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Roy Ward Baker
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In Victorian London, Dr. Henry Jekyll attempts to create an elixir of life using female hormones stolen from fresh corpses. He reasons that these hormones will wipe out all common diseases and extend his life since women live much longer than men. However, once Dr. Jekyll drinks the serum himself, he transforms into a gorgeous but evil woman. He soon needs female hormones for his serum to maintain, so a number of London women meet bloody deaths. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The first transformation scene uses the very clever (1971 technology) of having Jekyll "reflected" in a fake mirror which is actually a window to a matching set containing Sister Hyde. Unfortunately, the two actors rise out of their chairs at slightly different speeds. See more »
I walked the streets, brooding on the bitter irony that all I wanted to do for humanity, for life, would be cheated by death... unless I could cheat death.
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The two most famous horror directors of the Hammer era (late 50's to mid 70's) are Terence Fisher and Freddie Francis. A step down the hierarchy is Roy Ward Baker, director of this film. His most acclaimed film is A Night to Remember about the Titanic. Throughout the sixties and up until as late as 1980 he directed a slew of horror films, the best being Quatermass and the Pit.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde stars another prominent figure of British Seventies horror, Ralph Bates. His best film is Fear in the Night, his worst The Monster. However, I associate Bates most with the titular role in Dear John, an Eighties sit-com where he played an unlucky divorcee. Thus I always perceive him as a rather pained character whatever the role.
This film occurs in 19th Century London, a cliched world of dense fog, stocky Bobbies and bawdy whores. The film has the typical `mad scientist resorting to nefarious deeds in the name of research' plot. As well as its loose heritage from R.L.Stevenson's classic novel, it also encompasses Jack the Ripper and bodysnatchers Burke and Hare.
The premise is suitably loopy. Jekyll's research switches from a panacea for disease, to an elixir of life, to finally a sex-changing potion. This involves removing an unspecified part of a woman's anatomy to obtain a sex hormone. I guess it is the ovaries that are removed, as the victims' head remains untouched, thus eliminating glands attached to the brain (hypothalamus/pituitary).
As with the source novel, an internal struggle for supremacy develops between Jekyll and his female alter ego Hyde. But Jekyll is not the goodly but misguided scientist as in the novel. He resorts to bodysnatching and murder long before the appearance of Hyde. Although Hyde is the personification of evil or the id, Jekyll is still bad so the viewer has no sympathy for him.
Films in which a man `becomes' a woman are usually comedy dramas (Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, All of Me, etc.). They always explore the differences in equality between men and women, whether economic, social, sexual, etc. To its detriment this film ignores such themes and instead concentrates on Ripper style murders.
Interestingly, the tale could be interpreted as one of sexual repression. The young man Jekyll is completely wedded to science, oblivious to the advances of his neighbour and the opposite of his Lothario professor friend. We have the familiar situation of the asexual scientist (cf. Terence Fisher's Frankenstein series, Re-animator, etc.). Sister Hyde is the exact opposite. She is sexually aggressive, with her striking red dress and interest in men and her own physique. A battle between the two personalities develops, male vs. female, repression vs. liberation, complete with undertones of homosexuality, transvestism, and the blurring of ones identity and gender.
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