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The Great British Toon Movie Guide

 
         From Hell - US advance movie poster


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From Hell      (2001)
  
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producers: 20th Century Fox
     directors: The Hughes Brothers
       starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham
                     Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane
     run time: 122 mins

 

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     "You think you know terror, but you don't know Jack!"
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   London 1888, and Jack the Ripper stalks the grim streets of Whitechapel. The
   villain is carving his way through a series of prostitutes, his identity unknown, but
   his hideous crimes on show for the world to see and react to with horror. But
   Inspector Fred Abberline has a theory. Abberline is addicted to opium and
   absinthe which give him prophetic dreams, and he's made a connection between
   the killings - a connection that reaches to the very echelons of British society.
   Abberline has also fallen for the charms of Mary Kelly, one of the prostitutes on
   the Rippers list of intended victims. Now the race is on to get Mary to safety
   and stop the Ripper's grizzly killing spree...

   Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel comes to the big screen,
   courtesy of the Hughes Brothers ("Menace 2 Society"). Or at least, that's how
   it's billed. But in reality, this particular film shares very little with its source
   material, bar the title. The original story was "a melodrama in sixteen parts"
   published between 1991 and 1998 subsequently combined into one weighty.
   
volume. It remains an extraordinary, accomplished work, a study piece in
   which we chart the depths of depravity inside the mind of the Ripper.
It's
   meticulous in its historical detail and research.
And it's graphic in every
   sense,
a bloody and depraved ride, with horrific depictions and sexual
   encounters laid bare.

   
   Given the huge difference between book and film, it's probably best to
   look at the movie as a stand-alone creation. And taken from that point of
   view, it h'actually has much to recommend. Olde London has been reproduced
   on screen in all its grim glory. It's filthy in look and crude in language, just like
   it should be, and the murder scenes have been reconstructed in minutiae.
   The casting is excellent too, bar the occasional "cock-a-ney" accent. The
   camera prowls the squalor, and Abberline's dreams (a new addition) are presented
   as virulent green-tinted vignettes - akin at times to those first flickering Victorian
   film reels that were about to emerge. But for all its atmosphere and intent, the
   movie still doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. Its bloody heart has been
   cut out. You see, by switching focus to Inspector Abberline, we've lost that
   psychological chill.Instead of focusing on the Ripper's descent to Hell, we
   find ourselves watching an all-too familiar whodunit, lacking in suspense,
   which simply asks the age-old questions (Who was the Ripper, and why
   were his crimes so perverted?).

 
   It's a crying shame, because there really is much to admire about this film.
   It's bloodier and darker than we've seen on film before, and there are
   moments - like the first alleyway death, with the Ripper's bloody knife 
   slash, slash, slashing again - which positively drip with menace. This is
   great grim stuff, but - oh - what a missed opportunity...

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     To avoid a restrictive NC-17 rating in the USA, the reconstruction of the
       the death of Mary Kelly's roommate Ada was toned down considerably.
       In reality, this was a particularly gruesome murder - probably too gruesome
       for the popcorn stomachs of Middle America. However all the other murders
       depicted in the film remain faithful to the case notes and photo evidence...

   
• The original "From Hell" series ran in ten issues, published between 1991 and
      1992. In 1998 the story was concluded with an epilogue entitled "From Hell:
      Dance of the Gullcatchers"...
   

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     From Hell on DVD

     UK DVD 

    
From Hell: special edition
     Region 2 / two discs / 2
0th Century Fox / October 2002

    
From Hell: regular edition
     Region 1 /single disc /
20th Century Fox / October 2002

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       directors:          Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
       producers:      Jane Hamsher, Don Murphy
       exec prods:     Thomas M Hammel,  Amy Robinson,
                             Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
       screenplay:     Terry Hayes, Rafael Yglesias
                             from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel   
       music:             Trevor Jones
       cinematog:      Peter Deming
       film editing:     George Bowers, Dan Lebental
       prod design:     Martin Childs
       art director:     Jindra Koci
       set decor:        Jill Quertier
       costume des:   Kym Barrett
       starring:          Johnny Depp (Insp. Fred Abberline)
                              Heather Graham (Mary Kelly)
                              Ian Holm (Sir William Gull)
                              Robbie Coltrane (Sgt. Peter Godley)
                              Ian Richardson (Sir Charles Warren)
                              Jason Flemyng (Netley, the Coachman)
                              Katrin Cartlidge (Dark Annie Chapman)
                              Terence Harvey (Ben Kidney)
                              Susan Lynch (Liz Stride)
                              Paul Rhys (Dr. Ferral)
                              Lesley Sharp (Kate Eddowes)
                              Estelle Skornik (Ada)
                              Nicholas McGaughey (Officer Bolt)
                              Annabelle Apsion (Polly)
                              Joanna Page (Ann Crook)
                              Mark Dexter (Albert Sickert/Prince Edward)
                              Danny Midwinter (Constable Withers)
                              Samantha Spiro (Martha Tabram)
                              David Schofield (McQueen)
                              Bryon Fear (Robert Best)
                              Peter Eyre (Lord Hallsham)
                              Sophia Myles (Victoria Abberline)


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      On the web


     From Hell

      The official film site...

      Alan Moore Fan Site
      News, previews, a bibliography and - um - lots 'moore' besides...


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