Jack the Ripper's Lair Moves 600 Miles East for Hollywood Thriller

Article excerpt

COBBLED STREETS, swirling fog and gin-soaked prostitutes: even the most eagle-eyed movie buff might assume that this was the East End of London, dressed up to evoke the Victorian era.

But this re-creation of the terraced alleyways of Whitechapel - the killing ground of Jack the Ripper - was filmed 600 miles to the east, in a field outside Prague.

From Hell, starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham and Robbie Coltrane, was made in the Czech Republic after film makers decided that the odds of a 1970s bank building sneaking into scenes depicting 19th-century London were simply too high. Most of the east London back streets frequented by the Ripper have disappeared, to be replaced by council blocks and high- rise towers.

So the 20th Century Fox cast and crew decamped to Prague, a city almost undamaged by bombs or other acts of war, which retains beautiful buildings, churches, bridges and streetscapes. Trouble loomed, however, when the Oscar-winning production designer Martin Childs realised that the buildings did not look "remotely English". But by then it was too late to change the location.

So an army of carpenters, bricklayers and electricians descended on a 20-acre site near the city to recreate a section of London from scratch, made of wood and plaster, at a cost of pounds 1m - still half the amount it would have cost had filming taken place in London.

The team of Czech craftsmen made terrace upon terrace of houses in five main streets as well as many alleyways and squares. They also built a replica of Nicholas Hawksmoor's Christ Church in Spitalfields. Mr Childs said: "It would have been financially impossible to do [in London] what we did there because of the costs. …