Hammer Films: “The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll” (1960)

Hammer's Dr. Jekyll

This will be the first time I review an adaptation Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and My. Hyde, since I neglected to include 1953’s “Abbott & Costello meet Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” in my Universal Classic Monsters section. The reason for the omission was because it was not a classic like 1948’s “Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein” and because Boris Karloff only played Dr. Jekyll. Due to his age, a stuntman needed to portray Mr. Hyde in a pullover mask. I also usually review films in chronological order, but I already posted an article about “The Curse of the Werewolf,” which was released a year later, so you can read this article first, then scroll down.

Terence Fisher (who else?) directed. Paul Massie stars as Jekyll and Hyde. Dr, Jekyll’s wife, Kitty (Dawn Addams), is cheating on him with Paul Allen (Christopher Lee). One of the first times since “Horror of Dracula” that Lee was cast a suave villain as apposed to a traditional lumbering brute-type monster. Unlike most adaptations, Dr. Jekyll does not become a hideous fiend, but rather a much more handsome and debonair version of himself, Mr. Hyde.

Mr. Hyde begins to socialize with Kitty and Paul, claiming to be an acquaintance of Dr. Jekyll. Hyde and Paul get into a drunken scuffle with Oliver Reed. When he turns back into Jekyll, he experiences and existential crisis. He doesn’t know who he really is and he isn’t sure if Hyde is the man he wants to be. Hyde and Paul become buddies, which makes for a bizarre love triangle. Hyde seems to enjoy that Kitty is cheating on Jekyll even though they are supposedly one in the same. Paul has great gambling debts. Hyde offers to bail him out of his financial jam in exchange for being introduced to the seedy side of life. Hyde and Paul go on a bender and they end up in an opium den. Hyde then makes an inappropriate request. He wants Paul to “lend” him his mistress. He wants his wife to cheat on him… with himself. Mr. Hyde is one sick puppy, so Paul refuses.

Dr. Jekyll needs to exercise his demons, but Mr. Hyde has other plans. He will have his revenge on behalf of Jekyll. Hyde kills Paul first with a poisonous snake, then he forces himself on Kitty. He also strangles a sexy belly dancer he has been sleeping with. Kitty awakes, dazed, perhaps drugged, and falls over a railing to her death, crashing through a glass ceiling. Jekyll finally has a conversation with Hyde via his reflection in a mirror. Something a lot of Spider-Man villains seem to do nowadays. Apparently, this town is not big enough for the both of them. Hyde fakes the death of Jekyll by burning down his laboratory. Hyde’s crimes are pinned on the late Jekyll, but after an inquiry, Hyde turns back into Jekyll. Jekyll will face the consequences for all of Hyde’s offenses, but seems confident that Hyde will not return.

Not a horror movie in the traditional sense since Mr. Hyde was more of a sexual deviant than a monster. This film was major box office bomb, but I give director Terence Fisher credit for his decision to make a thriller that would appeal to an older demographic. He also allowed Christopher Lee a reprise from being typecast.

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About domcappelloblog

New York based screenwriter.

Posted on October 27, 2013, in Hammer Films, Horror and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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