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DVD Reviews

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

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#1 of 76 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 16 2002 - 06:10 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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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 OFFLINE   DaveBB


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Posted April 16 2002 - 06:24 AM

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

#3 of 76 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted April 16 2002 - 06:30 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 OFFLINE   Marc Colella

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Posted April 16 2002 - 06:36 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 OFFLINE   Joel C

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Posted April 16 2002 - 06:46 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 OFFLINE   Richard Smith

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Posted April 16 2002 - 07:26 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 OFFLINE   JasenP



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Posted April 16 2002 - 07:35 AM

Ron, can we have more Heather Graham screenshots please? Posted Image
3D is always a compromise. 


#8 of 76 OFFLINE   Tony_Faville


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Posted April 16 2002 - 07:41 AM

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

#9 of 76 OFFLINE   DaveBB


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Posted April 16 2002 - 08:00 AM


Ron, can we have more Heather Graham screenshots please?

[quote] 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 OFFLINE   Dan M

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Posted April 16 2002 - 08:19 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 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted April 16 2002 - 08:50 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 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted April 16 2002 - 08:59 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...
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#13 of 76 OFFLINE   ChrisMatson



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Posted April 16 2002 - 09:02 AM

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

#14 of 76 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted April 16 2002 - 09:02 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 OFFLINE   Troy LaMont

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Posted April 16 2002 - 09:10 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 OFFLINE   Quint van der Vaart

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Posted April 16 2002 - 09:26 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 OFFLINE   Patrick Larkin

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Posted April 16 2002 - 09:57 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 OFFLINE   JohnS



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Posted April 16 2002 - 04:37 PM

Ron, 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?
Posted Image

#19 of 76 OFFLINE   FrankT


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Posted April 16 2002 - 07:22 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 OFFLINE   Rob T

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Posted April 16 2002 - 07:29 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

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