of the film as it was what added to the drama and tensions of the murders and the storyline. I enjoyed all of the music in this film and thought that it was all very well composed.
The special effects throughout the film really were excellent. I have to say we did not get to see much of the murders which for me was great but when we got to see the bodies then they all looked very real and gruesome and a lot of effort must have been made with these. The other special effects were all very good and fitted well into the film.
For me I was put off as I though this film would be very brutal and gruesome and I will confess to being a big baby with scary and brutal films but I was comfortably able to watch this, we did not get to see the whole of each murder but we did see the shining of the blade which was used and the rest was left to the imagination which for me was excellent. I do say there are still a few scenes which are stomach turning when we see the bodies and when we do get a glimpse in the hospital where an operation is taking place but if I can manage to watch these then everyone else will as well.
The DVD which I have does contain some bonus features and these are:-
Audio Commentary by the Hughes Brothers
21 Deleted scenes with Optional commentary
I have not watched any of these so I am not able to give comment on them.
The running time of this film is 117 minutes and found this was a great length and the story moved at a good pace from start to finish and I was not loosing interest at any point. The certificate is an 18 and I do agree with this due to the subject matter and some of the scenes which we get. I paid just £3 for this in Tesco and I felt this was a complete bargain. I am defiantly going to recommend this film as it has an excellent cast list, excellent effects and a great story which will keep you guessing if you don't know why the real Ripper was.
I have always been interested in the Jack the Ripper tales, and this was especially heightened after going to the London Dungeons and going round their Jack the Ripper exhibition. I was eagerly anticipating this film, it was about a good subject matter and contained some good actors so as soon as it came out on DVD I rented it from my local shop. I am sad to say I was bitterly disappointed by the film, I am not sure if this is because it actually wasnt a good film or if it is because I had built it up far too much.
From Hell tells the story of the famous Jack the Ripper attacks in Whitehall in 1888. The story starts by following a group of prostitutes whose lives are pretty grim. They think their situations are bad, but they only become worse when their friends start dying one by one.
In comes Johnny Depp as the lead in the police investigations to track down the killer. He falls in love with one of the prostitutes and it becomes a battle against time to save her and find the killer before it all becomes too much.
The storyline is not very strong, I found it weak in parts. Although it was realistically done, and the setting created a believable olden day London, the actual stragnth in the tale was boring and the story dragged on too long. There was very little mystery and suspense created. All the main actresses and actors did great jobs, I think it was just such a popular subject matter that it could have been done in a more scandelous and exciting manner.
From Hell was first released in 2001 based on the very graphic novel by Alan Moore of the same name. Starring Johnny Depp & Heather Graham in the leading role. The film is based around the murders of Jack The Ripper the infamous serial killer who murdered several prostitutes in London, Whitechapel in 1888. This movie follows these prostitutes as they try desperatley to stay alive and the police in the frantic attempt to catch one of the most notorious killers in history. The film runs for around 122 mins and should not be watched by children as there is a lot of violence and scenes of a sexual nature contained in this movie.
What Is This Film About?:
We begin the story in 1888 in one of the poorest, deadliest slum's in London: Whitechapel where the women are forced to walk the streets just to be able to pay for food and somewhere to sleep for an hour a night. Harassed by gangs and threatend by customers Mary Kelly (Graham) and her prostitute friends take solace in the fact that things cant possibly get any worse. But when their friend Martha is found brutally murdered they are drawn into a scandal and with the girls being picked off one by one will they police ever be able to find jack?
The police officer in charge of the case is Fred Abberline (Depp) a brilliant albeit odd man whos phsycic visions often help him solve his cases. After hearing of the brutal dismembering of a prostitute Abberline is called to find the man who calls himself Jack, but during the case it starts to become personal as he finds himself falling in love with Mary Kelly.
But Will He Find Jack Before He Kills His True Love OR Will Jack Finish What He Started When He Came FROM HELL.
What Did I Think Of The Film:
Despite the vast differences between real life events and that of the film, I thought it was very enjoyable. I am a HUGE Johnny Depp fan and thought he was brilliant in this film, dont think that role could have been cast better! I would say avoid this film if you are offended by blood and guts and sex scenes as if you are you will not enjoy this film at all! Brilliant film, go out an but it immediatley if not sooner! (:
From Hell isn't Johnny Depp's finest hour by any means, but it does work as a visual and visceral film, even if it's not really atmospheric enough for a film that should be near enough dripping in tension, given how it is about Jack the Ripper's killing spree in London. The film takes place in 1888, at the height of his infamy, as he murdered prostitutes and then disturbingly desecrated their already savaged corpses.
