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HTF REVIEW: From Hell (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots)

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#1 of 76 Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 16 2002 - 02:10 AM

Posted Image

From Hell

Year: 2001
Rated: R
Film Length: 121 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

"...if I were you I'd look for someone
with a thorough knowledge of human anatomy"

Let me go on record and say that Fox Home
Video makes Special Edition DVDs that consistently
raise the bar on what defines a Special Edition.
It's easy for any studio to put out a DVD packed
with extras and calling it a Special Edition. Fox
goes one step further by putting together product
that sets new highs in audio and video presentation.
Their animated menus and overall DVD structure is
not just graphics thrown together to dazzle the
viewer, but rather contains sophisticated animated
menus and added elements that intelligently
creates a world and sets a tone for its audience.

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From Hell can easily be added to the list
of truly remarkable Special Editions from Fox. I
hope by the end of this review you will be as
impressed with this disc's overall presentation
as I was.

From the Hughes Brothers (Dead Presidents, Menace
II Society) comes From Hell, a highly stylish
thriller that exposes the mysterious monster of
London's East End....Jack The Ripper.

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It is 1888 London. The unfortunate poor line the
streets of the city's deadliest slum, Whitechapel.
Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her small circle
of companions are whores who are harassed by gangs
and forced to work the streets to earn a meager
living. Things go from bad to worse as one-by-one,
the girls are hunted down and gruesomely murdered.
The murders catch the attention of Inspector Fred
Abberline (Johnny Depp with a scraggly mustache
and beard) who takes charge of catching the Ripper.

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Drugs, sex and murder are the forefront of this
story as Inspector Abberline immerses himself in
absinthe and opium. His deep drug induced visions
give him glimpses of murders to come. Abberline
seeks the help of Sir William Gull (Ian Holm), a
physician to Queen Victoria, enabling him to
quickly gather clues to Jack The Ripper's true

Posted Image

From Hell is certainly not a masterpiece,
but remains a thoroughly entertaining film thanks
to its stylish visuals that consist of London
skyline silhouettes, blood-red sunsets, and
creeping alleys that are blinded with heavy fog.
Unfortunately, in attempting to create constant
suspense, the movie's plot becomes hard to follow.
Still, Johnny Depp gives much depth to his character
and his performance carries this film.

How is the transfer?

This is a demo quality DVD.

Posted Image

Fox has given us a gorgeous 16x9 enhanced
widescreen (2.35:1) transfer that is flawless.
Though filmed very dark and soft (as these
screenshots show), and relying on elements of
fog and rain, there is never any video noise
or digital artifacts present in the transfer.
Picture always remains consistently smooth.
Almost looking like a classic portrait, colors
remain mostly subdued giving a dull feel that
reflects that era. What you will notice, however,
is how brilliantly color is used in this film,
most notably in the scenes of Abberline's visions.
You also cannot miss Heather Graham's vividly
red locks of hair that stand out in every scene.

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The 5.1 DTS surround mix sets a new benchmark,
as this is the best I have heard on any DVD to date.

This is one of those films where sound becomes
the dominating element. As I watch and listen to
the movies I review, I scribble down notes on paper.
Looking at these scribblings, I see various notations
about the impressive use of sound in this film.
From the opening moments of the film, you are
immersed in Trevor Jone's score that not only
surrounds the entire sound field, but whose
punctuations set rattling rumbles through my SV
Subwoofer. Throughout the film, my entire room
became the center of London with the sounds of
horses trotting on cobblestone and people talking
behind me in the distance. From the dominating
sounds of a rain shower to smallest sound of a fly
buzzing across my room, I have never heard a
sound mix so distinctly presented with every single
channel containing its own individual piece of
activity. As I noted above, the LFE channel is
very strong as my subwoofer rumbled as the film
went beneath the streets of London.

Special Features

Fox has put together an elaborate 2-disc
Directors' Limited Edition DVD that spans
a wealth of features across both discs.

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When you pop in the disc, the 20th Century Fox
logo triumphantly rises on the screen, suddenly
silenced by the sound of a thrashing knife as the
picture dissolves into a jagged dream-like vision
of 1899 London streets. A heart beats below the
menu selections that are slightly skewed in
appearance. As you make each menu selection,
you are raced through alleyways to another secluded
section of Whitechapel that ends with the sound
of a thrashing knife and the screams of another

Disc One contains the feature presented
in your choice of English 5.1 DTS, English 5.1
Dolby Digital, and French or Spanish Dolby surround.

You can play the film with Feature-Length
from Directors Albert and Allen
Hughes, Screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, Cinematographer
Peter Deming and Actor Robbie Coltrane (Sergeant
Peter Godley).

