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From Hell

From Hell on DVD

If you want to see an example of a great-looking movie, look no further.

From Hell, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, is about one of the most famous serial killers of all time, Jack the Ripper. Though the movie itself is not overly spectacular, the look and feel of the film more than make up for it.

Johnny Depp stars as Inspector Abberline, an opium-smoking man who has psychic visions of Jack's victims. He's determined to find the killer before he slaughters any more women.

Heather Graham co-stars as Mary Kelly, the woman Abberline is trying to save.

It's hard to discuss the plot of From Hell, since it's really just about Jack the Ripper. Abberline is trying to catch him before he kills Mary Kelly, and there it is.

First, let's talk about the flaws. A major flaw, and one which many films have made, is the casting of Heather Graham. Not only does she lack any acting talent whatsoever, but her beauty is out of place. Every other woman in the movie is entirely unattractive, so it doesn't look right to have one beauty in the lot. I realize she's the female lead and we're supposed to have sympathy for her, but if it weren't Heather Graham it wouldn't have been as bad…

Another flaw is the fact that Abberline is an opium smoker. When I saw the movie in the theatre, there was a group of stoners sitting not far behind me that laughed like Beavis and Butthead every time Abberline started smoking. That's the only reason I disagree with it. I actually think it's good for the hero to have a flaw, so being addicted to opium is a good one (when you take into account the time the movie is set).

Finally, the movie just doesn't quite connect as a whole. It's entertaining enough, but there's something I can't put my finger on. It seems like there's a better movie in there somewhere that got lost along the way.

Now, onto the good points. The casting of Johnny Depp is always a bonus for a movie. He's one of those actors that seems incapable of a bad performance, and he can sink himself into a character better than most. Veterans Ian Holm and Robbie Coltrane are also excellent in supporting roles.

From Hell is one of the best-looking movies I've seen in a long time. It's set in the White Chapel District in London, and the production designers built the entire set in a field outside Prague. It looks exactly as you'd expect a poverty-stricken area of 1880s London to look. It comes complete with cobblestone streets, and buildings that look authentic.

Lastly, the directing by Allen and Albert Hughes is outstanding. The film is appropriately dark and creepy, and the brothers have done an excellent job in every respect.

From Hell may not be the greatest movie, but it's definitely worth seeing. Some people may be a little thrown off by the gore, but considering what they could have shown, it's really not that bad. Highly recommended for horror movie buffs.

Now, the DVD. It's probably the best to come out in a while. As hard as I try (it's my job), I can't find a single thing wrong with it. It's presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the quality is outstanding. It's a dark movie, so darks are considerably darker than the lights are light. There are no foreign objects, no grain, no fuzz - nothing. It's just a beautiful transfer.

How Fox chooses which movies will get a DTS track is beyond me, but thankfully, From Hell is one of them. You get your choice of 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS, and although I only tried DTS, it sounds great. The whooshing knife blades and chilling score surround you and engulf you in the film, and this has to be one of the better audio tracks I've heard in a while.

Extras on this two disc set start with a commentary and deleted scenes on disc one. The commentary is by Allen and Albert Hughes, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, cinematographer Peter Deming and actor Robbie Coltrane. The 20 deleted scenes and an alternate ending are worth checking out. Some of the scenes are very good, but were cut for good reason. The alternate ending is also good, and I can't quite decide which I like more. All come with optional commentary by Albert Hughes.

Disc two starts out with a documentary called "Jack the Ripper: 6 Degrees of Separation." It's very informative, though not very exciting, and examines the real case of Jack the Ripper in detail. You can also activate the magnifying glass icon when it appears to take to you into even more detail. There are also four featurettes, called "A View From Hell," (a bad HBO special, even for HBO special standards), "Tour of the Murder Sites" (quite good), "Production Design" (also good), and "Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" (exactly what it sounds like). There is a graphic novel to film comparison which I found quite interesting, and the trailer.

This is one hell (ahem) of a disc; once again my expectations have been raised.

From Hell, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
121 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16X9 enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital, DTS
Starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Iam Holm and Robbie Coltrane
Produced by Don Murphy and Jane Hamsher
Screenplay by Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias
Directed by The Hughes Brothers


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Updated May 13, 2006