“Henry, have you experimented with this drug upon, any other creature?”
Dr. Henry Jekyll (Paul Massie) is a scientist. He has a theory that man is comprised of two separate beings one good and one bad. And that these two beings are always in conflict with each other. His theory is met with skepticism by his fellow scientists. This pushes him even more to prove that he is correct. To that end he spends most of his time in his laboratory experimenting. He believes that man can become a higher being if he can control the primitive man inside himself. In order to do that he must first understand the primitive side of man. With that knowledge he can find a way to control it. He has developed a serum that will bring out the evil side of any creature. He first experiments on a monkey. Then on himself.
His wife Kitty (Dawn Addams) tells Jekyll’s fellow scientist Dr. Littauer (David Kossoff) that she is worried about him. When Jekyll’s friend Paul Allen (Christopher Lee) shows up looking for money she tells Jekyll to send him away. She is pretending that she hates Paul. In reality she is having an affair with him.
After Jekyll injects himself with his formula he converts into Mr. Hyde. As Hyde he finds out about Kitty and Paul. He then goes on a spree of debauchery. It’s not too long before Jekyll’s addiction to being Mr. Hyde causes him to lose control.
“The Two Faces of Doctor Jekyll” was released in 1960 and was directed by Terence Fisher. This is a Hammer film that uses the underlying plot of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, but that’s it. Hammer spins it into something that those who are rabid Jekyll fans would most likely not recognize. We still have a scientist researching man’s good and evil sides and the conflict between the two.
This being a Hammer film it has the prerequisite lavish sets. I will admit that sometimes I watch Hammer films just for the atmosphere. I have a little difficulty with Jekyll and Hyde movies. They aren’t really horror movies but more character studies. You basically know it’s going to end badly so there is no real mystery. You’re not looking for clues.
Still Hammer’s version, or perversion if you are a purist, made the story a little more interesting. Hammer also spins the character in a different way. The unpolished Dr. Jekyll is bearded with a deep haunting voice where the clean-shaved Hyde with his high pitched voice is handsome, almost debonair. His appearance is in total contrast to his personality.
The book was published in 1886 during the reign of Queen Victoria. Sexual repression was expected. Jack the Ripper was in full force. Other stories such as “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Island of Dr. Moreau” titillated the masses. The story is sometimes looked on as a metaphor for Victorian life. Prim and gentile on the surface, but dark and debase underneath. Something that people in the 1800’s could sink their teeth into.