Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
By: J.R. McNamara on September 20, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Universal (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 93 minutes
The Movie
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick, Gerald Sim, Lewis Fiander, Susan Brodrick
Screenplay: Brian Clemens
Music: David Whitaker
Tagline: "This film is filled with... SHOCK! AFTER SHOCK!"
Country: UK
In this modest reviewer's opinion, some of the best horror and monster films ever made were launched from the Hammer studios. Commencing in 1938 as Exclusive films, and making small budget affairs, Hammer made its name in the fifties with its sci-fi classic The Quatermass Xperiment, and from the success from that, two years later released The Curse of Frankenstein. Hammer's sensationalist presentation of their films, in bold coloured historical settings with buxom honeys popping out of their corsets, and just enough violence and grue to make horror fans (of the time) squeamish, garnered much success, but even as they included bare female flesh in the seventies, they never really were able to do more than rest on their laurels, and sadly, their last film was produced in 1976 (To The Devil…A Daughter).

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde was made in 1971 and was directed by Roy Ward Baker, who was responsible for The Vampire Lovers and The Scars of Dracula, from a script by prolific screenwriter Brian Clemens, all of which is of course based on the book 'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde', although if my memory of classic literature serves me correctly, Jekyll didn't turn into a woman, nor, whilst a woman, did he fondle his own breast. Really, the only detractions from the original text are the fact he turns into a woman, the suggestion that the murders are committed by 'The Ripper' and the appearance of notorious grave robbing duo, Burke and Hare, whose crimes took place some 60 years earlier than when this tale takes place. It is said that Clemens came up with the idea that Jekyll should turn into a woman after a night of drinking with the Hammer-men, as they were discussing the done-to-death tales of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy, and where the new tits and gore driven Hammer of the seventies could take any other tale.

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde tells of reclusive scientist Dr. Jekyll (Ralph Bates) who has promised his colleague, Professor Robertson (Gerald Sim), that he will be able to find a cure for all diseases that plague man. Ridiculed by his associate, Jekyll dedicates his time to his work, ignoring the subtle advances from shy neighbour Susan (Susan Brodrick) whose brother, Howard (Lewis Fiander) thinks Jekyll to be somewhat of a nutcase. When the availability of body parts becomes scarce from local mortician, Byker (Phillip Madoc), Jekyll employs grave robbing duo Burke (Ivor Dean) and Hare (Tony Calvin) who turn to murder as their sources begin to dry up. Jekyll eventually finds a way of extending life, but with an interesting side effect: the subject changes sex. Jekyll decides to try his formula on himself, and becomes the sexy and villainous Mrs Hyde (Martine Beswick), who squeezes Burke and Hare out of the equation, and performs the 'organ collecting' him/her self. Jekyll's spirit weakens by the gregarious Mrs Hyde's influence though, and she soon decides that maybe Jekyll should disappear as well, and be permanently replaced by her…

Freud would have a ball with this one: a dubiously straight man who turns into a woman who is struggling to take over the body of the man, and who is being romantically pursued by a brother and sister living upstairs who both are in love with both of him…wow!!! Bates wanders through his role with a dull and sullen creepy austereness that is countered perfectly by Beswick's blatant red hot sexuality, reflected not at all subtlety by their costuming, or lack thereof. The transformation sequences are all done with clever camera work and cast positioning, only really once reducing to bad camera trickery that just doesn't work. Bates' overacting during these same sequences is as silly as Beswick's are orgasmic. My only real problem with this film is that the last quarter feels rushed, and tends to be over all of a sudden.
Not cleaned up even slightly, but still a fairly good print with slight grain and the occasional artefact, this film is presented in 1.85: 1 anamorphic transfer.
Only in 2.0 mono, but it is a 30 plus year old movie that doesn't need a whiz-bang soundtrack to get its message across. If anything, the original mono track adds to the atmosphere.
Extra Features
Not a single one.
The Verdict
For me this movie was worth it just for Martine Beswick's boobs and bum, but over and above all that it is a well crafted period piece from gentlemen movie makers who were so good at their craft they could practically do it asleep. This film is not for those who love grue and gore, but for those who enjoy the elements of the 'classic' Hammer film. I must admit this is a favourite Hammer film of mine, albeit presented on a pretty bare and ordinary disc. Shame!
Movie Score
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