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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


Review by Brad Green:
Victorian London is always the key. You can veritably hear the damp and smoggy lanes in this soundtrack. Moriarty or The Ripper; Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Abberline; thriller, mystery, or whodunit; itís not really the villains or sleuths or suspenseful plots that press in the eeriness and channel the chills, but the gothic milieu of nineteenth century London. The Interminably Not Amused sits on the throne, and a dank and dangerous spell hovers in the air. The city is cloaked by shadows and silhouettes; the hansom cabs roll by with their clattering of horseshoes; the respirations of man and beast condense into low clouds of ethereal mist; and the atmosphere is thick on all sides with cold foreboding. Trevor Jonesís soundtrack inhales this ambience and then breaths it out to us in slow puffs of deliberate, brooding menace.†

Forget the trashy Marilyn Manson song that heads this soundtrack. Itís a pure marketing gimmick, and has nothing to do with the sinister strings and otherworldly choruses that lay the foundation for the most ominous of scores. There are no cheap melodic thrills here; it is music to stick in the stereo while you turn the pages of Robert Louis Stevenson or Conan Doyle. For Jack The Ripper, never arrested in real life, now resides in a mythological realm, that gothic England of literature that numbers among its denizens Jekyll and Hyde and the Hound of the Baskervilles.†

Gruesome and sensational as Jackís atrocities were, it is his sense of showmanship, his elusiveness and the passage of time that have elevated him from serial killer to legendary villain. It is not the horror of the murders that is evoked, but the fear of where terror might strike next, and in what grisly guise. Every now and then the melancholy blanket of strings stirs with a rustle of percussion or an urgency of rhythm, only to sink back into sustained tension. Mostly the instrumental timbres are pure to the point of irony. The orchestration is sparse and clean, relying on minor keys and descending phrases to summon suspense. Yet there is an occasional twist; an electronic distortion or exotic tone not likely to be heard at any traditional philharmonic performance.†

This is the extra twist of the knife, with the most diabolical example occurring in the closing cue. Bow Belle (Absinthium) sounds like it might be a sprightly waltz, a cheerful tune for a bright ballroom, only we canít be quite sure. The stammering, distorted, crippled tones we hear are no doubt the product of some hi-tech digital tweaking, but they sound like theyíre emanating from a record played on JTRís personal gramophone Ė the one he uses for scalpel practice.

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TITLE: From Hell
ID: 30206 62962
Varese Sarabande
MUSIC BY: Trevor Jones
MUSIC PERFORMED BY: The Academy of St. Martins in the Field†

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