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

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 16, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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.
    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.
    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.
    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
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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
    Commentary 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
    Scenes 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.
    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.
    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.
    Welcome to Prague, Checkoslovakia. With its
    gorgeous locals and lavish settings, Director
    Allen Hughes gives us a look the Production
    Design 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
    Fonder, 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
    Sites. 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)
    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.
    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
  2. DaveBB

    DaveBB Supporting Actor

    May 24, 1999
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    Great review; will make sure to pick the disc up when it comes out.
  3. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

    Feb 8, 2002
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    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? [​IMG]
  4. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

    Jun 19, 1999
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  5. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

    Oct 23, 1999
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  6. Richard Smith

    Richard Smith Stunt Coordinator

    May 26, 2000
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    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.[​IMG]
    Excellent review Ron.[​IMG]
  7. JasenP

    JasenP Screenwriter

    Dec 21, 1999
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    Kalamazoo, MI
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    Ron, can we have more Heather Graham screenshots please? [​IMG]
  8. Tony_Faville

    Tony_Faville Supporting Actor

    Jun 1, 2000
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    Thanks Ron. Have been looking forward to this release. Glad to know the wait will have been worth it.
  9. DaveBB

    DaveBB Supporting Actor

    May 24, 1999
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  10. Dan M

    Dan M Second Unit

    Feb 6, 2000
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    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. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein
    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. [​IMG]
  12. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

    Aug 3, 2001
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    Awww...Joel C, ya beat me to the Moulin Rouge comment! [​IMG]
    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...
  13. ChrisMatson

    ChrisMatson Cinematographer

    Dec 14, 2000
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    I have changed my mind from probably skip on buying this one to definitely buying!
  14. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

    Dec 20, 1999
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    Peter Apruzzese
    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.
  15. Troy LaMont

    Troy LaMont Supporting Actor

    Mar 11, 1999
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  16. Quint van der Vaart

    Quint van der Vaart Second Unit

    May 25, 2001
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    This dvd I realy want to have , rather sooner than later :)
    Thanks for the great review Ron, it's always a pleasure reading them [​IMG]
  17. Patrick Larkin

    Patrick Larkin Screenwriter

    May 8, 2001
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    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. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

    Jan 17, 2001
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    John Steffens

    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. FrankT

    FrankT Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 5, 2002
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    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. Rob T

    Rob T Screenwriter

    Aug 26, 2001
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    I missed seeing this one in the theater [​IMG] but I'll definitely pick in up when it comes out next month. [​IMG]

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