Based on the graphic novel series by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (the former of who wrote such great works as V For Vendetta and Watchmen), this is quite a pulpy film that focuses more on graphic violence and stylistic flair than it does on being a serious and historically accurate film. It's more style than substance, but what style! Even though it does perhaps deviate too much from the graphic novel to please purists, but it really creates an atmosphere of tension and dread, aided entirely by the lush cinematography.
Also, whilst the performances didn't win any Oscars, they are pretty good - Depp is reliable as usual as Inspector Fred Abberline, a brilliant detective who is aided by strange psychic visions, and Heather Graham also shows previously unexhibited depth as Mary Kelly, a beautiful woman who is being hunted by the Ripper, and with who Abberline falls in love.
Given how Jack the Ripper was never actually identified, the film is able to play with historical license without repercussions - therefore the film is essentially a whodunit, although just as interesting is the depiction of Abberline, who is a deeply troubled man despite his brilliance, played rather well by Depp. It also delivers plenty of gore to satisfy horror fans, whilst also being psychologically complex and having a good feel for the period. It's not high art, but it is unmistakably well made.
This is a review I originally published on Ciao, quite some time ago, so it needed a bit of updating.
Set in the late 19th Century in London this film is based on the well-known story of Jack the Ripper. Prostitutes are terrorised by, besides pimps and gangsters, an unknown killer, who employs violent, sadistic methods to destroy his victims. A particular group of friends that are targeted are struggling to survive as they are attacked, one by one, the attacks becoming increasingly brutal and gruesome. Heather Graham plays Mary Kelly, who, during the investigation of the murders, becomes romantically involved with the Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp), placing a more emotive aspect on his work and increasing his determination to find the killer before he strikes again. Depp sets out to investigate the mysterious murders, but with very little support from a society that treats prostitutes as having no value anyway, it is extremely hard to find answers. He finds himself taking drugs and relying more on psychic-style methods to find out what has been happening to the women and who is responsible.
We, the viewers, however, grow to sympathise with the women as we see them for the human beings they are, simply trying to cope in a troublesome world. Often as they are being slain, there is an element of irony in that there are people nearby, either ignorant of what is happening, because the women cannot scream, or unwilling to help. This adds to the frustration that somehow these women are treated as subordinate outcasts to society and suddenly this is a matter of life and death.
I can't think of a single scene or actor/actress that disappointed me. The point is that this film is based on suspense and passion, both of which featured well throughout. Mostly this was effective for me because I had no idea what was coming next or the full story of Jack the Ripper. Johnny Depp was an excellent detective, clearly torn by the dilemmas facing him and fully concerned by the need to find answers. Each time there is an incident, you feel his sense of failure and despair.
The actresses playing the prostitutes are very realistic in the way they respond to the attacks, doubtful that it would really happen to them and naïve as to their safety. They carry on as 'normal', sharing their problems and having their own arguments and issues. A new French girl is introduced, who brings with her some sort-of lesbian scenes that may have been an easy way to get her in the picture & staying with the girls, I'm not sure, but it was a strange angle to the film. What you think of that you'll have to decide for yourself.
Prague seems to have done well as a setting for a Victorian time London, because I was convinced. The detail of props and costume design was good, although I am doubtful that prostitutes at that time wore the kind of dresses shown, their condition being a bit too good, but then I am no expert. Often the film is very gloomy, which for me is always disappointing, because whilst it does create a more eerie, sinister effect, it is often very hard to see properly what is happening and for me this acts as a distraction. There is a horror effect in not seeing what happens, as it leaves much to the imagination and this is often said to be more frightening. For the most part, any gore is based on description, but more is shown as the film progresses and towards the end there are scenes that those who do not like blood are best advised to look away!
The film is an 18, and rightly so. You don't see much where there are sexual scenes but the gore is full on, and very slowly shown. Although dark scenes, where you may not see all, as I say you might prefer to look away if you are squeamish, and certainly this is not recommended for more sensitive viewers!
