Thursday, November 20, 2003

Fleeing network television because of that ubiquitous, incredibly unpleasant mug shot of Michael Jackson, I happened on the film version of From Hell on HBO. I had forgotten how much I hated it when I saw it in the theater. It was possibly the worst period film I've ever seen. It's not just Heather Graham's Victorian-prostitute-with-perfect-skin-and-teeth, it's not just the screaming anachronisms one after the other, it's not just the wild and seemingly random rearrangement of historical fact, it's not just the obvious looks of embarrassment on the faces of the real actors in the cast like Robbie Coltrane and Ian Holm.

More than any of its awful components, the problems of From Hell are fundamental: Every single brain cell associated with this project--and I am speaking of the original graphic novel written by Alan Moore--has been ruthlessly exterminated.

Part of the reason why I didn't mind the silly film version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was that Moore wrote that original story as an entertainment in the Graham Greene sense, a fun, unserious project. But From Hell was about as serious as you can get: Moore put an enormous amount of research into it--the endnotes take up dozens of pages in the collected edition--and came up with an audacious conspiracy story of Masonic intrigue that I didn't believe a word of but was completely captivated by, and which the film script can't even begin to understand. This is one of those rare films that it's painful to watch, not for its disturbing images, but for its total failure of intellect.

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