Surely the character(s) of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde, like Holmes and Dracula, are among those brought to the screen more often then most. The Robert Louis Stevenson book, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was originally published in 1886. Stage productions and movies soon followed including the silent classic of 1920 featuring a sinister John Barrymore in the title roles.
Once the talkies came into being there were versions starring Frederic March and Spencer Tracy. The March version netted the leading man an Academy Award for Best Actor. As the years passed variations of the story increased. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll and The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll among them alongside satires like the popular The Nutty Professor (I am referring to the Jerry Lewis original) and the lowbrow Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype.
I’ve seen the majority of the mainstream versions and have a few favorites. The 1968 Jack Palance/Dan Curtis version among them. For this spotlight I’ve gone with three films I’d yet to see. One of which was like watching the holy grail of a Hollywood legend and an actor I’ve long considered an all time favorite, Kirk Douglas. Yes I did say Kirk Douglas. In a musical version no less!
On to the three new to me versions of the Jekyll and Hyde story.
Dr. Jekyll Vs. The Werewolf (1972)
If one knows the career of Spanish Horror Icon, Paul Naschy, then a title like this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Naschy pretty much played each and every one of the classic monsters from the Universal stable and beyond. Here he enlists the good Doctor to assist him in ridding the world of the beastly side of Waldemar Daninsky, Naschy’s long time screen version of the Lon Chaney/Lawrence Talbot legend.
The film picks up with a newlywed couple heading to Transylvania to celebrate their marriage. A hot spot for honeymooners I’m sure. While there the hubby figures on visiting a family grave site and it’s here the trouble begins. He’s brutally murdered by three goons but before they can rape and kill poor Shirley Corrigan, Naschy, turns up and rescues her. She’ll awake at what’s known as The Black Castle and takes off to running through the ancient corridors in a negligee. Customary attire for these spooky castle settings.
There’s a lot of plot shoehorned into this one so let’s just state that Miss Corrigan has pretty much moved on from seeing her new hubby cut down before her eyes and has taken a liking to the doomed werewolf, Naschy. Once those damned villagers attack the castle, Naschy and Corrigan, get into his getaway car and head to London. It’s here that he’ll seek the help of the grandson of the original Dr. Jekyll played by genre specialist, Jack Taylor. Damned if he doesn’t keep a bottle of Grand Pappy’s formula on hand for just such occasions. He figures to turn Naschy into Hyde to fend off the werewolf transformations. I kid you not!
O.K. it’s all rather foolish but I love these Euro thrillers. Just wish I had a better copy of this one. It would have been nice to see it turn up in either of the Scream Factory volumes released last year on Mr. Naschy. As it is the copy I have is a Mill Creek Special minus opening credits and from what I gather is shorn of about 20 minutes in length. With many of Naschy’s films getting the restored treatment to blu ray I’m hoping for the same to be done here.
In closing I will say that Naschy has a wickedly evil look as Hyde sans any real make-up in this Leon Klimovsky directed thriller.
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1973)
Kirk Douglas. Growing up I thought maybe this was a lost TV production filmed in England at Shepperton. And yes a musical version no less. With the advent of the internet and bootleg discs floating around I finally sat down and watched this elusive film starring one of the most legendary of leading men in Hollywood history. I did notice that Kirk’s company Bryna Productions had a hand in the production so perhaps the Douglas family own the rights. Skimming through Kirk’s autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, I never once saw the production referred to so perhaps he wasn’t overly enamored of the end result?
Shot on tape the film has a very budget conscious look though it does enlist some notable faces to join in the fun. Kirk plays the Jekyll role as a philanthropist looking to cure insanity for the poor souls being housed with little aid in the local asylum. It’s when leaving the asylum that he’ll run into a street smart pickpocket playfully acted by Donald Pleasence who launches into a song and dance routine that just might be the film’s highlight. A true scene stealer if there ever was one.
