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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde (1971)
(2018 Restored Blu-Ray & DVD Doubleplay)


Starring: Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick
Distributor: StudioCanal
RRP: £TBC (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 29 January 2018

Professor Jekyll is working on a universal antidote to disease. When he tries it on a fly the insect survives longer than its normal lifespan by changing sex to female. This sets him on a new path of research: an elixir of life using female hormones. The first time he tries it on himself he metamorphoses into a completely female version of himself, who he passes off to nosy neighbours as his sister. Jekyll employs the mortuary attendant to pass him recently deceased female bodies, before using the dubious services of body snatchers Burke and Hare. However, when that avenue dries up he is forced to search the foggy streets of Victorian London for live victims. All the while his female form of Mrs Hyde is exerting evil dominance over his natural male form… and she has foul plans...

Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (released in the UK in 1972) is loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The script was written by Brian Clemens of The Avengers fame, a solidly successful scriptwriter. The Avengers connection is made stronger by virtue of Clemens producing the film along with Albert Fennell.

Apparently, the mad idea of a gender change was mooted and by the following week – long before the picture went into production – Hammer already had a promotional artwork film poster ready. Hammer really took to Ralph Bates as a leading man to replace the ageing Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and returned to him a few times. Some have described this role as Jekyll being his best, but it doesn’t reach the heights of The Horror of Frankenstein.

Actress Martine Beswick is a perfect counterpart for Bates (she really does look like she is his sister), managing in this instance to out-act Bates due the meatier part. Villains inevitably make for a fuller acting piece. There are tasty little roles here also for Philip Madoc as the mortuary attendant Byker, and Gerald Sim as Professor Robertson.

This is an inventive twist on the established tale. I defy anyone not to chuckle when Jekyll first changes into a woman, notices she has breasts now and has a crafty feel. It’s important to point out, however, that Mrs Hyde isn’t simply Jekyll as a female; she has her own mind and completely different nefarious objectives to Jekyll. In fact, all she can think about is dominating the form so that she never changes back to his male form. Although Beswick reportedly refused a full-frontal nudity scene, there is one filmed from the rear. Hammer was becoming more risqué, and so we also get a mortuary attendant who is quite obviously a necrophiliac. When Jekyll goes there to obtain a female body for his work, Byker claims that one of them is his.

Fundamentally, this film is Jekyll and Hyde, but it also incorporates Jack the Ripper (for the female killings in the London fog), and the graveyard humour of the Burke and Hare double-act. Everything was filmed on studio sets and looks fantastic. All the street vendors and the local Whitechapel pub are in place, the minor characters are stereotypically Victorian urchins or policemen, and the pea-soup foggy streets of London are very atmospheric.

Not the best that Hammer had to offer, but a solid and original twist on an established theme.


Ty Power

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