4/26/2017

THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (Review)

Title: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: Wolf Mankowitz
Cast: Paul Massie, Dawn Adams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Norma Marla, Francis De Wolf
Year: 1960
Min: 88

Dr. Henry Jekyll (Paul Massie) is working on a formula that will separate the good side of man and the uncontrolled, dark side. In the meantime, his beautiful wife, Kitty (Dawn Adams) is cheating on him with his old friend Paul Allen (Christopher Lee), who is also leaching money off of him. Jekyll decides to test the the formula on himself. He becomes a younger and more handsome man, named Hyde. As Hyde, he is a lecherous, perverse, unscrupulous, and, ultimately murderous man.
He catches Kitty in her cheating ways and passes himself off as a friend of Jekyll, and takes this chance to pretend to befriend Paul. At the same time, he takes an interest in sexy exotic dancer and snake charmer Maria (Norma Marla), who ultimately falls for his charms. He also tries to worm his way into Jekyll's house and decides that he must not only make Paul pay for his misgivings but have Kitty, as well.

 Hammer Studios first attempt at adapting Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde takes some liberties with the novella. It takes a more psychological and pyschosexual approach to the subject matter, than some other adaptations may have been. Unfortunately the end result is not as a great as it could or should have been, but is also not with its share of merits.
The movie is highly aided by very strong performances. Massie is great in the dual role, so good that I honestly thought it was two different actors in the role! Of course, this does explain why Jekyll's beard always looked kinda ''off'' to me. Lee is phenomenal as Paul Allen. He exceeds a certain sleazebag and sex appeal filled charm in the role. But, it is also a complex one, that has at least a few  heroic moments. Everyone else in the movie's cast does a fine job in their respective parts. Also, keep a eye out for the late, great Oliver Reed in a cameo, as man who wants to brawl with Hyde over his treatment of a ''harlot''.

The film's interest in studying the duality of man is certainly inspired by the book. And, there are some interesting moments and ideas presented. But, it simply does not go far enough. The movie is  many times very quiet, which by definition can be fine, but the horror is ultimately too subdued. Even for an early Hammer movie it is quite restrained in what happens, action wise. However, there an undercurrent of a maturity and dark sexuality that do make it interesting from a psychological narrative.
After a whole lot of not much happening the movie begins to pick up some steam. It heads into an admit ably enthralling and, at few points, shocking climax. Unfortunately, the actual ending, though competent, is kind of flat. It hurts the upward mobility that the story had taken. Although, there is some credit to be given as it is an outcome not seen in any other take on this classic story.
The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll is an interesting but somewhat disappointing entry in Hammer's studio legendary run. It is expertly acted and has some good ideas. But, for a good part of the film not much happens. The horror is very restrained to the point of being nonexistent, save for the well done climax. A flat ending further adds to the movie's uneven quality. It can be found on a Hammer Films Double Feature Blu-ray along with the superior The Gorgon put out by Mills Creek Entertainment.
2 out of 4

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