Kirk gets no help from the caretaker at the asylum in acquiring a subject so drinks his own concoction unleashing the Hyde side of his personality. So while the good doctor is romancing Susan Hampshire and constantly at odds with her father, Sir Michael Redgrave, over medical ethics his evil side takes to the bawdy houses drinking and whoring. It’s here that he’ll be captivated by the sexy Susan George and once enlisting the aide of Pleasence he’ll lock her up in a swank apartment for his own amusement.
In case you’re wondering, Kirk, does indeed do some song and dance routines in both guises. As Hyde he gives us “Rules Were Meant to Be Broken” and as Jekyll in a playfully romantic mood with Miss Hampshire serenades us with “I Bought a Blooming Bicycle Today.”
There’s little doubt where this is headed in keeping with the traditional fadeout and while Kirk’s Jekyll is sure to see the errs of his way it’s too late as Hyde’s grip on him takes over.
Now let’s be honest, there’s not too much to recommend this aside from Kirk Douglas and to a lesser extent the supporting cast if you happen to be a big fan of any one of them. For me it’s all too obvious being a lifetime Kirk fan that I’d eventually track this one down and yeah, I’ll probably give it another go sometime. Now if I could just get a copy of the disastrous Scalawag. Haven’t seen it since I was maybe 10 years old. What’s Scalawag you say? Look it up.
Jekyll & Hyde (1990)
This made for TV production cast, Michael Caine, in the role of the Doctor caught up in his own experiments with the lovely, Cheryl Ladd, Joss Ackland and Lionel Jeffries accompanying him for director David Wickes. Just two years previously Wickes and Caine had worked together on the two part TV thriller, Jack the Ripper.
This version of the Stevenson tale is told in flashback as Miss Ladd relates the story to Caine’s solicitor, Ronald Pickup. It’s London of 1889. Caine is a renowned Doctor and widower. Ladd is the sister of his deceased wife and herself a married woman to an absent husband. Ackland is her father and from the outset blames Caine for the loss of his eldest daughter and isn’t enamored of the time Caine is now spending with Ladd who is clearly in love with Caine. “Bloody Hell!”
Rather than delay the Hyde persona, this script picks the story up with Caine as a University Prof. already leading a double life as Hyde who has taken to pubs and prostitutes. While I wasn’t overly fond of the Caine-as-Hyde look I was quite impressed with the ghoulish transformation scene. Especially considering this was a made for TV effort.
Among the gas lights, the test tubes and the bunsen burners, Caine begins to romance Miss Ladd, to a scandalous reception in high society London while Hyde becomes a person wanted by Scotland Yard for his savage treatment of a local prostitute. This elevates to his being wanted for murder when Hyde kills a detective awaiting his appearance at the local cathouse.
Differing from most if not all movie versions I’m familiar with, Caine, actually confides to Ladd that he’s Hyde after his evil side brutally rapes her. With her help he lays to rest his experiments and burns his notes and formulas. We all know that’s not a good idea as Hyde will resurface on his own. This does lead to a memorable scene for Caine the actor as he goes to his estranged father-in-law, Ackland, begging for his help.
I don’t think I’m playing spoiler here if I point out this one too will end in the prescribed method. I will add that I wasn’t overly fond of the wrap up with Ladd when the story comes full circle to her telling the story of Caine’s secrets to the solicitor.
I did mention that character favorite, Lionel Jeffries, was also participating in this enjoyable variation on the Jekyll/Hyde theme. At the ripe old age of 63 he’s playing a heavily made up father of 57 year old Caine. Not the first time we’ve seen character players cast as a parent of someone who is more or less a graduate of the same acting class or era if you prefer.
I happened across this title in a bargain bin collection of 4 titles. Truthfully I have zero interest in the other 3 but who knows maybe I’ll discover a hidden gem. For the record they are Love and Rage with Daniel Craig, The Serpent’s Kiss with Ewan McGregor and The Leading Man with Jon Bon Jovi. Let me know if you’ve seen anyone of them and if I should make the effort to watch it/them.
Other actors I recall taking on the double role include Anthony Perkins (naturally), Bernie Casey in the blaxploitation “classic” Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde and Dear Boris terrorizing Bud and Lou.
Got a favorite Jekyll and Hyde of your own? Feel free to share.