Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971)

Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde is one of my favourite Hammer horrors, and I am now kicking myself that it took me THIS long to finally see it. For some reason, I just kept putting it off and putting it off, despite the fact that I'm a fan of the two leads.

Anyway, now that I have seen it I can try to nudge other people towards giving it a watch. I think that most Hammer fans will get a kick out of it, even if you don't share my exact tastes and it doesn't become an immediate favourite (but, y'know, it really should).

The story, as if you can't guess from the title, concerns Dr. Jekyll (Ralph Bates) and a variation on the classic tale of his identity crisis, with a mixture that he creates turning him into his sister, Hyde (Martine Beswick). There's a lovely young woman named Susan (Susan Brodrick) who takes a shine to the doctor, while her brother (Howard, played by Lewis Fiander) ends up quite taken with the dangerous Hyde. As Dr. Jekyll finds that he needs more of the fresh, special ingredient for his elixir it's not long until more and more people start turning up dead.

Written by Brian Clemens, this takes the original tale by Robert Louis Stevenson and mixes in a number of other historical facts and fictions (Burke & Hare, Jack The Ripper) to create a thoroughly entertaining slice of Hammer horror, with an extra serving of delicious perversity at its core.

The direction by Roy Ward Baker is solid, but it's hard to think of anyone going too far wrong with the fun premise and the wonderful leads. I've always liked Bates, and thought him the best of the younger stars that Hammer used in a number of their horror movies, and he does his usual great work here, being effortlessly charming and easy to root for, even as the situation worsens. Beswick is one of the more memorable beautiful ladies that the studio made, deservedly, into star material, and fans will be grinning when they see her unabashed turn here. And the fact that you CAN believe that the two could spring from the same genes helps immensely.

Brodrick and Fiander aren't quite as good, but that's why they're in supporting roles, I guess. Gerald Sim is just fine as Professor Robertson, a friend of Dr. Jekyll, and Ivor Dean and Tony Calvin are suitably repellent as the opportunistic body stealers Burke and Hare.

With some wonderful set-pieces, production values in line with the top end of the Hammer range, a witty and pretty clever script, and just a whole lot of fun fun fun, this is one that I highly recommend.



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