All Hallow’s Lee – THE TWO FACES OF DR JEKYLL
Ah yes, I bet you thought I wasn’t going to write anything for All Hallow’s Lee, didn’t you? Now I haven’t contributed much in terms of content to this whole endeavor to date, and that’s by design. Partially it is because I am doing editing on every piece that is posted. Granted, much of it is pretty minor, but on the Guest posts I’m doing a decent amount of work.
This, of course, is combined with the fact that I’ve organized this whole caboodle and that wasn’t exactly quick and easy. Toss in the fact I am prepping to attend the Flyway Film Festival, while I am also putting on the finishing touches of the Twin Cities Film Festival (which my theatre is the host site for). And this doesn’t even account for the normal business of running the theatre as we prep for the onslaught that will be this winter season. So yeah, I’m kind of busy.
I’m so busy I spend quite a bit of time wishing that I could have someone to cover my work while I’m asleep. Maybe they’d even take my place. Let me have some peace and quiet. Oh sure, they might be an evil version of me, more suave and conventionally good looking than I could ever hope to be, and probably more worried about visiting brothels and engaging in games of chance than contributing anything positive to society. And once he gets bored with that he’d probably go kill transients just to see what it feels like. Or maybe just kill someone you love, just for funsies. But then, that’s the cost of letting your evil-subconscious loose on the world. Evil minds get to have all the fun.
Dr Henry Jekyll is so obsessed with his life’s work studying the human mind that he hardly notices that his life is in ruins. He is unaware that his wife, Kitty, is in love with Paul Allen. Paul, in turn, continually hounds Henry for money, and Henry never says no. And then there is Edward Hyde, a man who has so much disdain for Henry and Paul that he plots to steal kitty away from both of them, only, Henry has no idea that Hyde wants far more than that.
The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll follows the conventional plot of the Robert Louis Stevenson novella, but it is far from a conventional adaptation from semi-legendary Hammer director Terence Fisher. The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll is the first film adaptation of the novella to not depict Hyde as a physically deformed monster, but rather as the physical ideal of male subconscious. He’s outgoing, charming, funny and really really really good looking. Sure, he’s also a total sociopath who is far more interested in sowing chaos into every interaction, but good lord is that man fine. It’s an interesting take on the character, and a version that has become the far more common version people have in other adaptations since The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll was made.
What also works well in the film’s favor, is how it absolutely rejoices in the rampant sin of its characters. Kitty (Dawn Addams) is a woman who can’t stand her boorish husband, but yet she is madly in love with the truly slimy Paul Allen (Christopher Lee), a man who’s quite content to dump her the moment she becomes boring, but who will cling to Henry (Paul Massie) like a lamprey, constantly suckling every last coin out of him so Paul will never have to stop living his life of luxurious sin. Henry himself is no saint, he ignores his wife at the best of times, and demeans her at his worst. They are a proper trio of douchery, forever circling a misery soaked drain as they slowly but surely creep towards their horrible, self-destructive demise.
But as awful as Henry is, he isn’t deserving of what Hyde has in store for him, as Hyde not only physically destroys anything Henry could have possibly cared about, he slowly but surely warps Henry’s mind and drains every last drop of hope out of him. For is Hyde can destroy Henry’s mind, he can finally gain control of their shared body forevermore.
Kudos should certainly be handed out to the actors involved for pulling off such a horribly progressive mind fuck on their characters. Dawn Addams is solid as the woman who has resigned herself to being a doormat for the two men in her life. Sure, those two jackasses suck as partners, but she loves them anyways. It’s also refreshing that when she encounters a true misogynistic monster like Hyde that she stands up for herself time and again. Her standards for herself may not be great, but they are standards.
Lee shines in what is a fairly low-key roll as the sleezeball Paul Allen. With his bright white, toothy grin showing in scene after scene, it appears as if Lee is having as much playing a dick as Paul Allen enjoys being a dick. Made just 3 short years after Lee burst onto the scene with The Curse of Frankenstein, Lee looks supremely confident in the role, as he attempts to subtlety steal the film out from under Massie’s nose.
But, in spite of Lee’s best efforts, the scene stealing star of the film is Massie in the dual lead roles. Sure his Henry voice is grating and annoying as all get out, but Henry is grating and annoying as all get out. It is both his physical transformations, aswell as the glee he has playing the malevolent Hyde that make the performance both interesting and a treat to watch. Sure, it’s showy and ridiculous as all hell, especially the scenes where he’s bouncing back and forth between personas every few lines, but it’s also fun as hell to watch.
Ultimately, The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll is one of the darkest, most twisted versions of the well known tale, which at times proves a struggle against its most ridiculous plot-points (a poisonous red-tail boa drove me nuts). But the fine performances, and the twisted take on a well-known concept more then make for a film worth your time. Which, I think we can all agree, could be said for all the best Hammer horror films.