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Anchor Bay presents
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)

"I had no mind. No will for work. I walked the streets, brooding upon the bitter irony that all I wanted to do for humanity, for life, would be cheated by death. Unless I could cheat death."
- Dr. Jekyll (Ralph Bates)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 25, 2002

Stars: Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick
Other Stars: Gerald Sim, Susan Broderick, Philip Madoc, Tony Calvin, Ivor Dean
Director: Roy Ward Baker

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence and nudity)
Run Time: 01h:36m:56s
Release Date: December 04, 2001
UPC: 013131144697
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+B+B B+

DVD Review

After umpteenth variations on all of the basic movie monsters and villains over the years, what with "Son Of This" and "Return Of That", it shouldn't really come as a surprise that in 1971 the legendary Hammer Films machine unleashed Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde, a sexual identity twist on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale. Helmed by Roy Ward Baker (A Night To Remember, The Legend Of The 7 Golden Vampires) and written by Brian Clemens (Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter), this daring (for the time, at least) Hammer version merged the myths of Jack The Ripper and infamous graverobbers Burke and Hare, as well as putting a lusty spin on the duality of Man.In Victorian London, the good-at-heart workaholic Dr. Jekyll (Ralph Bates) is trying to develop a cure for a number of deadly illnesses, only to be slapped into reality by his good friend Professor Robinson (Gerald Sim). Robertson tosses water on Jekyll's dream by telling him in the time it takes him to come up all of those cures, he'll be dead. In a fit of creative rage, Jekyll seeks to develop an "Elixir Of Life" to extend his life so that he can keep up on with his research. His elixir incorporates female hormones, initially acquired through the local undertaker, and one unexpected and nasty side effect is that the potion turns him into a woman. This sexy alter ego, dubbed Sister Hyde (Martine Beswick), comes to represent Jekyll's dark side, and slowly begins to exert undo control and causes all sorts of bloody mayhem.If you are willing to accept the transformation of man into woman then I think you will find this to be a clever and darkly atmospheric Victorian thriller. Admittedly, that's a big pill to swallow, and some of the inconsistencies (like why is Hyde's hair longer than Jekyll's?) are a little distracting, at first. But Baker stages the initial transformation from Jekyll to Hyde in a brilliant single take that uses a timeless magician's trick to make the change complete. It is executed perfectly, and the effect is impressive. Bates and Beswick have enough commonalities in their appearance to make their split characterizations all the more believable, and that's key to making this film work. Bates is the sympathetic doctor, and his descent into murder is even more brutally upsetting. Beswick gets the juicier villain role and she milks it for all it's worth, and she captures the essence of seductive evil very well. The supporting cast is strong and properly Victorian, but one role in particular is noteworthy. Philip Madoc's brief role as the sinister morgue worker Byker is damn creepy and disturbing. When Jekyll inquires about the use of a dead body for his experiments, Byker chimes in with a great line of dialogue:"You're not going to take her. I've grown very fond of her."Dark visual elements, long a strength of Hammer Films, are not absent. Foggy London streets, shadowy men in tall hats and dark cloaks and bright red spirts of arterial blood are ever present here, and Baker shows a strong hand in setting the right mood. During one of Hyde's murderous encounters, Baker wisely downplays the score and allows the steady swish of her red dress to act as a threatening metronome that is more creepy than any musical passage could ever be.Made in the dying days of Hammer, Baker's sexy Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde can still hold it's own today. This is fog-shrouded Victorian goodness.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Another high quality transfer from Anchor Bay. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this disc looks quite good, and doesn't suffer from that faded color so prevalent in early 1970s' releases. Colors, most notably the crimson red of Sister Hyde's flowing dress, look exceptionally bright. The source print used here was in excellent condition, and there are only a few random blemishes, though a couple of scenes near the conclusion appear a bit faded. Grain is minimal, and there is very little in the way of glaring digital artifacts.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The English language mono track is clean, with really no annoying hiss or distortion. For mono, this track is deceptively full, and doesn't appear overly flat. No complaints at all. A French language mono track is also included, and is equally as fault free.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Marcus Hearns, Roy Ward Baker, Brian Clemens, Martine Beswick
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio Spots
  2. Poster Stills and Gallery
Extras Review: Anchor Bay has dressed up this release with not only an impressive image transfer, but a historically informative set of extras. Include here are:CommentaryWith a full-length scene-specific commentary from director Roy Ward Baker, producer Brian Clemens, Martine Beswick (Sister Hyde) and Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearns, this track is mostly a series of recollections, and only occasionally reflects the on-screen action. There are a few scene-specific comments, and I was glad that the track focused more on Hammer history than the film itself. Hearns serves as the overseer of this narrative, and tosses out a string of questions to Baker and Clemens about the inner workings of Hammer Films, and their answers give an educating insight into a long-gone period of filmmaking. I laughed along with Baker at his comments about modern day films being "overblown and over-everything", as with his remembrance of the Clemens original pitch for the plot. There is much talk of the evolution of Hammer Films over the years, and how the 1970s found increasing nudity creeping into their products and how that may have affected it's eventual downfall. Sadly, Beswick only interjects occasionally.It was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between Baker and Clemens, as their speaking voices are virtually identical. Occasional silent gap, which sound as if the mikes were suddenly turned off, pop up here and there.Radio Spots (01m:47s)A quickie collection of tacky radio spots played over a montage of poster art for the film.Poster Still And Gallery (4m:25s)Another nice montage, set to the film's stellar score, features a series of posters, promotional photos, lobby cards in color and black & white.The bios of the production principals is very detailed, and gives a wealth of geek-worthy information. A theatrical trailer, filmographies and 25 chapters complete the supplementals.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

This is a great spin on an old tale, and Bates and Beswick are excellent as two halves of the same whole. Typically creepy Hammer sets, a lush transfer and an entertaining commentary track make this disc a must own for genre fans.Recommended.

 


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