[box cover]

From Hell

As a re-telling of the Jack the Ripper story, From Hell is a fine piece of modern commercial filmmaking. The tale, which promotes a particular theory of who did the Ripper crimes and why, should prove suspenseful and surprising to those unfamiliar with it. The acting by both Johnny Depp as a Victorian police inspector and Heather Graham as one of the prostitutes on the Ripper's hit list, is fine in difficult roles that logic would demand English actors should play. And the photography by Peter Deming is at times stunning, especially some of the process shots of the London skyline (dubbed by Prague). But as an adaptation of writer Alan Moore and artist Eddie Campbell's lengthy graphic novel about the Ripper, the film must be judged a failure. It represents yet another example of Hollywood taking a beloved and respected work of art and essentially throwing it away in order to follow its own mandate to trivialize and make ordinary the remarkable, to fall back on the standard ploys and narrative tricks of showbiz. All that was detailed and intense about the book, particularly the subjective psychology of the main characters, is jettisoned for a whodunit with a host of red herrings, and characters endure significant changes, both from the Moore book, but also from the historical record (Depp's Abberline, for example, was not an absinthe-addicted widower who died in an opium den). However, those who don't care will enjoy the film as a mainstream thriller. Fox's two disc set is a rather lengthy celebration of the movie with an impeccable anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), audio comes in both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, and several supplements: an audio commentary by the Hughes Brothers, Rafael Yglesias, Peter Deming, and Robbie Coltrane; the documentary "Six Degrees of Jack the Ripper: An Exploration of Ripperology"; 20 deleted and alternate scenes; a look at the production design; a "Tour of the Murder Sites"; a comparison between the graphic novel and the film; the short doc "Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder," offering background about the drink; and a "making-of" featurette that appeared on cable television, hosted by Graham, and incorporating video footage that appears in the other supplements. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—D. K. Holm

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