There are also what appears to be 20 Deleted
on this disc. I must point out that
the menu text is extremely distorted and very
hard to read even on a 20" television (where I
do most of my supplemental reviews). The highlights
of the deleted scenes include...

* Mary dropping the baby off to Ann Crook's

* A montage of all the girls working the streets

* Polly's funeral procession as her coffin
parades through the streets. One of the reasons
it was removed because everyone was wearing hats.

* A dream sequence of Adderline (Depp) and his
wife that remains too vague.

* Dark Annie on the street prostituting herself.

* Dark Annie walking down the passageway where
death awaits her. Allan Hughes comments that
the scene suffers from unexciting camera movement.
You can also see black-out makeup that was not
digitally removed since the scene was never used.

* Jack The Ripper instructing his coachmen, Netley,
to write a letter.

* A constable interrupts a murder in progress
but walks away as if nothing happens.

* A masturbation scene involving Netley and a

Fox did a nice job of showing us exactly where
the deleted footage should be placed, showing us
the film's original cut in B&W with the deleted
footage inserted in COLOR.

The deleted scenes can be played with the option
of commentary by Albert Hughes, which I highly
suggest listening to, as he gives great detail as
to why each scene was removed.

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Disc Two begins with a brand new animated
introduction showing the Ripper dressing himself
and opening up his surgical suitcase. The sounds
of a thrashing knife can be heard as you explore
the selections of this Special Features disc. As
you make each menu selection, another sharp object
is removed from the surgical case.

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Jack the Ripper: 6 Degrees of Separation
is a rather lengthy and highly informative
documentary that tells you everything you ever
wanted to know about Jack The Ripper, his crimes
and victims. This featurette is touted as an
"interactive investigation" taking you through
a case diary textbook of illustrations and images
of the Whitechapel murders. With narration from
Stuart P. Evans and Donald Rumbelow, we see original
images of the victims, artist renderings of the
crimes, and text accounts from the scene. When a
magnifying glass appears in the screen corner,
you click on it to be taken to additional
information about a particular victim, courtesy
of interviews with historians. The investigation
turns to the 3 main suspects on the police list,
giving us background on these individuals and the
reasons strongly for or against that person being
the Ripper. Photos take us to the individual crime
scenes, recreating the horrific moments of each
individual murder. The documentary also explores
other possible Ripper suspects as well as other
suspected victims.

Posted ImagePosted Image

Welcome to Prague, Checkoslovakia. With its
gorgeous locals and lavish settings, Director
Allen Hughes gives us a look the Production
of this film. Producer Amy Robinson
was hoping to film most of the street scenes within
the city, but that presented its own difficulties.
Instead, a full-scale 360-degree city was built
20 miles away in a smaller town. We are taken
on a tour of the set of Whitechapel whose detail
is just simply breathtaking. Production Designer
Martin Childs talks about the challenges of
recreating the East End of London and finding
the right locale to do it in. Watch as the
special effects department fills the set with
rain and fog to give just the right mood for the
scene. This is one of the most amazing featurettes
I have seen on Production Design. It's fun to
watch, and I think you'll be inspired by all the
detail and behind-the-scenes production that doesn't
skimp on information like other featurettes of this
kind do. (length: approx. 12 minutes)

Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell wrote the graphic
novel, From Hell, which inspired the film.
Director Allen Hughes talks about the Graphic
Novel-To-Film Comparison
, emphasizing the
fact that in taking 2 different mediums, you
cannot fully duplicate a book on film. Producer
Don Murphy discusses the differences between the
book and film, pointing out the importance of not
making Jack The Ripper the subject of the story,
but rather Inspector Abberline. (length: Approx
10 minutes)

I never heard of the liquor known as Absinthe.
So watching Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow
, was a real eye-opener for me. We
are introduced to Baranaby Conrad, author of
"Absinthe History in a bottle". He talks about
his younger years, sneaking bootleg Absinthe
across the Switzerland border and his first
experiences drinking it. Absinthe Aficionado
Ian Hutton tells of the origin of the liquor
at the end of the 18th century, with its popularity
growing in France and then on into the 19th century
when it was given to troops as medicinal value.
It seemed to fuel the world, inspiring
impressionist painters and poets. We watch the
drink being poured into a glass over a sugar
cube resting upon a silver spoon. This featurette
closes by talking about Absinthe in the 21st
century and the legalities of having it imported
into the United States. Another fascinating
featurette that managed to teach me something
I never knew before.

