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« BFI/Flipside to release The Party's Over (1965) on dual-format DVD and Blu-ray disc | Main | Cult Clip: Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde trailer (1971) »


DVD Review: Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)

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A jaunty theme tune, a timeless tale and a cast headed up by Ralph Bates, Roy Ward Baker direction and the Avengers pairing of Albert Fennell and Brian Clemens in charge of production (the latter also in charge of the screenplay). Could there be a more British horror movie than Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde?

Of course, we're in the land of Hammer, (very) loosely based on the original Robert Louis Stevenson tale, but throwing in a bit of Jack the Ripper and Burke and Hare, not to mention the odd heaving bosom and a gallon of blood for this bizarre slice of Victoriana.

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Indeed, it's 'Jack' killing where things kick off, a lady of the night meeting a bloody death at the hands of a mysterious killer on the dark London streets. Flip over to Dr Henry Jekyll, writing down his tale 'before it is too late...'. What tale? Well of course, there's a flashback to events previous...

Jekyll is working on an anti-virus to protect against most common diseases, but he realises he hasn't the time to complete his work. So what does he do? Of course, he starts to work on 'an elixir of life' to stay alive forever. But he needs the 'help' of some female body parts to do it, at first calling on a man called Byker for his needs, later relying on the services of the infamous Burke and Hare for his 'spare part' requirements. Until they get bumped off via a baying mob.

But he's already got enough female hormones for his first batch of potion - and that strange liquid has a strange side effect when the doc tries it - not only does it alter his character it also changes him into a rather attractive woman (played by Martine Beswick), which is where the problems really start.

You see, the good doctor has a young brother and sister living upstairs, the sister (Susan) having an eye for the doctor, while the brother (Howard) being more than keen on the alter ego. Not only that, his body suppliers have been bumped off, so Jekyll needs to do his own killing for spares for his research, while the female version just likes going out killing for the fun of it. All of which means there's a serial killer on the loose flashing knives on an almost nightly basis, with the police clueless as to who is doing the slashing. Not only that, all the sex changing leaves poor 'ol Jekyll unsure if he's in love with the brother or sister. Yes, really.

Ok, I might not be selling it well, but to be honest, if you can ignore the historical inaccuracies, the scientific nonsense and the slightly wooden acting (this is Ralph Bates after all), you'll find  Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde to be a pretty decent Hammer offering. In fact, for me, it's one of the stable's better offerings - and not a Cushing, Lee or pitchfork in sight.

The tale is so silly, it's hard to knock and will almost certainly drag you in - if only to find out how on earth it all ends. How does it end? Well, let's just say there's a battle between male and female - and there can be only one winner.

Entertaining, slightly strange, but unmistakably Hammer. If that's the way you like your horror, you'll love this.

Find out more about the DVD at the Amazon website

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