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From Hell (2001)
Directors: Allen and Albert Hughes

review by Michael Lohr

From Hell is an ambitious take on the Jack-the-Ripper legend and, if you've seen the movie and took the time to read the graphic novel (originally published as a ten-part series in the magazine Taboo), written by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, you know that the Hughes brothers have stayed true to the novel's ending. Although a few liberties have been taken such as the re-casting of Depp's character, Inspector Frederick Abberline, as a widower and opium addict, there has been little deviation from the graphic novel or the original screenplay drafted by Terry Hayes and completed by Rafael Yglesias.
   Like the graphic novel, the movie explores both fact and theory about the legendary Whitechapel murders of 1888. It's a spellbinding, surreal piece of cinematic crime fiction, detailing the course of events leading up to the murders and all the mystery and rumour that still lingers about, like tempting black tentacles waiting in the shadows. The movie focuses on such areas as the cover-up that followed the slayings, and also delves into the supposed shadowy connections of both the royal family and the secretive Order of the Freemasons. It also offers up a speculative exploration of the murderer's identity and the possible connection with the seamier side of Victorian era London's medical research institutions.
   From Hell (the movie's name is taken from the actual return address used by the Ripper) also focuses on Inspector Frederick Abberline's opium-driven dreams and hallucinations, and his obsession with solving the murders. It also vividly portrays the crushing poverty of 1880s' London and the social rift, long established between the classes, that was most prevalent at the time.
   In addition to Depp, From Hell's excellent supporting cast features Heather Graham as Mary Kelly. Ian Holm plays the role of Sir William Gull (replacing Nigel Hawthorne, who fell ill). Ian Richardson plays the role of Sir Charles Warren, and Robbie Coltrane assumes the role of Sergeant Peter Godley. Filming was done in both Prague and London. Late last year, The Times of London had a brief article on the film's sets and the meticulous effort in the period re-creation of Whitechapel. Visually the set is simply stunning.
   Depp is one of the best actors alive today. Every movie he makes, whether it be Sleepy Hollow, The Ninth Gate, or Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, is wildly entertaining and worth the price of admission or the cost of the DVD.
   Though not for children, if you're a Depp fan, or an aficionado of the Ripper case, then I highly recommend this movie.

Related item:
tZ  From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell - review of the graphic novel
From Hell
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