Personally I didn't find this film scary as such, but more of a thriller with a historic edge. The story itself will always make such a film attractive because it conjures up fascinating images of what Jack the Ripper might have been like & offers to give us an insight. I have to admit I was particularly keen because it had Johnny Depp in and well, you ladies know what I mean! All in all it was a good, interesting and dramatic film, although I'm in no hurry to watch it again, because I feel once you know what happens it kills the suspense leaving not much to enjoy. Its worth renting, but I probably would not recommend going out to buy it.
Inspector Fred Abberline: 'You're not going to see the twentieth century.'
He is, of course, talking to Jack the Ripper when he finally tracks him down, but sadly before this happens, the Ripper brutally murders over a handful of prostitutes.
From Hell (2001) is a 'suggestion' of what might have happened in the late nineteenth century when Jack the Ripper committed those horrendous crimes. It stars the great Johnny Depp (You know him of course... okay he stared in Edward Scissorhands, Sleep Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Robbie Coltraine (Cracker, Harry Potter) as the major investigators into the crime. Depp is Inspector Fred Abberline, the opium addicted policeman with the 'visions' and Coltraine is his sidekick.
Directed by the Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen), this is one of the many alternative stories to the Ripper legend, this one which all the victims actually know each other. Their friend Ann is married and has a child with a man called Albert, but little do they all know, including Ann herself, that Albert is actually 'Prince' Albert. The government intervene, kidnap Ann and her child and she is gruesomely deemed insane, lobotomised and put into an asylum while the baby is put into an orphanage.
The rest of the gang and then hunted down through Whitechapel and butchered in some pretty horrific ways.
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, this is an interesting look at what 'might' have happened over a hundred years ago. Also horrific is the way in which these people lived in what is not 'that' long ago - woman turning to prostitution just to survive. Pimps hounding then.
Depp and Coltraine investigate the crimes, using Depp's visions and a guide.
If anyone was to ask my how the acting was, then I would have to say that it was good. Depp's cockney accent is fun to hear, and he is his ever-brilliant self. Coltraine is his usually brilliant and the prostitutes are good, notably Heather Graham who plays Mary Kelly as the last on the prostitutes to be killed (or is she? I will say no more...)
Johnny Depp .... Inspector Fred Abberline
Heather Graham .... Mary Kelly
Ian Holm .... Sir William Gull
Robbie Coltrane .... Sergeant Peter Godley
Ian Richardson .... Sir Charles Warren
Screenplay Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias.
This review is also featured on Ciao UK, written by me as Borg...
The film I am about to review is a special favourite of mine not because it is a brilliant film but because part of it is filmed in Hradcany which is the heart of the castle quarter in Prague, it stars Johnny Depp and it is a film loosely based on the story of Jack the Ripper. Is this rendition as gripping as it's predecessor was compelling? Let's take a look.....
From Hell is a re-examination of the infamous and unsolved Jack the Ripper murders in Whitechapel. To this day, he remains the most notorious and enigmatic serial killer in history. Over 100 years after he committed five heinous, ritualistic murders during a ten week span in the Autumn of 1888, creating a frenzied atmosphere of gossip, rumour and terror, our continued fascination with him should not be that surprising when you consider that his legend ushered in a new era of pulp press. Before Jack the Ripper, there were a few hundred newspapers in London. At the height of his murder spree, thousands of additional papers emerged. Jack the Ripper, created in part by the press, became the first tabloid star.
But like Dracula, perhaps no one could imagine the story returning to the screens for the umpteenth time with anything approaching success. And like Dracula, hadn't Jack the Ripper been done to death? So why do a remake?
Directors Allen and Albert Hughes had an affinity for the Ripper story that stemmed from the climate of 1880's East London. The city's vast disparity of wealth produced masses of poor and destitute people, many of whom congregated in the area which the murders took place. The dirty seamy slum was a haven for drug use, prostitution, alcoholism and random street crime.
As with most of their previous inner-city dramas, and in particular their 1993 debut, Menace11 Society, this was a ghetto story. It concerns poverty, violence and corruption, which are themes they like to deal with in their movies. What also intrigued both brothers was the psychology of Jack the Ripper, his behaviour and the hysteria he incited. They also thought that previous accounts of the story were antiseptic and told from the eyes of the prim upper class. They wanted to reveal the story from the perspective of the people who lived in squalor, in the neighbourhood where the terror was inflicted.
Although, it has been said that the film was influenced by Bob Clarke's 1979 Murder by Decree, and following an almost identical trail, From Hell, based on Alan and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel of the same name, the movie offers a different take on the whole thing by primarily focusing on people trying to survive the grimmest of circumstances.
