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From Hell

A Scotland yard Detective is on the case of the notorious Jack the Ripper. Few names in history are as instantly recognizable. Fewer still evoke such vivid images: noisome courts and alleys, hansom cabs and gaslights, swirling fog, prostitutes decked out in the tawdriest of finery, the shrill cry of newsboys - and silent, cruel death personified in the cape-shrouded figure of a faceless prowler of the night, armed with a long knife and carrying a black Gladstone bag. (Philip Sugden, The Complete History of Jack the Ripper) The classic whodunit, Jack the Ripper stalked the dark London streets in 1888, killing prostitutes in increasing brutality and surgical precision before suddenly disappearing into the mists from which he came. His identity was never revealed. Hundreds, if not thousands of theories exist as to whom the Ripper was, a surgeon, possibly connected to the crown, but nothing has ever been proven. Even with 20th Century technology, we have been unable to solve the mystery of who Jack The Ripper was.

A movie needs to give its audience a beginning, a middle, and an end. As a major history buff, from the first view of the previews for From Hell I wanted to know how they were going to carry this off, while still staying true to the event’s historical facts. How do you have a movie where the “bad guy” is never revealed? So apart from the fact that I wanted to see this piece of history played out on the big screen, I wanted to see how they would solve this important problem.

Horror movies are not my forte, and I was worried that this movie was going to indulge in the bloody nature of the subject. Other reviews I have read indicated that there was a large amount of gore in this film, but they couldn’t have been further from the truth. A few moments of the film made me wince and turn my head, however they have stayed true to the subject, without turning to gore. If you have ever read about Jack the Ripper, you will have seen photos of his victims, and other than the lobotomy you see performed, that’s about as gory as it got.

I was incredibly impressed with the camera work and set work for this piece. Not only were the sets authentic, it was dirty- just like London really would have been in the 1880’s. The dresses and makeup for the prostitutes were also wonderful- rotton teeth, filthy nails. Unlike most Hollywood films, you don’t see a flash on white teeth, or manicures or anything else that’s not period. The only disappointing fact (in fact the only disappointing fact of the whole movie) is that Heather Graham was entirely too clean.

As for the end of the movie, I will not spoil it for you. The writers have not only stayed true to the historic base of the subject, they have also explained why the murders were never solved. An intriguing end and one I never saw coming.