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Who is Jack The Ripper?
From Hell (DVD)
Member Name: GentleGenius
From Hell (DVD)
Date: 18/03/12, updated on 18/03/12 (62 review reads)
Advantages: Good production/direction, interesting viewing, authentic scenery
Disadvantages: Bad acting, plot too complicated, a few incorrect historic facts, too long
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 ~~
Summary: An entertaining effort, but with lots of glaring faults