Allen and Albert Hughes are on the film's set
in Prague, taking us on a Tour of the Murder
. Touring the set, we are taken to
each individual area where murders took place.
My only problem with this featurette is that
we should have been taken to the ACTUAL streets
of Whitechapel to show us ACTUAL locals where
the murders took place. Still, this featurette
becomes a very entertaining and free-wheeling
look at the film's huge set and the banter
between the two Directors is quite amusing.
(length: approx. 8 minutes)

Posted Image

A View From Hell is an HBO featurette
hosted by the beautiful Heather Graham (in a
revealing sexy red dress). The featurette
gives insight into each character as Heather
Graham and Johnny Depp give talk about the
roles they play. Like the Titanic, Jack the
Ripper has become one of the many great mysteries
of our time. This is due to the fact that the
man was never caught and the public is still
fascinated with the events that surround him.
The featurette touches upon the historical
facts surrounding these murders bringing out
the fact that he was the very first serial killer.
We are shown actual newspaper clippings from
that era with headlines screaming of JACK THE
RIPPER and many of its suspects. A "Ripperologist"
gives his own thoughts on who he thinks the
identity of the Ripper is. Graham talks about
the relaxed atmosphere of the Directors, and the
amount of passion that is given to each take.
There is lots of behind-the-scenes footage that
shows us some of the clowning around on the set.
Various settings of the film are also touched
upon, including the historian consultants who
contributed to the film's accurate portrayals.
Even the cuts on the victims are portrayed exactly
as they were historically. This is a nice
overview of the film, most of which is already
touched upon in more detail in the other featurettes
included on this DVD. (length: Approx. 14 minutes)

The film's original theatrical trailer is
included, as well as a trailer for Fox's upcoming
theatrical film, Unfaithful, which looks
very promising.

Final Thoughts

I must stop short in indicating that From Hell
is a masterpiece of a film. This is certainly
not a factual retelling of the Jack the Ripper
story. The real story of Jack the Ripper is
fascinating because he got away with
murder. Instead of being factual, this film
concocts a theory about who he was and thus
the story becomes less interesting than perhaps
focusing on the killer himself and the factuality
of the case. Still, the Hughes Brothers have
managed to stylishly recreate the world of Jack the
Ripper, telling a slightly different story, and
making this film very entertaining in the process.

Posted Image

Fox, on the other hand, has turned From Hell
into one of the most sensational Special Editions
it has released to date. Fox goes beyond so-called
Special Editions that other studios churn out by
giving us featurettes with the most intricate details
on just about every aspect of the film. The flawless
transfer and amazing DTS mix is the best I have
witnessed to date, making From Hell another
visual and sonic experience you will soon not forget.

Release Date: May 14, 2002

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 76 DaveBB


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Posted April 16 2002 - 02:24 AM

Great review; will make sure to pick the disc up when it comes out.

#3 of 76 Malcolm R

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Posted April 16 2002 - 02:30 AM

Great review. Sounds like they made this edition everything I hoped it would be when I reflected on the film as seen in theaters. It was very gorgeous, stylish, and the sound mix was all-enveloping. Can't wait to grab this one.

I guess my only question is why after all the superlatives it doesn't deserve "HIGHLY RECOMMENDED" in the thread title? Shortcomings of the movie itself, rather than the technical aspects? Posted Image
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#4 of 76 Marc Colella

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Posted April 16 2002 - 02:36 AM

Don't you mean 1899?

Actually, Ron probably meant 1888 which was the time-frame.

This looks like a very nice release.

Now I have to read some movie reviews to see if it's worthy of a purchase.

#5 of 76 Joel C

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Posted April 16 2002 - 02:46 AM

jagged dream-like vision
of 1988 London streets

The true horror is seeing everyone with tight-rolled blue jeans and feathered hair! Posted Image

Great review, Ron, I will at least rent this one. But don't you remember absinthe from Moulin Rouge?

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#6 of 76 Richard Smith

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Posted April 16 2002 - 03:26 AM

Having not seen this at the cinema I was debating whether to buy the disc or not, but seeing Heather Graham in that red dress has sold me on it.Posted Image

Excellent review Ron.Posted Image



#7 of 76 JasenP



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Posted April 16 2002 - 03:35 AM

Ron, can we have more Heather Graham screenshots please? Posted Image
You know, Fred, if you keep your sense of humor like you do, you just might make it.

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#8 of 76 Tony_Faville


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Posted April 16 2002 - 03:41 AM

Thanks Ron. Have been looking forward to this release. Glad to know the wait will have been worth it.

#9 of 76 DaveBB


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Posted April 16 2002 - 04:00 AM

Ron, can we have more Heather Graham screenshots please?
Are there any easter eggs with Heather Graham and Drew Barrymore snogging?Posted Image (For those of you who haven't picked up a tabloid while stuck in the checkout line those two have been running around the clubs and parties recently being VERY affectionate.)

