The Johnny Depp Archive

From Hell (2001)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson, Lesley Sharpe

Directed by: The Hughes Brothers

Rating: 1 2 3

Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline examines a vital clue...

Oh dear. I would like to think that the art of horror movie making has moved on somewhat since the days of Hammer. Sadly, nobody told the directors of From Hell this. From absinthe swilling, laudanum dropping, opium smoking detectives to scar-faced, bowler hatted knife wielding street gangs, all the necessary requisite of auld Laaandaan are here. The film only just stops short of newsboys running through the street shouting 'Extra! Extra! Read all abaaat it!' and while nobody actually says 'Cor blimey guvnor it's a real pea souper an' no mistake' you know they're all thinking it.

Every Victorian stereotype you can think of is thrown into the mix here - from meglomaniac masons to syphillitic royalty, dodgy lobotomies to the workhouse. even the poor Elephant Man gets to put in an appearance!

Heather Graham and assorted other squeaky clean prostitutes

Of course the principal curse of all Jack the Ripper films are squeaky clean, cut glass accented prostitutes (Jane Seymour, anyone?), and From Hell is no exception. Heather Graham is impossibly decorous, pretty, glossy haired and, well, posh, to be living on the streets, although the other whores (played by a motley collection of British actresses all familiar from TV serials like Clocking Off) are slightly more convincing.

Johnny Depp looks gorgeous as ever as Inspector Abberline (despite the fluffy facial furniture) but appears to be sleepwalking his way through the script (must be all the opium) and sounds as if he's spent far too much time studying Michael Caine in the 1980s ITV Jack the Ripper mini-series. ('You're only supposed to take the bloody liver out.'?)

But which distinguished British actor is the Ripper? Could it be. Ian Holm (Sir William Gull - so therefore an obvious suspect)? Ian Richardson (so therefore an obvious suspect)? I won't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that the revelation of the Ripper's identity is the one bit of the film that isn't disappointing - in fact it's really quite scary.

The cover up begins... and only Johnny knows the truth. Or something.

All in all, the film starts off badly but does improve - the solution to the Ripper mystery is intriguing (based on Stephen Knight's 1970s Ripper expose The Final Solution, but cutting out Walter Sickert and adding in Abberline's historically-load-of- pants drug addiction) and it's entertaining enough just spotting the cliches. But it has to be said the ITV mini series was a lot more convincing.

Where's Lewis Collins when you need him?

  • Share on Tumblr