It is the story of five impoverished prostitutes who share a desperate friendship, who are drawn closer together as their ranks are terrorised by a gruesome murderer. They exist by earning a meagre living with their bodies in a society that on the one hand dishonours them, and on the other feeds upon them. Owning virtually nothing of value, they are under threat from the very thing that would steal their only personal possession. And that is life.
Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her friends live on the edge of starvation in a horrible slum. Each day is a struggle. having a place to sleep is a luxury. The only thing that sustains Mary is her dream of returning to Ireland, where she lived as a young girl.
The theme of hardship lies at the heart of one of the establishing scenes in the movie. The women awake after a fitful night's sleep tied together on a bench, which is the only uncomfortable option for those unable to afford a bed. The landlord arrives in the morning to untie the rope and return them to the streets where they must earn money for food and shelter for the coming night. It is a harsh, unrelenting circle of survival. The lives of these women are gruesome and dark. Their day to day existence is always under threat from pimps, violent johns, street criminals, disease and addictions.
In From Hell, the sole authority seemingly concerned with protecting these 'unfortunates', otherwise viewed as expendable, is Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp). But Abberline himself is equally aggrieved. Tormented by unendurable memories, he seeks temporary escape with opium. Like Sherlock Holmes before him who, according to The Seven Per Cent Solution, was addicted to cocaine, it is an addiction that heightens him to the spells of clairvoyance that bring both insight and incapacity.
Abberline has been beaten up by life. He lost his wife and child and relies on self-medication to get through the day. Indeed the Inspector, promoted out of Whitechapel after years of service, once again finds himself assigned to the seedy district to lead the Ripper investigation. Aiding him in his troubled investigation is Sergeant Peter Godley, played by Robbie Coltrane, who first found fame as a comedian before landing his most famous role as television's forensic psychologist, Cracker. Godley is a loyal friend who takes a strong hand in caring for Abberline when influenced from his substance habits. Godley is a straightforward Scottish cop who draws conclusions from concrete evidence such as a blood stained knife and eye witness accounts. He is intrigued by Abberline's intuition and unorthodox methods. It's contrary to Godley's nature, but he accepts Abberline's visions as genuine and he feels compelled to act on them. Godley is the only person in the world that Abberline listens to and respects. Godley keeps him alive, watches over him and is his closest friend.
But as the Whitechapel murders escalate, the two men are thwarted by superiors more interested in sweeping the crimes under the carpet than finding the killer. The sole exception is the renowned Sir William Gull, played by Ian Holm, a physician to the royal family, and a powerful figure to assist the shunned Inspector, who knows the murders are being committed by someone with medical knowledge. Certainly the killer possesses surgical skills beyond those of a butcher or labourer. His killings involve a bizzarre and terrible ritual.
With Gull's guidance, Abberline is able to deduce that the killings were part of a menacing conspiracy involving the Order of the Freemasons, who in turn were acting on behalf of the monarchy itself.
It certainly is an intersting one. From watching the film the idea of the Crown being linked to the Jack the Ripper murders seems to be less far fetched. I think that whether the British monarchy was literally involved in the Ripper murders doesn't diminish the power of the accusation levelled at the ruling class. That the authorities refused to even consider the possibility that the suspect might be wealthy speaks volumes about the Victorian era. Society's ills were viewed exclusively as the fault of the poor and lower class.
I think what the Hughes brothers did was to take a well known mystery, rich with legend and used their imagination to give it an added dimension. This dimension is the relationship that develops between Mary Kelly and Abberline. As the member of a lower class and a prostitute, Mary Kelly was unaccustomed to the company of respectable men, at least when she wasn't working. Distrustful and wary of being used, she initially rebukes Abberline's investigations. Girls working the streets had their guard up. Mary views Abberline as just another guy who wants to use her. His decency and sincerity eventually breaks down her defences and she begins to trust him.
The only problem I had with this dimension is that Heather Graham who played Mary Kelly was implausible as a prostitute. She is not merely the most glamorous but the one with the most access to expensive make up, style and skin care.
Robbie Coltrane was 'himself' as Godley. Entertaining as ever, preparing for his role in Cracker.
I have always admired Ian Holm and thought he was very good as the physician to the toffs. I have always thought there is something a bit daunting about him - I liked him in this.
