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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This version of 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' was made by the BBC thirty
years ago, and featured Diana Dors and Toyah Wilcox in small but
pivotal roles, other well-known names in the cast include Ian Bannen
and Clive Swift as Dr Jekyll's oldest friends from when they were all
Interestingly this version presents Dr Jekyll as other than a saintly doctor (a failing in earlier adaptations, IMO). Here, Jekyll is already visiting places of sin before he even starts taking the potions to separate his 'good' and 'evil' sides. This makes the transformation into Mr Hyde even more sinister - although in appearance he is younger and more dynamic rather than a simple monster as depicted in other adaptations of this tale.
In the dual lead roles, David Hemmings is excellent and both characters are very much given their own personalities. There are a couple of chilling moments - one involving Mr Hyde and a child prostitute, another Dr Jekyll's maid who is enticed into pleasures by Mr Hyde which leave her disgraced and desperate.
Well worth watching even if its low production values date it rather when viewing today.
This is among the better and more stylish versions of the classic horror tale, but one I was only aware of via a review of its R2 DVD on the estimable "Sight & Sound" magazine! Other TV renditions I have watched were those made in 1955, 1959, 1968, 1969, 1973 and 1990 the first and fourth of these during the current Halloween Challenge. Like the 1960 Hammer adaptation THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL, Hyde is the handsomer, leaner persona with the doctor's features hidden under large whiskers, grey hair and a rather stout figure (the latter would plague leading man David Hemmings himself in real life, as well as guest star Diana Dors!); his alter ego, then, is not stereotypically evil and brutish, more the haughty, callous sort with a nasty streak running in him. The storyline is opened up to encompass most of the mores of Victorian society, inflating the running-time to nearly two hours, and making its affinity with Oscar Wilde's "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" all the more pronounced. Curiously, Jekyll drinks a minimal amount of the potion to transform into Hyde but then the latter injects himself to revert back!; as for the unassisted metamorphosis, this occurs overnight while in bed (as in R.L. Stevenson's original) also lifted directly from the novella is his unprovoked assault on an old gentleman (played here by Desmond Llewellyn of 007's Q fame!). The girl Hyde torments (to the point of suicide, again a' la DORIAN GRAY) is a housemaid, played by singer Toyah Wilcox(!), in Jekyll's own employ as in MARY REILLY (1996), which I almost included in this ongoing marathon; other notable cast members are Ian Bannen as Lawyer Utterson and Clive Swift as Dr. Lanyon.
Silly me, I actually purchased this version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde" without knowing it was a BBC presentation. The real drawing power
here was that David Hemmings was the lead and I couldn't wait to see
him in the role.
Now, I might be severely lacking in sophistication but I usually find these BBC versions of famous movies extremely boring. They're pretentious, fake looking and usually very drab. For the most part this movie was no exception.
I did like Hemmings's performance, especially when he transformed to Mr. Hyde and wasn't wearing all that aging and weight make-up. Hemmings was a very good actor who didn't get too many good roles during his lifetime.
As for "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" I'd recommend either the Spencer Tracy version from 1941 or the Michael Caine version by David Wickes.
I'm a huge fan of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde" and I just counted that I've seen, this one included, 13 movie
versions of the story. There are many great ones like the 1931 classic
starring Frederik March, Jean Renoir's French film "Testament of Dr.
Cordelier", an American TV film with Jack Palance, "I, Monster" with
Christopher Lee, the strangely erotic "Dr. Jekyll and his women", Julia
Roberts/John Malkovich film "Mary Reilly" and Mark Redfield's recent
adaptations from 2002. These are all very fine Jekyll and Hyde films.
This film from 1981, a BBC production, however is not. The plot is incredibly slow, actors bored or uninterested in working and there is no chemistry between their characters. The film is lacking music in many scenes and when there is some it's enough to drive you to coma. During the transformation scenes director seems to be thinking he is doing some weird art film, or at least that's the only explanation I could come up with.
The only thing I found even slightly interesting in the film is David Hemmings(Profondo Rosso) who plays the title character. This time Hyde is left without make up, whereas Jekyll has been made old and over weighted. I thought this was good since in some versions the physical difference between Jekyll and Hyde is so small you can't help but think: "Why don't they get they're the same person?" Hemmings did all he could but it sadly wasn't enough to save this mess.
Belongs to the same category as "Edge of Sanity" starring Anthony Perkins and Michael Caine's "Jekyll & Hyde". Stevenson fans, be warned!
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