Roy Ward Baker (director)
29 January 2018 (released)
31 January 2018
This admittedly bonkers but highly original take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic has got to be one of the best among Hammer Horror’s canon. Just like Dr. Jekyll mixing secret concoctions in his laboratory, this 1971 film audaciously mixes fact with fiction - and with satisfactory results at that!
Here, Dr. Henry Jekyll is played by Ralph Bates who does a fine job as the driven scientist hoping to one day find the ultimate all-cure for illnesses. Deeply hurt (or should that be insulted?) by his friend Professor Robertson’s (Gerald Sim) snarly remark that he won’t discover any cure of note in his lifetime, Dr. Jekyll swiftly changes his approach in order not to lose face. Obsessed with the idea that the answer to his prayers lies in creating an elixir of life he has somewhat of an epiphany: since women apparently live longer than men it would make sense to extract female hormones, you know, see how they can be used in the miracle elixir… and before you can say ‘Dig!” Edinburgh grave-robbers supreme Burke and Hare, possibly on vacation in London just to see the sights, find themselves in business.
And so it happens that our well-meaning doctor soon locks himself away in his lab and starts meddling with things better left untouched. We all know that in the classic tale, good Dr. Jekyll is transformed into the hideous and vile Mr. Hyde after injecting himself with a serum. But here Dr. Jekyll is transformed into a beautiful (albeit evil) woman who almost looks like his female alter ego – even Bates’ beauty spot on his cheek has been painted on actress Martine Beswick who had been chosen to portray… Sister Hyde! For this is indeed what Jekyll explains to his young and pretty upstairs neighbour Susan Spencer (Susan Brodrick) who has a serious crush on him and isn’t too pleased to learn that an elegant lady dressed in fineries suddenly has taken up residence in the doctor’s household. Meanwhile, Susan’s dapper brother Howard (Lewis Fiander) falls head over heels for the mysterious lady… with unexpected consequences, naturally!
Meanwhile, Dr. Jekyll realises that in order to proceed with his experiments and latest findings he needs to continue injecting himself with female hormone serums but that gets increasingly difficult what with Burke and Hare exposed and falling prey to a lynch mob. Despair not, this is when Jack the Ripper comes in handy… for the next murders on unfortunate young women are not committed by bloodthirsty Jack but by Dr. Jekyll/Sister Hyde respectively. Say no more! The film’s tense climax presents us with a hybrid of a monster but there can be no winners and ultimately no escape for the culprit(s).
Martine Beswick strikes the right balance between seductively cool and pure calculated evil while Ralph Bates believably manages to shift between a man with a conscience and a doctor driven by blind ambition. The restored Blu-ray version of DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE delights with a superb print quality and emphasises the cinematography by Norman Warwick. And we have a superbly talented scriptwriter with Brian Clemens (THE AVENGERS TV-series).