As for my dear Johnny Depp - what can I say? He looked the part and looked good. His acting was fine but the accent was awful. Some might say, well does it matter? To me, it matters. It was like a cross between a young David Bowie crossed with Anthony Newley and after a while drove me nuts. Thank goodness his cockney accent has improved and he only sounds like David Bowie now in Sweeney Todd.
As for the film - even with naked bodies stretched out dead and alive, barbaric practices extending to the medical theatre, and a brief scientific observation of the 'elephant man', John Merrick, the film still fell short of its promise as far as I was concerned.
Peter Deming did an excellent job on the cinematography and the scenes of 19th century London look realistic enough to me. Or at least I agree with his depiction of the grime, squalor and beautiful haziness created by the never ending fog. I don't really know if it is realistic because I wasn't around but the pictures he paints are what we are led to believe. And I did read somewhere that they tried to film as near as possible to where the crimes were actually committed.
Even if this isn't a top notch film, Jack the Ripper is the perfect nemesis for a movie. The fact that he was never apprehended. It is the mystery of his identity, his daring to commit heinous murders in public places, and his ability to slip back into the night that has intrigued people for more than a century.
Although, original in style, I think it is an average film based on its attributes I mentioned, (in the 1st paragraph) and despite its gothic look, Hammer horror or slasher movie it isn't. It's a movie that doesn't cater to any clear demographic. It isn't really gruesome - more stylish. There is an odd moment of suspense and once or twice I felt a cold chill on my back but it isn't really scary or gory even if the sky at times is red.
Not a brilliant film but worth a watch if only for Depp (not the accent) and the atmospheric cinematography.
Running Time - 122 minutes
Rating UK 18
The two disc DVD consists of a documentary about the case of Jack Ripper which if you are interested in this then it is definitely worth watching. The price is expensive - approximately £8 from Amazon.
*This review will be posted on other sites eventually*
From Hell is a 2001 film directed by The Hughes Brothers. Based on a similarly named graphic novel it is about the Jack the Ripper story from the point of view of the investigating detective Abberline played by Johnny Depp.
The film starts in the seedy White Chapel area of London (I don't know much about London but I do know Whitechapel was one of the crappy brown properties in monopoly.) A small group of prostitute friends are meeting with an old friend who has risen from the slums and is married to a wealthy artist. Things change for the worse for her though, as one evening a group of men led by the head of the special branch take her husband and her away and torture and lobotomise her.
Then we meet Abberline in an opium den being rudely awoken by Robbie Coltrane playing another policeman. A girl from the group of friends has been brutally murdered. Abberline usually has visions about such occurrences but he says it was not this one that he foresaw but another. One by one the girls are picked off. A man in a fine coach always approaches them and lures them in with grapes, then leaves them horribly mutilated and lacking certain organs. Abberline along the way enlists the help of the royal physician played by Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins) and falls in love with one of the girls Mary Kelly (Heather Graham). Abberline gets close to the truth but it's a situation bigger than ever he'd expected
My synopsis of this film is not great. So one more quick summary:
Group of prostitutes - One married to wealthy man but captured and tortured by special branch - others picked off and horribly mutilated - Abberline on the trail - Coltrane tagging along - Abberline befriends one - the mystery...
I really liked it, it is an excellent film and an enjoyable 2 hour watch. First of all what makes it great and what you notice from the outset is all the big scenes of Victorian London. These all looked great and gave the film a great atmosphere. Throughout the film had a very authentic feel to it with the costumes and the scenery. Johnny Depp is great in this film and I think he's a great actor despite having not being in anything good for awhile (one Pirates of the Caribbean sequel too many and that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake was completely uncalled for). He puts on, what I thought was a very convincing London accent and just thoroughly took on the part. Robbie Coltrane is Robbie Coltrane, for some reason I always think Robbie Coltrane is in competition with Robert Carlisle and as I hate Robert Carlisle I like Robbie Coltrane more. The man also doesn't seem to change, if you look at Robbie Coltrane back in The Young Ones in 1982 and Robbie Coltrane now over 20 years later he's just got a little fatter but is otherwise no different. Ian Holm was also excellent, I don't want to say too much about him though for certain reasons. The only thing that annoyed me about this film was Heather Graham' bug eyes. Minty from Eastenders also has a part as the bar man.
The film was brilliantly directed, I haven't seen anything else by the Hughes Brothers but I really liked how this film was made. The killing scenes really stood out as being fantastically executed. One scene in particular has a woman being dragged into darkness and all you see is the flashes of the blade as she is stabbed. It wasn't graphic but it looked brutal and it looked terrifying. They created a dark, grim London but made it look a little realer than what Tim Burton comes up with in his gothic looking settings.
