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!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!

London, 1874. On the belief that within every person there is two personalities, one who they are, the other who they could be without moral restrictions, Dr Henry Jekyll studies endlessly on the human mind and creates a serum that will unleash the other personality and create a person free of life's moral restrictions. He tests the serum on himself and becomes Edward Hyde, as Hyde he discovers that his wife Kitty is having an affair with his friend Paul Allen. Paul Allen, whom always uses Dr Jekyll for his money, in order to pay off his own debts. Jekyll begins questioning just who he is when Hyde and Allen become friends and begin exploring London's seediest nightspots. Jekyll decides to close the door on Hyde and destroys his work, but Hyde still manages to resurface regardless of the serum. Now Jekyll must do battle within himself, two personalities fighting for control, the two faces of Dr Jekyll at war within the same mind and body.



The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll is a 1960 Hammer production. It stars Paul Massie, Dawn Addams and Christopher Lee. It was directed by Terence Fisher. In America the film was released under two different titles; Jekyll's Inferno and House of Fright. It was based on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

This is quite a dark depiction of Mr Hyde, especially so for a 1960 film, its rather clear that Hyde has raped Kitty, obviously we don't see it but what we do see is him forcing himself on her and the aftermath where he has already left but she awakes with scratches and cuts on her. On top of this we see him strangling a woman who we later see with strong red marks on her throat to show how forcefully he was strangling her. This I thought was quite a daring move on Hammer's part, again evidence towards the aspect of hammer constantly pushing the boundaries.

On a lighter note, there were a lot of funny faces pulled by Mr Hyde in this film, so I think The Many Faces of Mr Hyde would equally work as an appropriate alternate title.





WARNING! I'M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE ENDING! WARNING!

As the poster puts it “A shock ending that you dare not reveal!” well, I dare reveal this “shocking” ending. The ending seems somewhat rather promising for a while, Mr Hyde kills three people and frames Jekyll for the murders, putting Jekyll in a situation where he must give up to his Hyde persona and allow him full control. To which Hyde then destroys Jekyll's research and sets up the scene of the crime to look like Jekyll killed himself. Allowing Hyde to escape and live a new life free of Jekyll. This I thought was brilliant. Next, we see Hyde and a group of others at a hearing about Jekyll's crimes. As they leave Hyde walks alongside Jekyll's old friend, a fellow scientist we see at the start of the film, Hyde then grabs hold of the man and says “Help me” in Jekyll's voice. Now, that for me would have been prefect, what should have followed should have been Hyde shrugging off Jekyll and walking out the building presumably to live a life of his own. Instead, Jekyll begins to fight Hyde once more, then he transforms back into Jekyll who says that he has destroyed Hyde, to which the other scientist says that he has also destroyed himself. Which I quite like the aspect of saying that he has destroyed himself, not physically but mentally, as Jekyll a mild mannered, dull reclusive has now become a murderer and a rapist, and will now most likely be executed for his other persona's crimes. I suppose its a decent ending but I wouldn't call it so “shocking that you dare not reveal!” I think a more shocking ending would have been everything up until the point where Hyde speaks with Jekyll's voice saying “Help me.” so that we know Jekyll is still alive in there. Then have him shrug it off and leave to live a notorious life all the while with Jekyll having to bare witness to all the horrors Hyde inflicts on people. That for me would have been a more shocking ending and a much more horrifying prospect to happen to Jekyll.

This is a decent Hammer film, I personally think Terence Fisher has directed better Hammer films but this isn't at all a bad film. What I do like about this Jekyll and Hyde adaptation is that it's different to other adaptations, its still the same story but certain aspects are changed, and more crucially its one of few adaptations that doesn't have Jekyll/Hyde die at the end. It's also unique for making Jekyll a dull and bland character in contrast to Hyde who is portrayed more exciting and suave. The reason for this was to reflect Terence Fisher's belief in what critics have called “the charm of evil”. I really liked the dark yet charming depiction of Mr Hyde, it worked very effectively, and I think made the character that bit more terrifying than having him just simply being a bad man all the time, in this he comes across as a gentleman, which allows him to gain people's trust but even Mr Hyde is two faced. This is definitely one for any Jekyll and Hyde fan, I wouldn't say this is the best Jekyll and Hyde adaptation but it is good, and made better for tweaking certain aspects and bringing a fresh new angle to the classic tale.

The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll 3/5

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