From Hell (2001) – Movie Review

From Hell 2001 - pic 12
 I’ve learned a new word, ‘tailbangers.’

From Hell (2001)

Directed by Allen Hughes, Albert Hughes
Story by Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell

Johnny Depp
Heather Graham
Ian Holm
Robbie Coltrane
Ian Richardson
Jason Flemyng

There comes a time in the life of any creative person that they become intrigued with the mystery and violent history of Jack the Ripper. There’s plenty of information out there but no answers. He, his motives, and his actions remains an enigma. The story of Jack the Ripper has had its theories and speculations. This film takes the theory of an intelligent man with medical knowledge to its most extreme tethered ends of conspiracy ideas and wild unabridged speculation. Somehow this film makes the most sense out of any avenues I’ve discovered by reading or watching numerous television specials.

The film is loosely based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, who detests the film so strongly that he disavowed all film contracts for any of his wFrom Hell 2001 - posterorks in the future. However, I personally like the film and have never seen the graphic novel myself. I get the feeling that this could be much like Stephen King’ s disliking of The Shining despite wide public acceptance of the Kubrick film version.

The film was directed by the Hughes Brothers and is complex enough to prohibit my detail of it without making it sound detached. What you can expect is a highly intellectual film that is part whodunit, with gothic visuals and horrific murder scenes, though only shown in strobe-like flashes. Johnny Depp plays detective Frederick Abberline, an Absinthe and Opium addicted investigator that relies as much upon his psychic visions as he does his own intelligent fact finding. Heather Graham plays a fine part as Mary Kelly, one of the rough and tumble tailbangers (the word for prostitute in that day) whose group is being stalked and systematically wiped off the earth. Abberline’s clues lead him into conflict with the Freemasons and suspicions that lead to top officials in the British Monarchy.

I have to admit, the first time I watched this I didn’t quite follow it and turned it off before half way. I was expecting something more along the lines of straight horror than mystery and conspiracy. But I gave my full attention the next time and was glad I stuck with it. The actors offer fantastic portrayals, everyone of them, and the visual aspect is just as arresting. It has an ending that is both triumphant and tragic, which is not an easy feat by any means. It is an interesting film that will entertain your mind.

From Hell 2001 - pic 2

A tale of mystery, conspiracy and intrigue combined with a horror thriller makes this an entertaining pick for those looking for an intellectually stimulating story.

I give it 4.2 nasty slashes of a shiny blade upon the blood drenched cobblestones of the dismal London death scale.

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Fun facts:

In the Graphic Novel version, the narration follows the killer throughout the story, not the investigation. So you can surmise that the film was substantially rewritten.

Great care for detail was put into the films set up of the crime scenes and the wound patterns on the victims. Photos of the actual murdered victims were used to set up the scenes. The photos can be seen hanging on the walls at the police station in the film. The only murder that they did not reproduce in accurate detail was the last (believed to be Mary Kelly in real life) because it was so violent and graphic the directors feared an X-rating on the film.

The real letter from Jack the Ripper sent to Police Headquarters in 1888 started with the heading, From Hell…thus the title of the film.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker – my favorite horror TV episodes – Halloween edition

Kolchak - the night stalker pic 7

Kolchak: The Night Stalker
Season 1, episode 1

Series 1974/1975 – 20 episodes – following two full-length made for TV movies

Darren McGavinKolchak tv pic 10
Simon Oakland
Jack Grinnage
Ruth McDevitt

Created by Jeff Rice
Directed by Allen Baron

The Ripper – S1 E1

Chicago, May 21st, 3:AM, location: the Boom Boom Room, Dancer Michelle Shiff dances her last number…forever.

A woman screams. A strange man darts from the dressing room leaving behind her mutilated body.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, several women at exotic dance clubs and seedy massage parlors are murdered by a strangely dressed assailant yielding a cane. (The cane pulls out into a sword.) Carl Kolchak, reporter for the Chicago Independent News Service,  arrives at each crime scene often before the police, much to the dismay of the police Captain.

There is a strong similarity in this case to the killing of five women in London, in 1888, by a murderer only known as, Jack the Ripper. Further Kolchak - the night stalker pic 3investigation leads Kolchak to believe that this killer, Jack the Ripper, and the killer in several other similar incidents, were committed by the same man. The killer travels from one city to another, killing five woman at a time, before moving on to the next. Germany, Italy, New York, five women murdered and mutilated through the years, all with the same MO.

The supernatural adversaries in the show were always interesting. They were always like super-villians, throwing police across the sidewalks, getting shot but not stopping, and displaying powers beyond normal humans. In this episode, the Ripper jumps from a four story building to the street, in order to evade police. Vincennzo is stuck between having the timid reporter, Updyke, writing a weak uninteresting story, or Kolchak going overboard with his story about a two hundred year old serial killer. Kolchak and Vincennzo argue and spar about the reports, which adds an exciting element to the hard-boiled reporter’s style.

They sure know how to ramp up the tension in these old shows and this episode sets the bar high for the series. Kolchak discovers the home of the Kolchak the ripper pic 16killer and enters it looking for clues. Naturally, the Ripper comes home while Carl is in the house, and the reporter nearly dies trying to get that elusive photograph.

This is the first episode of the series and although the music and some of the ideas are dated, the show is still entertaining. Much of that is because Darren McGavin plays a convincing role making you want to believe stories that should be relegated to Weekly World News, and tabloids that concentrate on the weird and paranormal. I enjoy his acting and personality whether he’s playing Carl Kolchak, or the father in A Christmas Story. Simon Oakland as Vincenzo is the perfect counter to Carl’s insanity.

Fun Facts:

The Characters and story line were based on novels by Jeff Rice. 

Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson had worked together on the previous made-for-TV-movies, but declined to work on the series.

Darren McGavin declined to renew his contract after 20 episodes because he had taken on the producer’s role in a struggle to make the show better and never received credit for it (or pay). There were 3 scripted but un-filmed episodes at the time of his departure.