Tag Archives: Jack the Ripper

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Ian Holm Performances

Ian Holm was one of those impossibly talented, incredibly adaptable, classically Shakespearean trained thespians who stood out and rocked any role given to him with wit, grace, nobility and utmost class. He had a comprehensive command over dialogue and never *ever* just repeated what the script said flatly or histrionically but always gave it flair, flourish, deep meaning and always gave the viewer the impression that what he’s saying is organic, urgent and full of life. He has passed away now at age 88 but he had a legendary run in Hollywood across many genres, working with countless prolific directors on very very special films where he was always a ray of light and talent each time. Here are my personal top ten of his performances!

10. Napoleon Bonaparte in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Ian played Napoleon multiple times in his career but the loopy, verbosely Gallic take on the legendary conquerer here has to be my top pick. He’s off the wall, a little crazy and power drunk from just winning a war, and spends most of his appearance bellowing loudly, swilling wine and abruptly falling asleep, it’s a tongue in cheek sendup of history that he has a lot of fun with.

9. Mr. Kurtzman in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

It’s a small role as the main character’s boss but he nails the manic satire of bureaucratic institutions perfectly. Kurtzman is the kind of under qualified, good natured nitwit who has not a clue what his role or responsibilities are really about and skips his way through the workday with cheerful indifference.

8. Terry Rapson in Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow

The obligatory ‘disaster movie scientist who no one listens to but of course is correct in his calculations,’ Ian makes Terry a convincing meteorological guru who gravely (but not without humour) heralds the incoming weather cataclysm with gravity and believable sincerity.

7. Skinner in Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille

I can picture Ian jumping, hopping and running amok in the voiceover recording booth for this insanely exuberant villain role as the nasty, pretentious hack head chef of a prestigious Paris restaurant who makes trouble for everybody. His French accent is a beauteous, stylistically bonkers creation and the sheer verve and piss-ant tenacity he puts forth into the performance is commendable.

6. Pod Clock in BBC’s The Borrowers

This lovely television adaptation of Mary Norton’s beloved book series will always have a special place in my heart. Holm gives wonderful work playing the patriarch of the pint sized Clock family, tiny humans who live secretly amongst us and scavenge our everyday objects to survive. One particular moment stands out as he gives a heartfelt monologue to his daughter Arietty (Rebecca Callard) about a pet beetle he once had when he was young to console her during a sad time.

5. Liam Casey in Sydney Lumet’s Night Falls On Manhattan

Ian isn’t the obvious choice to play an NYC police detective but Lumet’s supremely underrated crime saga sees him spectacularly portray a very conflicted officer and father who finds himself deep in a morally complex web of corruption. You get the sense that this really is a man who set out with the best intentions, for himself, his son (Andy Garcia) and his longtime partner (James Gandolfini) and you can really feel the hurt, deep regret and profound conflict resonating from his performance. Plus he rocks the Brooklyn accent like nobody’s business.

4. Sir William Gull in The Hughes Brothers’ From Hell

I can’t really nail this blurb without wading into spoilers so be warned past this point! Ian brings a deliciously delicate, elegantly malevolent energy to Gull, an aristocratic medical practitioner who, yes, is in fact infamous serial killer Jack The Ripper himself as well. When the final act rolls in his eyes literally go all black like a shark’s and he proclaims with deadly soft spoken maliciousness: “One day men will look back and say that I gave birth to the Twentieth Century.” It’s enough to get us shaking in our boots and a terrifyingly intense villainous turn.

3. Ash in Ridley Scott’s Alien

The ultimate android with an ulterior motive, Ash is a quiet, observant and ruthlessly pragmatic creature by design. He holds the company’s interests above all and when his treachery leads to his end he ironically wishes his crew mates good luck before checking out. It’s perhaps his most iconic role and certainly one of his best.

2. Vito Cornelius in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element

He brings a wonderful, theatrical physicality and exuberance to the role here, a priest of an ancient order tasked with literally helping to save the world. There’s a realistic familial dynamic between him, his twitchy assistant (Charlie Creed Miles), Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich that makes for one of the most engaging, winning troupe of protagonists in film.

1. Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit

This is the treasured, cherished favourite for me. He brings such warmth, haunting complexity and kindhearted humour to Bilbo that I couldn’t imagine any other actor in the role, and even Martin Freeman, although terrific, didn’t hold a candle to the essence Ian brought to this classic Tolkien character. I can quote every line verbatim, picture every mannerism in my head and often find myself walking or biking somewhere and I’ll softly sing “The Road Goes Ever On” in my head and imagine Ian’s Bilbo joining in with me. The road does go ever on and Ian has taken it over the hill and past the horizon into his next great adventure. Thank you for Bilbo and Godspeed on your journey Sir.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Ripper – Letter From Hell

The early 2000’s saw a lot of MTV crowd, ensemble piece slasher flicks try and imitate the success of the Scream franchise. Some are great (Urban Legend) and some, like Ripper: Letter From Hell, fall short of being anything but vaguely entertaining distractions.

AJ Brook plays the survivor of a previous slew of killings studying the psychology of mass murder under a creepy but well researched college professor (Bruce Payne). Suddenly a new killer emerges who uses the crimes of infamous Jack The Ripper as a baseline and commits horrific copycat murders. She finds herself in the crosshairs of this fiend while her friends all start falling victim one by one and a mysterious homicide cop (Jurgen Prochnow) from her past begins to open new investigations.

This is some bottom of the barrel stuff, not gonna lie. Payne and Prochnow genre pedigree amongst the newbie teenage cannon fodder but even they seem too melodramatic for this. I will say it has a cool atmosphere though, and anything to do with the Ripper legacy will always be fascinating.

-Nate Hill

The Hughes Brothers’ From Hell

The Hughes Brothers’ From Hell is one one of the most opulently stylish horror films out there, and despite being a bit melodramatic in areas, it boasts a grim, severely menacing atmosphere which is mandatory considering it focuses on the Jack The Ripper murders in Victorian era London. Based on a drab graphic novel by the great Alan Moore, The Hughes have amped up both suspense and passion and could be accused of Hollywood-izing Moore’s work too much, but the guy just doesn’t write very adaptable material and some liberties have to be taken to make watchable films. This one works better on its own terms, a dark, blood soaked detective story starring Johnny Depp as Frederick Abberline, a brilliant opium addicted Scotland Yard inspector out to nab the Ripper, with the help of his trusty boss Sgt. Godley, played by a scene stealing Robbie ‘Hagrid’ Coltrane. As we all know, the Ripper murders were never really solved, so naturally here a fictitious conspiracy is whipped up, full of intrigue and corruption, but as many cluttered subplots there are flying about, the film’s strength lies in the eerie murders carried out in nocturnal London, and Depp’s very strong performance as the drugged out cop who won’t quit. Supporting work comes from lovely Heather Graham as prostitute and love interest Mary Kelly, Ian Holm as London’s top medical consultant as well as Jason Flemyng, Ian Richardson, Katrin Cartlidge, Ian McNeice, Sophia Myles, Dominic Cooper and scene stealer David Schofield as an evil East End pimp. Some of the fat could have been trimmed here to make this a shorter, more streamlined experience, but the visual element is so damn good that at the same time one can’t get enough of the lavish production design. This one succeeds in creating a lived in London with dimension and scope, as well as staging a very effective sense of dread and danger lurking around every corner of every cobblestone alleyway, the atmosphere is just unreal, as well as the supremely graphic gore that lets us plainly know that the Ripper wasn’t just messing about, he was an actual monster. Great stuff.

-Nate Hill