From Hell Cover Did you know that during the nineteenth century the term ‘Jack’ was used by Londoners to denote a person of American assent? Yeah. I'm not pulling your leg, old bean. Unlike this 122 minute movie made in 2001. It was Directed by the Hughes Brothers; and Starred: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Robbie Coltrane, with Ian Holm. 

From Hell : The Movie - The Graphic Novel

We're in the Autumn of 1888, and for reasons of my own I've taken it upon myself to roam throughout the streets of Whitechapel, London, to track down and mutilate five prostitutes living in the area. So far I've managed to kill two -- AHHHH! -- make that three of these 'unfortunate women' without anyone being none the wiser. Well, that is until the news of my crimes finally reaches the press, and this directly forces the local constabulary to do their utmost to catch me in the act.

But of course they won't be able to do that, my friends. No. Of course they won't. No matter what Inspector Fredrick Abberline (Johnny Depp) or Sargent Godley (Robbie Coltrane) tries to do, one way or another I will be able to outmaneuver them due to a higher calling barring their path.

Admittedly, Abberline's so-called clairvoyant talents might be able to occasionally point him in the right direction. Plus to a certain extent I can say exactly the same thing about the noted assistance of the stately surgeon, Sir William Gull (Ian Holm). Still. This matters not within the scheme of things. For I am Jack the Ripper. This is my city. These are my crimes. And I promise you that no-one -- and I do mean no one -- will be good enough to stop me from... from... from, eh?

Oh! Hello, Mary Kelly (Heather Graham). I didn't see you there amongst your friend's. Your very 'unfortunate friends' that is. I heard through the grapevine that some of them met with a number of 'unfortunate accidents' recently. Don't you worry though, my dear. Because what next transpires all get's rather ghastly when I start to slice with a royal blade. As two more women get chopped to bits - please prepare for a battle of wits - East London is plagued by a right damn thriller - and at the end of the day, the face of the 20th century is forever defined by a serial killer.

OK. So before I slash 'From Hell' to bits, please allow me to say that this movie is what I would call 'an adaptation of the dilutable variety'. Essentially it takes the essence of the original graphic novel it was based on -- also called 'From Hell' -- and then does it's own thing with the plot, the characters, and basically everything else in between.

From Hell Graphic Novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
Here. Take a look at my following movie to comic book comparison for more details. (1) The original story was told from‘Jack’s’ perspective and not Abbeline’s perspective. In fact, Abberline never showed up until half way through the book, and you didn't know who Jack was until he committed his first crime a few chapters previously. (2) The Abbeline character presented in the film is an amalgamation of two characters featured in the novel. Himself, as well as the royal clairvoyant, Robert Lees. (3) Where as the source material was dipped in a black and white ink the movie was splashed with full on color. (4) Inserted in each chapter throughout the novel is a future-bent sequence where an elderly Abbeline and a decrepit Lee's reminisce about ‘Jack’s past exploits’. (5) Abberline was married in real life and in the book, plus I suspect that his Mary Kelly love interest was for filmic-effect alone. (6) When Alan Moore initially wrote the comic book mini-series, he said he loosely based them on a novel written by Stephen Knight entitled 'The Final Solution', which in turn involved both the freemasonry angle plus quite a lot of ‘Ripper’ lore. (7) The character of 'Neatly' was merely used in the comics for Jack to give his exposition to, and it has never been proven if he was a real life person or not. (8) Something else that has never been proven is if any of the victims knew each other, even though it can be proven that throughout the years they all lived on the very same street -- Dorset Street. (9) For any more Ripper related information please click on over to our pals at The Jack The Ripper Tour.

Johnny Depp and Heather Graham in From Hell

Heather Graham in From HellNow from reading my little trivia splurge you might suspect I didn't like watching ‘From Hell’. But no, my friends. On the contrary. It was a good film just a bad adaptation. Personally speaking, I'd have preferred it if the filmmakers called it ‘From Jack with Love’ -- or something else in a similar vein -- because at best the book is a twelve part television mini-series and could never be made into a full length feature.

Having said that, though, you have to give kudos to the Hughes Brothers for what they ultimately did. As they took the smell of the book and did the best they could with it, aided and abetted with some great performances from Heather, Johnny, Ian, plus Robby, who all made the best of a plausible script, before elevating it into a fairly good script. A script, I might add, that never stood a hell of a chance to match the graphic novels lofty heights (pun intended).

Johnny Depp in From Hell
Yet apart from that, dear reader, what else can I say? Oh! I know. How about please check out the following filmic-facts? (1) '20th Century Fox' first screened this $35 million dollar production at the 'Venice Film Festival' on the 8th of September, 2001, and eventually clawed back $74 million dollars at the box office. (2) The majority of this movie was shot at 'Barrandov Studios', Prague, as well as at Prague's National Museum and St. Barbara's Cathedral, Kutn√° Hora. Also, there was a number of additional scenes shot in England too. Most notably at Boscastle and Crackington Haven, Cornwall, plus Goldings, Hertfordshire. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Ripper' in Finland, 'The True Story of Jack the Ripper' in Portugal, and during pre-production it was given the working title, 'Jack'. (4) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, was, 'Only the legend will survive'. (5) Before they directed this thriller the Hughes Brothers considered Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Connery, Jude Law, and Brad Pitt to play the main lead -- Abbeline. (6) Nigel Hawthorne was originally going to play the part of Sir William Gull in this film, but when he was diagnosed with cancer he dropped out of the role and it went to Ian Holm instead. (7) Alan Moore, who wrote the original graphic novel, didn't have anything nice to say about this movie at all. He didn't like how his characters were changed. He didn't like how his 'historical premise' was morphed into a 'whodunit'. And he especially didn't like how his 'gruff version of Abberline' was adapted into a "absinthe-swigging dandy"'. (9) Stewart Evans was the main Ripperologist associated with this flick, and his claim to fame was to add Francis Tumblety to the list of Ripper suspects.

Johnny Depp in From Hell

Overall I'd say 'From Hell' was a pretty nice film but a pretty crummy comic book adaptation. Even though it was well acted, well presented, and had a fairly earthy quality to it too, at the same time it isn't as good as Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's original Victorian opus.

Nuff said.