From Hell

From Hell
Rating: R
Release Date: May 14, 2002
Running Time: approximately 121 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: A psychic detective battles fate, love, and society to stop Jack The Ripper
Version: Directors' Limited Edition

  • Commentary by The Hughes Brothers, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, Cinematographer Peter Deming, and actor Robbie Coltrane
  • Alternate Ending
  • Deleted Scenes
  • "Jack The Ripper: 6 Degrees of Separation" Interactive Investigation
  • HBO Featurette: "A View From Hell"
  • Tour of the murder sites by The Hughes Brothers
  • Production Design featurette
  • "Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder"
  • Graphic Novel-to-Film Comparison

    Tech Specs: Anamorphic Widescreen, aspect ratio 2.35:1, English 5.1 DTS, English 5.1 Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround, English subtitles.

    Though it may offend purist fans of the original graphic novel, the film adaptation of From Hell works. Taken from a source densely packed with detail, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias managed to capture the dread and mystery in Alan Moore's take on the Jack The Ripper murders. In some ways, it was maddening, as offhanded references to Victorian culture were left unexplained.

    Thus From Hell is the sort of film for which DVDs were meant. If it piques your curiosity, you need these kinds of reference materials on-hand.

    The film itself has been transferred beautifully, and given a THX certification. So far, that mark of quality has been pretty consistent, and it's crucial for a film like this. The Hughes Brothers were definitely after a very stylistic look, and the video does not dull it.

    Because The Hughes Brothers learned how to direct from watching laser discs with commentary, it is only right that they pay careful attention to their own commentary here. For those who would be interested, everyone involved in the commentary really offers sharp insight on what it takes to put a film like this together. Even Robbie Coltrane keeps himself on track in discussing various techniques behind building his character and working with Johnny Depp. Albert Hughes furthers the insight by commenting over the deleted scenes, meticulously explaining why things were cut.

    He also provides my nomination for best commentary line of the year, over a scene set in an opium den. As the camera fixes on an Asian woman's backside, he explains that he and Allen argued over keeping the shot. "I agree; it's a nice butt." (Ultimately, Albert won the fight, making the point that, really, it doesn't add anything to the film.)

    Aurally, the only problem is one that seems to run rampant through DVDs (unless it's my player), and that is a huge discrepancy in volume levels between the film and the interactive menus. The menu on the first disc takes a little more time than necessary, but on the second disc, its introduction really sets the tone for the extras.

    Granted, no one really knows who Jack The Ripper was, though many ripperologists (yes, they have their own word for it) do agree with the culprit posited here. But just for grins, the historical details of the crimes are explored in great detail on the second disc. In the Interactive Investigation, you can skim over the grim details of the actual crimes, or watch pieces of a BBC documentary interviewing experts about the lives of the victims.

    Should you be more fascinated by Depp's character's peccadilloes, the disc includes a documentary on absinthe. The drink might be more enchanting if the users interviewed here didn't all seem like they'd burnt something small but crucial out of their heads.

    The Hughes Brothers themselves claim to be taking us through the murder sites, but they're actually the sites as recreated in the film. But any excuse to see their set brightly lit is worthwhile; building Whitechapel in a village outside Prague was a monumental feat, also detailed in a separate featurette.

    To placate the purists, they pay due props to the Alan Moore graphic novel, explaining what they had to cut from it and why. More than that, the directors also show what imagery they lifted right out of Eddie Campbell's artwork. It's interesting, but watch the movie first.

    If you consider yourself a ripperologist, you must have this disc. And if you are an Alan Moore fan who boycotted the film on principle, give it another chance.

    From Hell (from

    Derek McCaw

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