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From Hell
From Hell (Soundtrack)
From Hell (Paperback Comicbook)

From Hell Review

Directed By: Albert & Allen Hughes
Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm and Robbie Coltrane.

Take this review with a grain of salt. It's a little slanted, as I suppose all reviews are being one person's personal opinion and all. This is, when it comes down to it, a good enough movie, but not the movie I had really hoped for.

See, I am a Jack the Ripper buff going way back into my grade school years. I found the Whitechapel story fascinating, if not horribly nasty and gory…which, the truth be told, may have been part of its appeal. Fog, dimly lit alleyways and a crazed though educated man prowling the darkness with a kit of knives and instruments in which to carry out his 'operations'.

In 1988, a full one hundred years after the even there was a four-hour mini series starring Michael Caine covering the events, which took place. I haven't seen it since but at the time was left feeling that this was the best version of the tale I have ever seen, and after viewing From Hell, remains that way.

Jack The Ripper took five lives, each becoming more brutal than the last save for one unfortunate whom the Ripper couldn't finish his work with so many people coming along.

Many versions of the story exist, from supernatural to serial killer and in this version they decided to go with another popular theory, one of secret organizations, royal intrigue and the lot. What disappoints is the potential here. The Hughes Brothers have a great flair for visuals, and being that From Hell is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore one might expect a dynamic look at the London of 1888. There are moments where they show their style, from blurring of time passing with a street investigation showing cops and the like scurrying everywhere to the best device, a series of steps into the Ripper's coach that snap into place creating a few jumps and a way of differentiating his coach from all the others.

Johnny Depp has become one of the greats. He gives a carefully thought out performance and never steps into theatrics but here he is good…but again, I cannot help but compare his Inspector Abilene to that of Michael Caine's who had a chance to show a good deal more emotion. Here Depp is muted and only flares up when driven to that point.

However, Robbie Coltrane as his assistant is an interesting companion and makes up for what Depp leaves us wanting. A good balance character if nothing else.

Truth is, if I had never seen anything about The Ripper case or missed the Caine version so many years ago then I may have more praise for this film, so it is unfair to the film. I still feel it was an interesting watch; I just had a hard time swallowing some of the leaps they wanted me to take with them.

Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul

DVD Information:

Special Features:
Full-Length Commentary by Directors Albert and Allen Hughes, Screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, Cinematographer Peter Deming and Actor Robbie Coltrane
Alternate Ending and Over 20 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Albert Hughes
Disc Two:
'Jack the Ripper: 6 Degrees of Separation' Interactive Investigation
'A View From Hell' HBO Featurette Hosted by Heather Graham
'Tour of the Murder Sites' Hosted by the Hughes Brothers
Behind-the-Scenes Featurette Hosted by Production Designer Martin Childs
'Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder' Featurette
Graphic Novel-to-Film Comparison
Original Theatrical Trailer
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 (Anamorphic)
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 [CC]
SPANISH: Dolby Digital Surround
FRENCH: Dolby Digital Surround

The DVD Review:
This is a fantastic DVD package. From Hell is one of the best offerings to come out in a long time. You can tell just from the interactive menus, that a lot of time and effort went into this project. I'll break it down for you, disc-by-disc, section-by-section.

Disc one includes an audio commentary reel with the directors Allen & Albert Hughes, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, cinematographer Peter Deming and co-star Robbie Coltrane. The number of different perspectives given by the wide range of commentary contributors provides a very insightful experience. One of the Hughes Brothers made a very interesting observation about audio commentaries not only being good for the general public, but also as a learning tool for young filmmakers. Disc one also has about twenty deleted scenes with optional commentary, including an alternate ending.

Disc two is where you can really get lost. First, there is a documentary entitled '6 Degrees of Separation', which investigates the parade of Ripper suspects that have been brought up over the last century. It has an interactive feature where if you press your remote when a magnifying glass appears on the screen, (it is similar to the Green Fairy option on the spectacular Moulin Rouge DVD) you are transported to different excerpts of another documentary called 'Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution.' This was a documentary produced in 1980 and consists of an interview with a man named Stephen Knight. This man wrote the book that inspired Alan Moore's graphic novel From Hell from which, in turn, the film was based. This documentary can also be viewed in its entirety, inside a very cool (and sometimes elusive) Easter egg, one of the many in this package.

There is an incredible featurette about the production design and how the streets of Whitechapel were built literally from scratch.

Seriously, the attention to detail that the Hughes brothers insisted on is staggering. Next, there is a featurette on how the graphic novel was converted to the screen, with Allen and Albert Hughes literally holding up the book and pointing out specific parts.

'Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder', coincidentally another parallel to Moulin Rouge, is a small featurette featuring information about the substance from interviews with both historians and users. It is a little bit of a snoozer, but people interested in the history may find it appealing. The Hughes brothers also treat you to a 'Tour of the Murder Sites'. Moving through the set built for the film, they walk you though all five murders. The line about 'whores' is classic.

Rounding out the featurettes is 'A View From Hell'. This is HBO's entry on the making of the film and is hosted by Heather Graham. This is a lot more polished obviously and makes for some flash, for the previous ones were largely academic in nature. And of course, what respectable DVD would be complete without the requisite theatrical trailer.

Even with all this evidence, the Ripper murders will forever remain a mystery. Stephen Knight seems so sure of himself in his documentary, yet in the other one, his claims are dismissed as 'nonsense'. One person's theory is always contradicted by the next person's theory. Aaron Kosminski, who I personally think is the most likely person to have been Jack the Ripper, was discounted in both.

Anyway you slice it (pardon the pun, I can hear your groans from here) this is a great DVD package. The job the Hughes Brothers and company have done is exemplary and the more you watch, the more you appreciate it. Their attention to detail really shows how much they cared about this project. Even if you are not a casual Ripperologist like myself, this DVD still deserves a look so you can see for yourself what I'm talking about.

Copyright© Written By: Tom Servo

Evil Ash

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