Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde

01/29/2020 06:26

Film: Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde

Year: 1971

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Writer: Brian Clemens

Starring: Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick and Gerald Sim



This was a film I didn’t realize existed until I started to seek out all of the versions of the Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At this point I know I’ve seen the more early ones and finally got around to seeing this one, not realizing that it was a Hammer production. The name gave a bit away as well so I was intrigued to check this out. The synopsis is a Victorian scientist tests a serum that transforms him into a sensuous murderess.

We actually start this film near the end with Dr. Henry Jekyll (Ralph Bates). He kills a woman and we get a glimpse of a poster looking for a tall, man who wears dark clothes that is murdering women. There’s a blind man that alerts the police as he can hear Dr. Jekyll go by, trying to flee. It then gives us a voice-over narration to tell us the events that led us there.

Professor Robertson (Gerald Sim) meets with a young woman, Susan Spencer (Susan Brodrick). This is our introduction that Professor Robertson is extremely interested in the ladies. They’re going to the same place as it turns out she is moving in with her mother Mrs. Spencer (Dorthy Alison) and her brother Howard (Lewis Fiander). Dr. Jekyll lives in the flat below them.

Both Professor Robertson and Dr. Jekyll are men of science. Dr. Jekyll is coming up with a way to prevent diseases, but Professor Robertson shoots down the idea of how long it will take. This alters Dr. Jekyll’s path to new research. He’s in need of bodies and his friend Byker (Philip Madoc) introduces him to William Burke (Ivor Dean) and William Hare (Tony Calvin).

The first results that Dr. Jekyll has to show is that he’s kept a fly, which only survives about 24 hours to live for three days. Professor Robertson asks about what he did and the two butt heads on the sex of the creature. Dr. Jekyll does reveal that he uses women hormones in his serum as they stay younger looking than men longer.

During his experiments, Susan is interested in getting to know Dr. Jekyll, but he blows her off. He continually needs more bodies and is hiding this fact from her. Burke and Hare are getting them in nefarious ways until they’re discovered, which causes Dr. Jekyll to take on that task with murderous ways. He finally tests it and it doesn’t have the effects he was expecting, it turns him into Sister Hyde (Martine Beswick). Much like in other versions, the more he takes it, the stronger that she becomes to the point where he has to decide before it is too late.

Now growing up, I remember when a similar version came out in the 1990’s that was called Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. That was, of course, more of a comedy where this is your typical Hammer horror that is actually pretty violent. I don’t mean that as a slight though as I was shocked and really dug the fact that it actually combines two real stories from London history to incorporate here.

The obvious one is having Burke and Hare as characters. If you don’t know who they were, they’re probably two of the most famous body snatchers in history. They made a living at first grave robbing for scientists to conduct research which would lead to things like advancement in anatomy and more understanding of the human body. I’m not entirely sure if they actually killed people in order to continue to make money as I’ve never looked fully into the story. I thought that was a good touch though and deepens the story for those who know who they were.

The other major one is the fact that they’re using the story of Jack the Ripper as well. This movie is claiming that Dr. Jekyll was the ripper, which would make sense. He is a man of science. The attacks on the women from the ripper were thought to have been done by a surgeon or someone with medical training with how precise they are. It makes this story not being the most original, but I love incorporating all of this into the story of Jekyll and Hyde.

That will take me to the pacing of this movie which I didn’t have any major issues with. It runs 97 minutes, so it really doesn’t go on too long with a pretty normal runtime. I was concerned if this was going to be like a lot of Hammer films, where we get the reveal right at the end where it wraps up almost immediately after. This isn’t the case though. We actually get introduced to the murders and Hyde just after the 30 minute mark which was good. There’s not a whole lot of mystery, but Professor Robertson does start to think the killer is his friend. We’re put in an interesting situation of us wanting this murderer to be caught while he’s justifying what is happening for the sake of science. I did like how it ended as well.

The acting I thought was pretty solid as well. I didn’t recognize Bates, but I think he did well as this ‘mad scientist’. It is interesting that he changes his course of research when his friend mocks his plan. He does come off as weak willed and I think that works with how strong willed Beswick is. I recognized her as a Bond girl so that was pretty cool. I love the sass she brings to this role and we get to see her topless as well as nude so if you want to see that, it is here. Sim, Fiander, Alison, Neil Wilson, Dean, Madco and Calvin all round this movie out for what was needed along with the rest of the cast.

Something that was pretty light was with the effects. I was glad to see that we have the brighter colored blood that I come to expect from the era. This movie isn’t as bad as some I’ve seen. They do some tricks with the camera for the transformation scene. They mostly hide it though as they probably didn’t have the technology at the time to make it looks good. I do like having a mole on both Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde as a nod to us that they’re the same person. The cinematography was also fine as well.

With that said, I did end up digging this movie, but I didn’t love it. I think though that the concept of having the villainous side be a woman was an interesting choice for sure. Incorporating Burke and Hare as characters along with the story of Jack the Ripper was a cool twist to this mad scientist story. I never got bored with it and I think that it moves at a good pace to an interesting ending. The best performance was from Beswick for me and I thought Bates was solid as the other side to that coin with the rest rounding this out for what was needed. The effects were fine as was the cinematography and the soundtrack fitting for what was needed. I would say this is above average to almost good in my opinion.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10