#10 of 76 Dan M

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Posted April 16 2002 - 04:19 AM

Speaking of ABSINTHE, it can also be found in Bram Stokers Dracula.

I saw this film and it was indeed an interesting take on the Ripper murders.

I've always felt the true life Mary Kelly murder was the most gruesome and hideous ever commited.
It's somewhat satisfying to see her actaully 'survive' in this fictional version of Jack the Ripper, even though some poor other soul had to take her place

I do remember the movie being exceptionally dark in the theater.

#11 of 76 Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 16 2002 - 04:50 AM


If you see mistakes in the review, please
email me privately. I wrote a few thousand
words up there today (took me 5 hours to do
this review) and there will absolutely be
mistakes I did not catch and would rather
not publicly be embarrased over. Thanks. Posted Image

I guess my only question is why after all the superlatives it doesn't deserve "HIGHLY RECOMMENDED" in the thread title? Shortcomings of the movie itself, rather than the technical aspects?

I wanted to put this on the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
roster but have hesitated because I always get
some nut out there that wants to challenge me
on my decision, either stating the film sucked,
or if the film was good, the extras sucked.

People have to realize that a HIGHLY RECOMMEND
rating may have little to do with the film and
more with its presentation (or vice-versa).

I will probably change the status of the review.

Something I also forgot to mention...

Fox has put a really great THX trailer on
this DVD that I rarely see. It is the rain
drop trailer and it just rocks!

Glad you enjoyed the review. This is a
sensational DVD and I really enjoyed the film.

Thanks for reminding me about Moulin Rouge
and Absinthe. I forgot about that.

Sorry the screenshots are dark -- the movie
itself is dark.

More Heather Graham? Next time for sure!

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#12 of 76 David Lambert

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Posted April 16 2002 - 04:59 AM

Awww...Joel C, ya beat me to the Moulin Rouge comment! Posted Image

Ron, thanks for the great review. Stephie and I were very ready to pick this up, but you've removed the last vestiges of doubt from our minds!

I may have just missed it, but did your review mention that the 2-disc SE is a LIMITED Edition item, available for a short time only? I forget the exact availability window...
DAVE/Memphis, TN

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#13 of 76 ChrisMatson



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Posted April 16 2002 - 05:02 AM

I have changed my mind from probably skip on buying this one to definitely buying!

#14 of 76 Peter Apruzzese

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Posted April 16 2002 - 05:02 AM

Nice review, Ron! I can't imagine anyone complaining about any lack-of-depth; you've covered it all.

While I didn't find it a good - or even tolerable - movie at all, this sounds like a great disc. I hope they make the Jack the Ripper factual stuff available in some other form someday, I'd hate to buy the movie just to get that documentary.
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#15 of 76 Troy LaMont

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Posted April 16 2002 - 05:10 AM

beautiful Heather Graham (in a revealing sexy red dress).

Yeaaahh!!! My one and only reason to buy! Posted Image LOL

Thanks for the review Ron. Looking forward to this one!

:My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
:That's just something ugly people say.

#16 of 76 Quint van der Vaart

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Posted April 16 2002 - 05:26 AM

This dvd I realy want to have , rather sooner than later :-)

Thanks for the great review Ron, it's always a pleasure reading them Posted Image
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#17 of 76 Patrick Larkin

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Posted April 16 2002 - 05:57 AM

I'm eager to see this film again. I still remember the night. Opening night for Mulholland Drive. My wife and I were so pumped up to see the new Lynch film. We get to the theater only to find out Mulholland Drive sold out. What a massive bummer!

We reluctantly picked From Hell as a substitute (based on my assertion that Johnny Depp usually doesn't do crappy movies - I respect his choices a lot). I just couldn't enjoy it because I was so bummed out that I wasn't watching Mulholland Drive.

Time to give it a second chance.

#18 of 76 JohnS



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Posted April 16 2002 - 12:37 PM

Is the "Unfaithful" trailer 16x9 and 5.1??
I just love the music on the Unfaithful trailer.

and the original(alternative) ending of "From Hell" is on the DVD as well?


#19 of 76 FrankT


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Posted April 16 2002 - 03:22 PM

I must say that I agree 100% about the look of this film. They made London look great. I was very impressed with the whole atmosphere of this movie. J.D. is also very good as he usually is.

Also, the extras, sound and transfer look great from the review.

#20 of 76 Rob T

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Posted April 16 2002 - 03:29 PM

I missed seeing this one in the theater Posted Image but I'll definitely pick in up when it comes out next month. Posted Image