The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

09/09/2020 06:39

Film: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

Year: 1960

Director: Terence Fisher

Writer: Wolf Mankowitz

Starring: Paul Massie, Dawn Addams and Christopher Lee



This was a film that I picked up some time ago, but just hadn’t around to seeing. The reason I did is that I was trying to see every take on the classic story from Robert Louis Stevenson of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. To my knowledge, this is the second Hammer take I’ve seen, but this one is a bit more traditional than the other ones. The synopsis here is Dr. Henry Jekyll (Paul Massie) experiments with scientific means of revealing the hidden, dark side of man and releases a murderer from within himself.

Now I do think that the synopsis is just slightly misleading. We start in the garden of Dr. Jekyll’s place. He is speaking with his friend Dr. Ernst Litauer (David Kossoff). He allows a nearby school made up of deaf/mute children to play there. We see that a little girl is bullied by one of the boys and she fights back. Dr. Jekyll uses this to point out that within everyone person is the weaker side that is formed by society. Since these children cannot voice their displeasure, they resort to violence. There’s also a darker side that lives life more to the fullest and does what it wants. Dr. Jekyll seemed to have published his research without real proof, so he was laughed at by his colleagues. He now is a recluse, burying himself in his work. Dr. Litauer is worried about him and his wife is as well.

His wife is Kitty (Dawn Addams). She comes out to his laboratory to state that a Paul Allen (Christopher Lee) is there to see him. He is looking for money and she believes that he should be cut off. Dr. Jekyll is good friends with him and states to give him money. We see that she doesn’t entirely hate him though as they’re having an affair. They do have a bit of an odd relationship though where they banter back and forth.

That night Dr. Jekyll begs his wife to not go to her dinner party, but stay with him. He will quit his work for the evening. She states that she cannot miss it as she already promised and they need to keep up their social standing. We see that she lied though. She goes out with Paul and they don’t do a lot to hide their affection. Dr. Jekyll uses a serum he created.

It is a success and it turns him into Edward Hyde (Massie). He goes out into the night of London for a good time. He ends up at the same club that Kitty and Paul are at. He reveals to them that he knows Dr. Jekyll and the trio hang out. To make Paul jealous, since they are in a bit of a tiff, Kitty asks Edward to dance. He has rubbed some people in the club the wrong way and a fight breaks out. Paul and Edward beat the bouncer to an inch of his life, with the bouncer being Oliver Reed.

These two men start to hang out more and live their night life of debauchery. Edward sees a challenge to sleep with a senorita Maria (Norma Marla) who dances at a club. He then turns his sight on Kitty. He wants to see if he can give her everything that Paul does as there is part of Dr. Jekyll here that wants to succeed. The problem for him though, is Kitty’s feelings. He learns a pretty hard lesson and Edward takes steps to eliminate Henry and to become the only personality.

If you’ve been following my reviews, you know that I’ve seen a bunch of adaptations of this story in the past year. It is interesting to see them all as close together as I have to really see what each one does and the take that they use. Here we’re using Massie to play both of the roles. Dr. Jekyll has a beard and he’s quite stoic in his nature. He’s determined to prove all of his colleagues wrong about his research and it is causing him to isolate. In doing so, he is driving his wife into the arms of his best friend. I should also point out that Dr. Jekyll’s beard isn’t very good as I could clearly see it was just glued on.

That last line was dropped here because the take on Hyde is without the facial hair. I’m surprised that Kitty, Paul or Ernst doesn’t recognize him, but then again I’ve seen people today shave their face and it makes them look different. Personally though, it just feels lazy to go that route. After that initial encounter, I’ll let it slide as they do see Dr. Jekyll once again bearded. That is not to say that Massie’s performance was bad though. He plays someone who is enjoying lust and doing whatever he likes. He also seems kind of maniacal. The horrible things he does is to break Dr. Jekyll’s spirit so he can take over as well as tie up all of the loose ends.

Another aspect of the story here is the dual nature of humanity. The take here is that Dr. Jekyll is being mocked by his colleagues and decides to bury himself in his work. He knows that his serum works on a monkey. When he takes it to become Mr. Hyde he is finally partaking in the darker elements of society around him. I think this works. We see how far he will go with things. I also like that this darker side is stronger. It can come out the more he changes. If I do have any issues with this idea, I’m not sure they necessarily go far enough with them.

Since much of my analysis there has been about Massie and his portrayal of both of these roles, I should move next to the other actors of Addams and Lee. Kitty is interesting being that she’s a woman from the 1890’s, but she really does seem like a modern woman. I don’t like that she’s cheating on her husband. He is neglecting her and in this era, women really didn’t have a lot of rights so she really couldn’t get a divorce unless he agrees. Dr. Jekyll loves her and needs her, but he’s lost her. Hyde wants to almost win her over in his brutish state. Then of course we have Lee as his best friend Paul Allen. He’s robbing him blind as well as taking his wife. He is really a scoundrel, but he plays it so well. It really seems like he is enjoying playing this role. There’s an uncredited appearance from Reed as well. I’d say the acting is probably the strongest part of the movie.

I would move next to the effects, but to be honest there aren’t really a lot. I’m disappointed in Hammer for not doing a transformation scene of any sorts. Having Hyde be good looking is fine. Since I’m watching them a bit out of order, I do think this is the first one to do that instead of a monster. The problem is that every time he changes, it cuts away and cuts back. There are movies that are 40 years older than this at did transformations so I’m holding it against it. Aside from that, it does feel like the era we are in with the costumes. There is also some good cinematography, especially with something that happens with Kitty.

The last thing to go over here would be the soundtrack. I’ll be honest for the most part I thought it was fine. The music fit for what was needed. It also works for the era as well. What I have an issue with here was that it felt like they had quite a bit of filler with these musical numbers. We see the whole dance sequence of Maria with her snake and then another one right at the climax. I felt it just lingered on these too much and it really seems like filler. It also bogged the movie down.

So now with that said, I was slightly disappointed with this movie as it felt like a lesser of the Hammer films. There are some good aspects though, don’t get me wrong there. I like the idea of making Hyde be a charismatic man without a conscious. I also thought that Massie played both roles well along with Addams and Lee in support. The lack of effects with a transformation was disappointing and the musical numbers really did seem to bog this movie down for me. As I said though, there are some good aspects to it like the acting for sure. My rating here would end up being that this is just over average movie for me. Be warned that this is from 1960 and the United Kingdom. If those are problems, I would avoid this for sure.


My Rating: 6.5 out of 10