This blog is a place for Me to review classic British films (in particular horror films) by Hammer, Amicus and the like. But I will occasionally branch out and review international films as these are the international counterpart to the British films, some of which will include works by American International Pictures, Mario Bava et al. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde

Whilst experimenting to develop an elixir for eternal life, Dr Jekyll creates a serum made up of Female hormones. The reason for this being that he has concluded that female hormones have stronger life than male hormones, for example how women manage to not go bald whereas men do. After believing he has accomplished his goal, he drinks the serum but not all goes to plan as he becomes a woman; Sister Hyde. Dr Jekyll needs more female hormones to create more of his serum, and after Burke and Hare, the two men doing the dirty work for him, get punished by the public for their crimes, Jekyll himself has to go out committing murders in order to get the bodies he needs. The more he does it the more his Hyde side likes it and begins trying to take over. Here the battle begins, the battle of the sexes, the battle for control.

Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde is a 1971 Hammer production based on Robert Louis Stevenson's short story, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It's a retelling of the classic tale but with a twist, he doesn't turn into a monster of a man, but into a woman. It stars Ralph Bates as Dr Jekyll and Martine Beswick as Sister Hyde. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker.

This isn't the only time Hammer have remade a film or franchise they have already made, but made it a black comedy. The only other one I know of is The Horror of Frankenstein which was a retelling of the original Frankenstein tale but with an added dark humour. Both The Horror of Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde star Ralph Bates in the title roles. Maybe it was a possible future direction Hammer was heading in, to remake certain tales with added humour and have Ralph Bates in all of them, much like the use of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in most others. Or maybe it was just a coincidence. But I have to say it would have been nice to have had some other Hammer black comedy remakes with Ralph Bates. Ralph Bates, much like other Hammer regulars, was a good actor and an enjoyable person to watch in these films, obviously not as good as the classic icons of Hammer; Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, but he's certainly up there.

Although it's made with a tongue in cheek black comedy approach, I didn't find it had a lot of humour in it, except the obvious comical element that he turns into a woman instead of Mr Hyde. But what is a funny sight is in the middle of a scene where Hyde is killing Jekyll's friend, Hyde begins changing between herself and Jekyll, so in other words we get to see Ralph Bates in a corset. Another funny plot development is that of Jekyll and his neighbour, Susan, taking a fancy to each other just as Susan's brother and Jekyll's “sister” Hyde take a fancy to each other too. We've seen love triangles done again and again, but I think this is the first and only time I've seen a love square.

I liked the inclusion of historical aspects to the story, these include Burke and Hare who gather the women's bodies for Dr Jekyll, and then there's Jack the Ripper who is actually Jekyll collecting the bodies for himself then Hyde who begins killing for the fun of it.

Overall, I really liked it. It was at the time a new take on the classic tale that has been adapted and remade so many times, so to take it and put a twist on the story was something of ingenuity and I think quite a brilliant move for Hammer, especially when you think about other franchises they did like Dracula and Frankenstein where they just churned out sequel after sequel after sequel. Now I have nothing against the Dracula and Frankenstein franchises I love both. But I really appreciate Hammer taking a story we've seen so many times before and instead of just doing the same thing again, changing one major element and through that creating something original, even though it is actually an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's story.

Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde 4/5

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