Music to this film is great, all fits in with the mood and feel and the special effects are likewise excellent.
Personally I strongly recommend it. Usually I don't buy DVDs of films that are on TV a lot but as this was only £3 in Tesco and it's such a great film I had to buy it. It takes a more fantastical theory to the Jack the Ripper mystery but one I liked to be perfectly honest. Don't be put off because it's based on a comic. Lately comics and cartoons are apparently becoming something that adults and children can both endulge. To me that's a lot of crap. I don't like comics and I don't watch cartoons but a lot of films based on comics have been great: 300, American Splendour and of course this film.
Also I don't know squat about the Jack the Ripper story so I can't the film to the facts but really who cares the majority of people are watching this as a film not as a historical textbook.
The DVD extras contained were 23 minutes of deleted scenes. None of them were really worth watching. Directors usually delete scenes because they're no good or they don't need them, not because they hate you and want to keep the best of the film for themselves. I think soon directors are going to start deleting scenes just so they can release them on DVD. A lot of them are in black and white for some reason, maybe Abberline was meant to have a lot more visions than in the actual film. Either way there's no way of watching the film with the deleted scenes and as they were they were nothing special to watch (I found it quite boring). There was the option to watch them with commentary from Albert Hughes.
You can also watch this film with commentary from Albert Hughes, the screenwriter, the cinematographer and Robert Coltrane. I tried to watch a bit with this and I flicked through a bit but it was boring. They were all a bit self obsessed and Coltrane didn't seem to be saying much.
I must confess that I actually own the standard edition of this film rather than the special 2 disc edition which contains a series of extras. I have had a look on Amazon to see what the difference is between the two editions and it appears to me that the special edition boasts everything that the original edition does plus extra deleted scenes including an optional alternative ending. Actually, I did think the ending of this film was a little sad and would have liked to see a different one so the special edition is definetely something to consider over the original edition of this film.
From Hell stars Johnny Depp as a police officer in nineteenth century England. The story is basically a Jack the Ripper Conspiracy theory and I realised this just as soon as the year 1888 flashed up on the opening scene and the name "Mary Kelly" was spoken. The great thing about the way in which this conspiracy theory has been spun is that it starts off with a few basic facts and then trails off into something fantastical and original.
Johnny Depp's police officer character is superb as an opium addict with visions about crimes that do not quite add up in this case. Throughout the film, the suspects keep changing and before he knows where he is, the young police officer is in too deep. It turns out as the film progresses that this is no ordinary crime and that there is more than one person involved.
This really was a fascinating film to watch and the ending was not one I could predict from the outset. I liked the gritty, down to earth feel of this film from the perspective of the prostitutes on the streets too. Some of the scenes are a little gory in places but I think the director and producer had excellent taste in choosing where to show gore and where to simply imply it.
The way the film came to an end I found a little sad, although I understood the reasoning behind it. I think the thing to appreciate here is that I obviously really cared about how the film ending which clearly shows how drawn into it all I was. The story unravels quite slowly throughout but despite there being few twists and turns in the plot, there are hundreds of twists and turns in how the plot is unravelled by the police officer on the case and that is what makes this such addictive viewing.
This is a real thriller film for crime fans rather than a horror film though I can see it appealing to a range of film genre fans. It costs £4.98 on Amazon at present for the single disc version and the double disc is available new from Amazon sellers for £22.97.
Johhny Depp stars as a opium addicted police officer in victorian england, hes called in to investigate the murders of some prostitues in englandbuythe infamous Jack the ripper,complications begin when he quickly falls for one of the prostitutes who is fearing for her life and he begins to feel responsible for her and her friends,unaware of what he is becoming envolved in he seeks the advice of a medical doctor who is already involved in this dark sinister plot.
This film is a quality movie ,its very dark and gives a good atmosphere to the film,its attention to detail is remarkable and although the plot is rather fictional the actual set and costumes are very well done,its quite a eerie movie able to keep the suspense dangaling and it is very brutal some times but the story is brilliant and compelling to watch and when its all wrapped up together you have a very good movie that is often overlooked,i highly recomend this film i thourghly enjoyed it and would watch it over and over again.
Before I start I must point out that this review is for the 1 disc edition, but only the 2 disc came up on my search for this so here goes ....
