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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Mystery > Murder > Detective > Serial Killer > Horror > Poverty > Justice > From Hell (2001/Blu-ray)

From Hell (2001/Blu-ray)

 

Picture: A-     Sound: A-     Extras: C+     Film: B

 

 

As so many dumb serial killer films have arrived, Jack The Ripper has been ignored and lost to a great extent.  That seems odd considering the interest in him that endured for so many decades, but now, bad reality TV, worst investigative reporting, especially bad serial killer films (and TV shows) and 24-news networks looking for the cheapest horrors out there have left him behind.  Just as well, Albert and Allen Hughes may have created one of the best such films with From Hell, based on the Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell graphic novel about the severity of his crimes and his true identity.

 

Johnny Depp (just before hitting commercial blockbuster paydirt) plays the drug-using Inspector Frederick Abberline, who is eventually pulled in to investigate and possibly stop the killings once and for all.  The murders were never solved in real life, but many have come closer and closer to what they think really happened and who did it. 

 

Though you can debate their findings, the film is more than just about the murders like so many of the films made on the subject (for which The Hughes Brothers claim they watched every film on the subject they could find, which is likely since this holds up so well) it is about the society that created the circumstance for any Ripper to rise and just how bad things were unless you were part of an elite.

 

Heather Graham plays one of several hookers whose friends are the targets of the killings and of whom the Inspector gets more involved with.  I really liked just about every aspect of the film, with its dense look, disturbingly realistic sets and a solid supporting cast that includes Robbie Coltrane, Ian Holm, Jason Flemyng, Ian Richardson, Paul Rhys and Sophia Myles.

 

I give The Hughes Brothers and co-writers Terry Hayes and Rafael Yglesias credit for not imitating other Ripper films, Silence Of The Lambs or Se7en, a look of which the film does not imitate.  That is especially good when David Fincher did not repeat himself with Zodiac, though that is a film (with its investigative mystery of who a serial killer is) that has more in common with From Hell than Se7en.  Except for some minor reservations, the film is amazing and closer to Alan Moore’s work than most film attempts.  With films like 300 becoming big hits, it would be nice for this film to find a new audience.

 

The original DVD release (which I reviewed for American Cinematographer Magazine back in their July 2002 issue) looked good for 2001, but the 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 19 MBPS digital High Definition image as shot by Director of Photography Peter Deming, A.S.C., is one of the best of recent back catalog feature films in Blu-ray and the DVD simply cannot compete.  Video Black is stunning, depth impressive, detail fine and the look palpable in what is the most realistic portrayal of the poor (in the past) from a major studio release since Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980) in the dirty, dark, sad conditions lived in.  The Blu-ray of The Prestige would be a good comparison disc, though this was shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision scope and holds up stunningly well.

 

The DTS HD Master Audio (MA) Lossless 5.1 mix is so good, you can actually hear detail with even lesser equipment as compared to the DTS on the DVD set, but this was always a very smart mix with character, a good score by composer Trevor Jones (Excalibur, Dark City) and richness that can still hold its own against the newest mixes.  Audiophiles will be particularly impressed.

 

Extras include a trivia track, original theatrical trailer, feature length audio-commentary by The Hughes Brothers, co-writer Rafael Yglesias, actor Coltrane & cinematographer Deming, 20 deleted scenes and alternate ending both with Albert Hughes commentary.

 

Missing from this Blu-ray that was included on the DVD set include graphic novel-to-film comparison, Jack The Ripper: 6 Degrees of Separation Interactive Investigation, Heather Graham-hosted HBO tie-in special A View From Hell, production designer Martin Childs’ behind the scenes featurette, Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder featurette and Tour Of The Murder Sites featurette with The Hughes Brothers.  That will make fans keep the DVD set, despite this being a 50GB disc.  However, to get the playback performance you get here, it is worth it.

 

When the DVD arrived, I hoped it would be the hit it deserved to be in theaters and when Johnny Depp became a bigger star, hoped once again the film would be rediscovered.  None of that happened, while The Hughes Brothers have not made a film since.  With Fox issuing this title early on Blu-ray, maybe it will finally get the credit it deserves.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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