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In 18th-century England, the Royal Crown sends Royal Navy Captain Collier and his crew to investigate reports of illegal smuggling and bootlegging in a coastal town where locals believe in Marsh Phantoms.
Peter Graham Scott
Dr. Henry Jekyll is a dull, bookish scientist who spends more time with his lab animals testing theories of alternate personalities than with his beautiful, young wife. Kitty Jekyll has given up trying to find any passion in her distant, preoccupied husband and is involved in an affair with one of Jekyll's old 'friends,' Paul Allen, a weak slacker and wastrel who relies on Jekyll to pay his numerous gambling debts. After experimenting on himself, the bearded, tweedy Jekyll transforms himself into the young, dynamic, and self-confidant Edward Hyde. In his new character he befriends Allen, who has no idea that this clean-cut, handsome playboy prone to outbursts of violence is really Jekyll. As Hyde, he encourages Allen to introduce him to the dark underbelly of London's night life including opium dens and sex clubs, where he begins an affair with the sensual courtesan Maria, an exotic dancer and snake charmer. When he tries to seduce Allen's mistress, in reality his own wife, he is ... Written by
[In her dressing room]
Your friend talked to me like a common whore.
Dr. Henry Jekyll:
In all fairness he never implied you were common.
[She takes off her mask and Hyde is struck by her exotic beauty]
Just how much money did you have in mind, Mr. Hyde?
Dr. Henry Jekyll:
I would not insult so beautiful a woman by offering her anything so trivial.
So, thank you for your politeness, but good night.
Dr. Henry Jekyll:
Don't mention it.
[She walks into her bedroom and he confidently follows]
I have to dress.
Dr. Henry Jekyll:
Don't let me prevent you.
But I ...
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Dr. Henry Jekyll (Paul Massie) is working on a serum that brings out the animal instincts of man. After testing it on a monkey (who goes berserk), he turns to himself. As his alternate self, Edward Hyde, he stumbles upon his friend's treachery and his wife's sordid affair. Hyde, the animal that he is, is ready to go on his own little excursion into debauchery and hedonism.
I was really blown away by this film. The Jekyll/Hyde story has been told again and again and the main character has been portrayed by countless actors. Yet, this may be the great version out there -- definitely the best one I've seen yet. The Canadian actor playing both roles was a new face for me, but is pretty amazing and I couldn't see the two personas as the same actor no matter how hard I tried. It was quite impressive.
Christopher Lee, ever-present in the Hammer films (did he ever have a day off?), plays friend Paul Allen. Wow. I've praised Lee in "Scream of Fear", but he should be praised no less in this, where he's a convincingly sleazy gambler and womanizer. Not the way I picture Lee to be, but it seems so natural here. The more I see this man in action, the more I see what the generation before me saw. I had always been a Peter Cushing fan, but maybe it's time for me to switch sides? I enjoyed the philosophical questions raised by this film. There's the portrayal of Hyde as younger, more handsome and more charming... not the monster he's usually shown to be. I think this fit well... he still had the spontaneous violence, but not unlike the devil himself, knew his way to get to people with savoir faire. Early on, Jekyll also talks of the man "beyond good and evil", the "higher man", evoking the words of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, though certainly not in the way Nietzsche would have endorsed. Both Nietzsche's and Jekyll's higher man use their wills to gain what they most desire, but Hyde is something of an unhinged creature, not the refined and academic man Nietzsche preferred.
Nietzsche also spoke of "beyond good and evil" as a transcendence of morality, moving beyond our traditional concepts and accepting that there is good and bad, but no overarching divine good or evil. In this regard, Hyde may be comparable. He certainly has no care for his "evil" actions... though one suspects that not even Nietzsche would support these "bad" actions destroying those around him.
You must pick up this film (preferably in the four-disc set of Hammer films also containing "The Gordon" and "Scream of Fear"). You don't need to be as analytical or philosophical as I am when digesting it, but you'll love the film for its great characters and hedonistic wickedness... drunken, licentious men in 1870s London? Let the depravity begin.
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