Here is a DVD that has been in my collection for years and years. I bought this from my local rental shop when we first got a DVD player (shortly after we got married) as I wanted to see it but didn't want to spend a lot of money buying the DVD brand new. So buying an ex-rental disc seemed to be the best option. This single disc edition is currently selling on Amazon for around £4.97 but I would recommend that you shop around as it may be possible to buy it cheaper elsewhere.
I found this whilst looking through my DVD collection, wondering what to watch on a night when there was nothing decent on the television. As I had not seen this in quite some time, I thought that I would watch this and (of course) try to write a good review of it for you all!
Run Time = 117 minutes
Languages = English and English for the hearing impaired
Rating = 18
Region = 2 (PAL)
Year of release = 2001
Set in 19th Century England, the film is centred on the fact that Jack the Ripper is terrorising the streets of London.
In those days, the poor lived in slums and led awful lives, full of prostitution and hunger. Many died at the hands of others but Jack the Ripper was different. His murders concentrated on prostitutes from the poorest areas. Many thought that he was insane, given the savage manner in which he killed these women, but there was a precision to the killings that gave rise to the belief that the Ripper was not a madman, but in fact a highly educated man.
Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) is a prostitute living in a poor area of London. When one of her friends is brutally murdered by the Ripper, and another is kidnapped, it seems that her life is in mortal danger.
Inspector Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp) is leading the investigation into these murders and, while he is emotionally troubled, he is still a brillian detective with seemingly psychic abilities. But it seems that these psychic flashes only happen when Abberline has taken opium, a substance that he is highly addicted to.
Abberline and Mary Kelly become quite close as the investigation becomes more intense. But as the intensity grows, so does the danger.
Will they survive? Will they catch Jack the Ripper? What happens?
Sorry - Not telling! If you want to find out, then you will have to watch the film!
Well the only special features on this DVD that I have are Scene Access and Interactive Menus, which are pretty standard on most DVDs nowadays. This is a bit of a let down, but if you really want a lot of special features, then there is a 2 disc edition of this on sale as well.
This is a film that I did not think I would like very much, as historical thrillers are not really my cup of tea. But I loved it! I think a lot of that has to do with the performances from the actors. Ian Holm and Robbie Coltrane also co-star in the film.
Depp's English accent is very believable, but that is not really a surprise, considering the amount of work he puts in to make sure of as much authenticity as possible. Graham's accent is not as believable but is still very good. Considering that they are both Americans, their accents are quite good.
Performance wise - flawless from both of them as far as I am concerned. Depp's portrayal of a brilliant but tortured man, addicted to opium but torn between his job and the love of a woman is superb. There are times in the film when I really felt sad for him, then had to remind myself that I was watching a film! Graham's performance as the common Mary Kelly was quite convincing as well. It is quite obvious that they both put a lot of work into their characters, which made the film very enjoyable for me. Coltrane and Holm both give outstanding performances as well in my own honest opinion.
All in all, I really enjoyed this film and would happily watch it again. As I said earlier, it has been in my collection for a fair few years and will remain there, and will certainly be watched again at some point in the future!
I have no hesitation in giving this the full 5 stars - one of the better films I have watched in the last while.
Thanks for reading and happy watching! Di
Inspector Frederick Abberline would be a successful detective, if only he could stay off the drugs. Luckily, his sergeant, Peter Godley, knows of his habit and does his best to keep him on the straight and narrow. When the Ripper strikes in 1888 killing a series of prostitutes, Godley knows that Abberline is the only man for the job and so drags him out of the nearest opium den. Abberline is immediately interested in the investigation, if only because the murderer, whoever he is, removes organs from the dead women with surgical precision.
Abberline becomes close to Mary Kelly, one of a group of prostitutes who seem to be being targetted by the Ripper. With her help and through a series of part hallucinations, part psychic abilities, Abberline begins to piece the case together. But the murders continue, throwing Whitechapel into a state of vigilantism. Can Abberline track down the Ripper before it is too late? And are the notes he has been receiving, signed 'from hell', really from the Ripper?
Johnny Depp plays Frederick Abberline. As an American, he perhaps should not have been the obvious choice for the role, but he certainly pulls it off with aplomb. His Cockney accent is pretty darn good - certainly a lot better than mine and I live in London. His acting skills, always strong in my opinion, don't let him down either - it is very easy to want to root for him and to empathise when things don't go well. My only problem with him in the role is that there is a touch of the exotic about him and it is difficult to believe by looking at him that he is English. That said, it is proof of his ability as an actor that I didn't dwell on this too much.
