The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll (1960)

We continue for a while with Hammer, although this time we go back to the sort of thing they’re best known for. I haven’t seen any of the films in the Icons of Horror set, which gets off to a terrific start with The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll. Although by this time Hammer had got Universal’s blessing to revisit their old horror series, Stevenson’s tale actually wasn’t a Universal property, having been worked over by Paramount and MGM instead… unlike Curse of Frankenstein or Horror of Dracula, though, this film at least remains a bit more faithful to the story as recounted in those earlier tellings (if hardly to the original book). Terence Fisher was Hammer’s great believer in the absolute division between good and evil, so he was an apt choice for this particular tale of those two things. It is, of course, a fantastically attractive film (just look at that Technicolor!), but its most fascinating gambit is having Paul Massie play Jekyll with more makeup than Hyde (and different tones of voice; what was I saying just the other day about the use of voice in this story? Here my point is kind of illustrated); Jekyll is the older-looking, bearded, less obviously attractive figure while Hyde is the youthful, clean-shaven good looker… which, of course, only really enhances his monstrosity, perhaps makes him more of one than Fredric March turning into a kind of apeman does. And this version keeps up the earlier films’ tradition of giving Jekyll a wife, but in this case the relationship has clearly gone sour a while ago, with Mrs Jekyll having taken a lover in the form of Christopher Lee; this makes for interesting times when Hyde encounters the two of them sharing a night on the town. I don’t think it’s really displaced the 1931 film in my affections but it’s no doubt a fine film that does some interesting things on its own terms.

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