Reviews | Written by John Higgins 08/01/2018

DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971)

Another of the slate of Studio Canal Hammer remasters which open their 2018 release schedule, Dr Jekyll And Sister Hyde is the third adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll, adapted for the screen on this occasion by legendary TV creative Brian Clemens, who conceived the likes of the Patrick Macnee Avengers and the 1970s classic The Professionals, which can be seen in regular repeats on the UK ITV4 channel during the day and at it’s peak in prime time was a popular 9pm draw.

Ralph Bates (who also features in another of the newly remastered releases, The Horror Of Frankenstein) plays Dr Henry Jekyll, a talented practitioner of medicine, who is curious and fascinated about the curing of diseases to the extent that he wants to seek the answer to long life. His first experiments are on an insect, which he proudly proclaims based on a serum he injects lasts three days, far longer than its traditional life expectancy.

Further experiments result in him creating a mix based on female hormones from victims which he consumes, causing evident side effects and a transformation into the mysterious Mrs Hyde (Martine Bestwick), who provides a fascination to Jekyll’s neighbours, brother and sister Howard and Susan Spencer (Lewis Flander and Susan Brodrick), not least in that Howard is attracted to Mrs. Hyde, whilst Susan has designs on Henry....

Dr Jekyll And Sister Hyde is one of the most ingenious adaptations of a classic horror tale and would be ripe for a remake, which according to online reports has been in the works as recently as 2011. It’s a daring variant on the Stevenson tale and courageous in that it focuses on the complications of gender and emotional needs. Bates hits the mark again, as he did in The Horror of Frankenstein, as a man plagued by over-eagerness and a desire to fulfill his potential for the greater good.

However, it is Martine Beswick who steals the show. Beswick had made her mark in two classic Bonds, From Russia With Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965), where she was up against Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi for the honour of most glamorous Bond girl (an accolade that has been gifted to Auger in an all-time poll on occasion).

Here she is given fuller rein to rule over proceedings as the mysterious ‘sister’ of Henry Jekyll and she creates an air of sexual magnetism and cunning that off-sets the doctor’s neurotic predicament. It’s not an easy thing to pull off, but Beswick is effortless in this film.

This writer certainly would welcome a remake of the film to explore modern-day gender and sexual ideals, but until Hammer decide to commission it; we will happily make do with the 1971 original, which should whet fans’ appetite for more re-mastered releases of Hammer’s back catalogue.

DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ROY WARD BAKER / SCREENPLAY: BRIAN CLEMENS / STARRING: RALPH BATES, MARTINE BESWICK, GERALD SIM, LEWIS FIANDER / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 29TH