Robbie Coltrane is Abberline's sergeant, Godley. He doesn't have that much of a role in the film to be honest, although what he does do is of his usual high quality. I would have liked to see him have more of a role, but I suspect the director didn't want him to overshadow Depp. His accent was a bit dodgy - sometimes he sounded English, sometimes his native Scottish, but it really didn't put me off all that much.
I didn't think much of Heather Graham, who plays Mary Kelly. Apart from looking attractive, albeit with dodgily dyed red hair, she doesn't really add much to the film at all. Her accent, supposed to be a mix of Irish and Cockney I think, is terrible and so off-putting that I found it hard to concentrate on her acting at all. There was no chemistry between her and Depp either. I would have thought that there were British/Irish actresses that would have been much better in the role - a bad choice on the part of the director in my book.
The film is extremely atmospheric and exactly how I imagined foggy London to be in 1888. I don't know if it was actually filmed in London, but it certainly looked as if it could have been. Much of the action took part in the dark, which added to the general spookiness - although at times it was difficult to see what was happening, which was a little distracting.
Adding to the general eeriness of the film is the hallucinations and flash-backs that Abberline experiences. Sometimes these are very confusing, because it isn't clear whether they are visions of things that actually happened, might happen or Abberline thought had happened. At the same time, it really did keep my eyes locked to the screen to find out what was going to happen next. In this regard, the Hughes Brothers who directed the film, did a pretty good job.
People are always critical of films about Jack the Ripper, partly because there are so many of them, partly because there is so much contention about what really happened. I liked the story that this film presented myself. It is one that I have heard before, but there is the added attraction of the group of prostitutes, with whom I felt a great empathy (with the exception of Mary Kelly!), and this human touch improved the film for me.
It has a rating of 18, probably because of the violent nature of the deaths and the drug use. However, we see very little of the actual murders, so it is not as scary as some might think.
This film was not as successful as I think it should have been, especially considering that Johnny Depp stars. It is slightly quirky, which I suppose makes it that bit different from the usual films churned out by Hollywood. This is what makes it a good film for me, but I suppose that others have different opinions. It is not an excellent film by any stretch of the imagination - Heather Graham's presence makes sure of that - but it is one that I come back to time and time again and definitely recommend.
I watched the film only version, but the DVD is available from play.com for £5.99 for a single disc version (no extras) and £17.99 for a two disc version (with extras).
Running time: 122 minutes
Heavy on atmosphere and light on everything else, From Hell is visually impressive while lacking the depth of the acclaimed graphic novel it's based upon. Making their third feature since 1993's Menace II Society, twins Allen and Albert Hughes approach the Jack the Ripper case with physical precision, re-creating the gritty Whitechapel district of 1888 London in meticulous detail. What they've forgotten is the sheer terror that gripped Whitechapel in the wake of the Ripper's slaying of five prostitutes, investigated here by a Scotland Yard sleuth (Johnny Depp) who uses opium, laudanum and absinthe to fuel his semi-prescient visions of the slayings. Heather Graham attempts a slippery Cockney accent as a would-be victim, while Ian Holm steals the show as a has-been surgeon with devilish delusions of grandeur. Violence is obliquely suggested or briefly graphic, but no matter how you cut it, From Hell is only marginally thrilling as it treads familiar territory.--Jeff Shannon On the DVD: From Hell on disc is presented in widescreen 16:9 glory with atmospheric DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 sound options. The animated menus look nice but are more than a little confusing. The 23 deleted scenes, including an alternative ending, are all offered in black and white with commentary and justification for the cuts by Albert Hughes. Film commentary is offered by Albert Hughes, screen writer Rafael Yglesias, cinematographer Peter Deming and Robbie Coltraine. Disc 2 has a wealth of information including a "Victim/Suspect File" which takes you through Jack the Ripper theories from the 19th-century police investigation to modern speculations, including Allen Hughes Elephant Man theory! The Production Notes show the locations in Prague and the "Tour of Whitechapel" is a murder-by-murder set visit with the Hughes brothers. Theres a feature on the original graphic novel; "Absinthe Lovers" offer an insight into the psychedelic drink; and, finally, the HBO special "A View from Hell", with Heather Graham, is standard promotional fare.--Nikki Disney