The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
In a new series of articles 'The bloke down the pub' will tell us all about his favourite Hammer Horror films. In his third weekly review he's thinking about "the monster within" while telling us all about The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll from 1960. Enjoy!
What should you do with an old monster story, eh? Are you supposed to just leave it be? Let it drool and stomp and claw and scream the way it always has? After all, you only know the story because it’s survived for a long old time doing very nicely on its own thank you very much.
But, and it’s a big but make no mistake, what if you’ve already done that? What if you’ve already made quite a few films that are pretty bloody similar to the original story? I mean, no-one’s walking out of The Horror of Dracula or The Curse of Frankenstein or The Mummy unsure about the monster they just saw. Dracula lived in a castle and drank blood, Frankenstein’s monster was made of bits of people and The Mummy stumbled around wrapped in bandages going ‘Wuuuhhhrrrr’. You changed the story some for sure, but the monsters were reliable.
And then, and I am only speculating mind, maybe on the set of your next movie the make-up artist comes up and says ‘So we’re going to use these bushy eyebrows and fake beard to turn Jekyll into Hyde and we figured we’ll have him talk in a deep voice too. That should do it right?’
Well then, maybe you’d think ‘What if..?’
Because the thing about ‘The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll’ is you can’t help admire a Jekyll and Hyde story that makes Hyde the handsome leading man. Because it is a lot of fun to begin with, watching a polite psychopath cut a swathe of total immorality through dens of charming iniquity. And all the time he’s grinning like a skeleton, with eyes bulging out of his head as if it’ll burst with disgusting desire.
And, oh the dens of iniquity! If you want to know what would shock a Victorian, you should watch this movie my friend. The Can Can is really pretty racy, and Lord, the snake dance! I can just picture the English censors watching this movie, spluttering oaths of disbelief through their magnificent moustaches.
But then Hyde starts doing some horrible things. For some of them he’s still having fun, like the way he does in Christopher Lee (who’s having a ball, by the way, playing a total cad). But the more he’s frustrated, the more he gets nasty. And, let’s face it, the whole movie ends up being about a man who wants to have it away with his own wife by any means necessary. It feels a bit like the movie starts off enjoying Hyde and his gleefully shameless shenanigans, but then gets more and more disgusted with him as it goes on, until it ends up liking the cheating wife and her no good lover!
Holding those two up, who it was not too fond of when the story began, let’s not forget, as the only sort of hope in a messed up world because at least the two of them were in love. At least, unlike Hyde, they felt something.
Yeah, sometimes you tell an old story with a brand new monster, and you end up scaring yourself. One thing’s for sure, I bet the censors needed a drink after this one. Speaking of which…