From Hell

Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham & Robbie Coltrane
20th Century Fox
Certificate: 18
Available now

In 1888 London the conditions were bad enough for the poor and unfortunate residents of London's Whitechapel district. Terrorised daily by gangs, prostitute Mary Kelly and her group of companions are in serious danger after one of their flock is kidnapped by Special Branch. One by one the girls are brutally mutilated. The only person who can save them is Inspector Fred Abberline, a police officer who is plagued by psychic visions...

From Hell was mainly filmed in Prague, but for any Londoners (myself included) the movie seems realistically set in old London. The sets are breathtaking and the smoggy atmosphere is wonderful.

One aspect that could have brought the whole production down on its knees was the ability of the two American leads to successfully pull off British accents (Cockney in the case of Depp). While not totally convincing they do a pretty good job and at least they didn't stoop to the depths that Dick Van Dyke did in Mary Poppins.

Robbie Coltrane seems to play himself, to great effect, as he always does. And his dry dialogue helps to give this mainly dry movie a sense of humour.

There was one nit-pick I had during this film which I couldn't fathom. There is a scene where one of the character's abode is decorated with a painting of John Merrick (The Elephant Man) who is strapped to a table and being examined by doctors. Later in the movie we see Merrick and it is explained that he has just been admitted to the hospital and that the week before he was in a freak show. How then could the painting have been completed and hung on the owners wall? It can't be the owner who painted it, as when Merrick is unveiled he looks horrified as though he has never seen him before. I'm guessing that this section of the movie was edited into the wrong section and that the owner of the painting painted it after seeing Merrick for the first time.

The ending is surprisingly not straight out of the happy Hollywood book of endings and it is a welcome relief to see a movie that doesn't have a happy heart warming conclusion. By the way, the uncovering of the Ripper is convincing and his reasons are well explained.

A thoroughly enjoyable film that puts a nice spin on the Ripper yarn.

Ray Thompson