From Hell
Dir: The Hughes Brothers
Star: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 2001
Format: DVD R1

From Hell is the tale of Jack the Ripper told from the point of view of the Police Inspector Fred Abberline ( Johnny Depp), and from victim Mary Kelly (Heather Graham). Ok for anyone who has heard of this case this description will probably be enough, but for those who haven't here we go. The Jack the Ripper case is possibly the most famous serial killer ever. In Victorian London he went on a killing spree murdering five prostitutes with surgical precision. Many people were suspected of the crime from the royal surgeon to Queen Victoria's son, however no one was ever caught (many now say this was due to the fact the killer was a American visitor who went home). So this is a story that is loosely based on historical facts.

What was this film meant to be, a thriller, a crime drama, a romance, a supernatural horror, I just don't know. What I do know is that it the most unintentionally funny film I've seen this year. So lets have a look at what went wrong.

For a start the film is based on a graphic novel, while I've nothing against this I'm not sure it is the best source material for an historical drama (especially given the wealth of work on this subject matter). The story itself doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Is the point that somehow Jack the Ripper descended into a mental hell, or was he demonically possessed, or that he was actually the devil himself? If this is so it is so badly put across that it no longer works. If it is an historical drama it is so woefully inaccurate as to make it laughable. The biggest problem is that the Jack the Ripper story has already been filmed from Inspector Abberline's point of view in the excellent TV mini series starring Michael Caine, and this version is not only more accurate but is superior in every way.

The next fault is the historical accuracy (basically there isn't any). The biggest problem that faced Victorian London during the industrial revolution was pollution and thus thick pea souper fog \ smog that habitually filled the streets. But not in this film! The air is clear and the weather is mostly fine, apart from the alarming bright red sky in the evening. Next Whitechappel was a poor area with bad sanitation, but again in this movie the streets are wonderfully clean (better than even today) in fact the only way you can see its poor is the rag wearing cleanly washed extras scattered around. I could go on and go but its surface to say this is the poorest example of set dressing and historical research I have ever seen. Anyone who has watched any UK made historical drama will instantly spot how unreal these obvious sets are (it may fool some of our transatlantic friends, but no one over here).

With any illusions ruined by the poorly realised story and terrible historical accuracy don't expect redemption from the cast. Johnny Depp was brilliant in Sleepy Hollow effecting a good English accent. Oh dear, he seems to have visited the Eastenders soap opera school of accents, yes people welcome to comedy cockney accent time (stone the crows, apples and pears, luv a duck guvoner, bloomin' hell Mary Poppins). Apart from this he is far to young for the part, and I know his character is meant to be a drug addict but he appears to be sleepwalking. Heather Graham is not much better with both her accent and some of the worst red hair dye ever making her look rather silly. Thank heavens for Robbie Coltrane who is the only ray of hope for this sorry mess. He out acts every other member of the cast, even Ian Holm's increasing over the top hysterics.

I have mentioned this film is so bad its funny, it is an historical farce from its locations to its ridiculously inaccurate story. On top of this we have inexplicable lesbian whores, machinations of Queen Victoria and the free masons, the totally out of place mandatory love story, and best of all the Elephant Man! (I kid you not). All of this and poor performances from the most of the cast (should that be miscast) plus over fanciful artistic direction and you have a comically poor film. The idea of a historical based supernatural Jack the Ripper story is a good one, but unfortunately this turkey isn't it. It is another prime example of Hollywood taking British history and messing it up. If you want Jack the Ripper watch the Michael Caine version, otherwise just avoid this film. In this film Jack the Ripper may not be from hell, but the script, acting and historical facts certainly are.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Modern film high standard
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Very Good nice spatial effects
Features Main Feature
Commentary with directors, writer, and Robbie Coltrane
20 deleted scenes most of little worth, but just say thanks they didn't use the bizzare china ending.
Features HBO Special :"A View From Hell"
Jack The Ripper - Six Degrees of Separation Interactive documentary
HBO Special A View From Hell
Tour of the set with the directors
Production design featurette
Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder featurette
Graphic novel to film comparison featurette
Verdict Excellent disc set. Shame about the film

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home