Review: DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971)

DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE is Hammer Film Productions’ third adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, with THE UGLY DUCKLING and THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL preceding it. This 1971 Roy Ward Baker picture has little to no connection with its precursors, but it does forge a compelling yarn about what happens when scientific research goes too far. The Brian Clemens screenplay adds a fair dose of humour to the mix.

Dr. Henry Jekyll (Ralph Bates) is researching a panacea to cure all disease when his friend and colleague (Gerald Sim) reminds him of his mortality. This leads Dr. Jekyll to switch things up and he begins to develop an elixir of immortality, with female hormones as the critical ingredient. He begins to come up with various ways to acquire these hormones, with a pair of body snatchers doing the job for a while. When the elixir materializes, Dr. Jekyll tries it and experiences a remarkable result.

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The Sister Hyde aspect of DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE contends with ideas of sex and gender, with the not-so-good doctor transforming into a beautiful woman (Martine Beswick). This twist on the Stevenson tale contends with the merging of male and female physicality and male and female wants, with Dr. Jekyll’s neighbours providing more than a few romantic opportunities. Sister Hyde begins to manifest herself more clearly, which leads to no end of trouble.

DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE is a film about juxtaposition, so it makes sense that Baker and cinematographer Norman Warwick delves into it with delight. An early scene contrasts the butchering of a rabbit with the killing of a prostitute, while a transformation scene uses the figures of a clock to typify the change. The movie also uses the history of Jack the Ripper and Burke and Hare as context, establishing a further distorting of the lines between fiction, reality and whatever lies in the crimson splatter between.

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