John Barrymore. Frederic March. Boris Karloff. Spencer Tracy. All names synonymous with todays character. Hammer Studios, no stranger to the character themselves, decided to revisit this iconic character, and added an interesting twist to set the film apart from the others before it.
In fact, they added a few twists, melding together both historically factual elements with the obviously fictional. What was born from such efforts? Todays film, of course!
31 Days of Howl-oween
A Review of Films Filled with Frights
~ Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde ~
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Cast: Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick, Gerald Sim, Lewis Fiander, Susan Brodrick
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 97 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: PG
Dr. Jekyll (Bates), looking for an elixir of life, creates a potion using female hormones from cadavers as its base. Testing the elixir on himself, he transforms into a beautiful young woman, calling her Mrs. Hyde. When Jekyll falls for neighbor Susan Spencer (Brodrick), he must hide his dark secret from her, as well as the fact that he must murder for his addiction, all the while curbing his alter egos intentions of jealously killing Susan.
Another Hammer Studios Production that features a twist on a familiar story. The film features some very engrossing editing, with a particular scene of a murder intercut with the dissecting of a rabbit. The story is also an engrossing one, particularly for those familiar with the already established tale this is based upon.
In typical Hammer fashion, there is the occasional nude shot, the gratuitous violence, and the excellent sets and costuming. The film starts off rather well, instantly grabbing the attention of this viewer. However, once the Dr. transforms for the first time, the film begins to drag, with little tension or thrills, other than the question of how the film will end.
The performances are all stellar, as well as the casting of the uncannily familiar looking Bates and Beswick. The film features some clever direction, as well as transitions (part of the aforementioned editing style).
Fans of Hammer Films will undoubtedly enjoy watching this for the sheer fact that it’s a Hammer Film. In addition, those same fans may enjoy seeing Hammer’s later efforts in trying to reinvent itself (as they did with “Kronos, Vampire Hunter” as well). Others, however, may find it as slow moving as I did, but may take joy in seeing Hammer explain away “Jack the Ripper”.
Interesting to note: there is a new film due soon about Burke and Hare, two characters also featured in this film. Interesting to see John Landis, Simon Pegg, and Andy Serkis take a stab at it, as Landis is no stranger to horror.
My Rating: *** / C-