The film takes place before, during and immediately after the engagement party of Dr.Henry Jekyll and Miss Fanny Osborne, attended by numerous highly respectable guests (a general, a doctor, a priest, a lawyer), the last of which informs the company that a child has been murdered in the street outside. While the others watch a young dancer perform, Dr.Jekyll instructs the lawyer to alter his will, leaving everything to a certain Mr.Hyde. Shortly afterwards, the dancer is found murdered, and the guests realise that one of their number must be a maniac with a prodigious sexual appetite...
/ West Germany
Directed by: Walerian Borowczyk
. Starring: Udo Kier
, Marina Pierro
, Patrick Magee
, Gérard Zalcberg
, Howard Vernon
, Clément Harari
, Jean Mylonas
, Eugene Braun Munk
, Louis Colla
, Catherine Coste
, Rita Maiden
, Michèle Maze
, Agnès Daems
. Music by: Bernard Parmegiani
I gotta say that I was really impressed with this one and sorely wished I had given this a shot before trying director Walerian Borowczyk's wildly over-rated THE BEAST first. That film is more of a smutty, profane little one liner joke (a good joke, mind you) hidden inside of about 70 minutes of artsy-fartsy French crap. This movie actually has a pair of balls by comparison, is equally unafraid to offendshock, yet has an actual story worth bothering with at it's root.
It's yet another potentially smutty little adaptation of classic literature, namely "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. According to Peter Tombs' "Immoral Tales", Borowczyk claimed at the time to have based his screenplay on a previously lost early draft of Stevenson's story that Borowczyk stumbled upon while doing research at Oxford's library... with Colonel Mustard and his lead pipe no doubt. Stevenson's estate sued Borowczyk for slander or plagiarism or both -- my memory is vague on the subject, someone nipped my copy of the book for all the pictures of naked boobs with blood oozing over them -- and he had to settle out of court before the film could be released.
Whatever. It was only on reflection after wards that I realized if Udo Keir could find himself a role as a mummy and a wolfman he would have a rare claim to eternal fame for having played all of the classic Universal monsters at one time or another: Dracula, Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll being under his belt already. Look out, Paul Naschy. One of the weaknesses of this film was some idiot's decision to DUB the voice of the man who gave the world the expression (sic) "ZE UNMAIGHTY NASUM". The film is not depleted by lacking Keir's distinctive voice but would have been more, ehh, distinctive for having it. If you book an actor as famous for their diction as they are their willingness to take on risky projects you should at least do them the courtesy of being heard on the audio track.
As a sort of glaring example, take Patrick MacGee: He steals the show for two or three scenes just by the way that he speaks his lines, he was such a marvelous actor & film presence. Howard Vernon is awesome as Jekyll's nosey doctor friend, Marina Pierro looks like she would have been an animal in bed with her blood red contact lenses and moist cleavage, and yes that is a different actor playing the Edward Hyde role & not just an oddly made up Udo.
As for the cutuncut considerations, try to find the English language print with the funny Scandanavian subtitles: All the others are censored to one degree or another, and this certainly is a movie with quite a bit to offend any ratings board member: Murdered violated young girls, a sex harlot being enthusiastically spanked by her father, a murdering sex maniac with a distended sex member who uses it on anything with some body heat. The scene where the young dancer is medically examined received a couple three playbacks so we could make careful note of the dimensions: 35 centimeters in length by 6 centimeters in width, and rigid enough to cause abdominal injuries visible from the outside. To hell with a cure, that Hyde formula could make Viagra obsolete.
So what is it about Walerian Borowczyk? Is adapting classical literature into borderline obscene movies with sly social commentary his particular schtick? Why all the emphasis on sex? And why does it always have to be sex that revels in a one form of deviancy or another? He shoots great interior scenes: Claustrophobia and rigid definition of space combined with offbeat methods of obtaining orgasm. It's effective art & film, easily the most provocative adaptation of the Hyde story to the screen that I can remember seeing, but what is he really trying to tell us here? By not offering an explanation he succeeds where THE BEAST was all explanation. This movie rulez, see it any way you can find it.
Review by Squonkamatic from the Internet Movie Database.