Jack the Ripper stories have been done many times before, my personal fave being the Michael Caine mini-series made back in 1988. While “From Hell” has a much flashier and more interesting look, it lacks a lot of the substance of the aforementioned mini-series and is basically unrecognisable from the source material its based on. Indeed, I’m not into comics or the more adult ‘graphic novels’ but “From Hell” is truly a must read. The rather thick single volume edition I read a while back and still remember vividly. This was not another “Who is Jack the Ripper” mystery, instead its a biography of the main suspect himself and his life leading up to, during and after the murders.
There’s stunningly researched chapters looking at elements of royal conspiracy, psychic visions of the future, prostitution, eccentricities of the time (eg. the ‘Elephant Man’) and the Free Masons including an unforgettable near 30-page monologue discussing their history and showing how some of London’s greatest landmarks form a pentagram.
The film on the other hand barely adapts it – those aforementioned items do appear but in a startlingly reduced and less graphic capacity. Other elements are entirely made up and out of nowhere such as Abberline’s opium habit, and a new sixth murder added towards the very start (three girls die before the ‘two in one night’ rampage, in real life only two did).
Characters are poorly done, Abberline is expanded but terribly miscast with Depp. Heather Graham continues on a downward slope of acting with an adequate performance here, Coltrane and Holm are likable as always though and Lesley Sharp as Kate Eddows (the older blond one) stands out the most of the bunch.
The killer’s motives are far less well written and impactful than the book, however the cinematography is quite beautiful and the sets glorious. Indeed, directing wise the Hughes Brothers have done a pretty good job but sadly the script is somewhat lacklustre which isn’t much of a surprise as the book is almost impossible to adapt into a movie. A beautiful looking disappointment.