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From Hell

Johnny Depp as Inspector Frederick Abberline in 20th Century Fox's "From Hell"

20th Century Fox, VHS, DVD, 2001, Rated R, 2 hr. 17 min.

In 1888, life in London's Whitechapel slum is ugly, brutish, and short. To put it another way, life is hell. Unemployment is high, medical services are virtually non-existent, and prostitution is one of the few ways a young woman can survive. At least gin is cheap and plentiful. It is on this stage that Jack the Ripper steps. In a ten week period he commits five viscous murders the likes of which have never been seen before, spreading fear, rumors, and terror. Throughout this period the Ripper taunts the London police with notes detailing his crimes and always signed, From Hell.

Drawing heavily on historical events, the Hughes brothers craft an excellent film in From Hell.  In a change from other Ripper films, From Hell tells the story from the perspective of Inspector Frederick Abberline, played expertly by Johnny Depp, and Whitechapel prostitute Mary Kelly, played by Heather Graham. The story begins with our introduction to a group of Whitechapel prostitutes. Soon one of the prostitutes, Ann, is abducted. Mary Kelly and her fellow prostitutes go to the police for help and meet  with the clairvoyant Inspector Abberline who befriends Mary. The plot thickens as one by one Mary's prostitute friends begin turning up horribly mutilated. The Inspector and Mary have to rush to solve the mystery of the slayings before Mary becomes the Ripper's next victim.

I found From Hell very engrossing. The Hughes brothers did an excellent job of recreating the slums of Victorian England. There attention to detail was almost astonishing. I'll leave it at that as this film is still in the theaters. I don't want to give to much away. It's enough to say that follows of the Ripper's work will be pleased to point out bits of evidence the Hughes brothers included. My one complaint with the film, if it really is a complaint is it's length. From Hell comes in at a hefty 137 minutes. Having said that, I can't think of a single scene I would cut. Every shot seems to need to be in this movie. So often these days a gratuitous love affair is thrown in without thought as to why it is needed or how it develops the characters. Inspector Abberline (Depp) does become romantically interested in Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) but it adds depth and insight into their characters and seems to intensify the violence which otherwise we might have been desensitized to almost immediately. 

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20th Century Fox


Mystery / Horror




137 Minutes







Actor / Actress


Johnny Depp

Inspector Frederick Abberline

Ian Holm

Sir William Gull

Robbie Coltrane

Peter Godley

Heather Graham

Mary Kelly

Susan Lynch

Liz Stride

Ian Richardson

Sir Charles Warren

Katrin Cartlidge

Dark Annie

Bryon Fear

Robert Best

Ian McNeice

Police Surgeon Drudge

Sophia Myes

Victoria Abberline

Lesley Sharp

Kate Eddowes



Albert Hughes


Allen Hughes


Trevor Jones


Terry Hayes


Rafael Yglesias



Reviewed by: Hauntmaster 10/20/2001




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