THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE
Walerian Borowczyk's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is very aptly named. Falling in an unusual middle ground between art house cinema and sexually exploitative horror, it's a film that is at once gorgeously mysterious and unflinchingly violent. It's such a contradiction at times that one struggles to make sense of what's going on, despite the fact that the film's plot is readily apparent to anyone who is familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson's classic work.
However, while Borowczyk's take on Dr. Jekyll sticks with the violence and transformation, so much more is added. Henry Jekyll is engaged to a Miss Fanny Osbourne, and the gathering at this house is a celebration of their impending nuptials. And that's basically where the similarities end, because in this version, there's a prosthetic penis which looks like a weapon. Also, men and women alike are raped to death and Fanny and Henry nearly feast upon one another at the end. It's a strange thing. It's hazy and red and violet, and given that all of the women are made to take morphine, while the men are left to bumble about like the Keystone Kops, the entirety of the movie might as well be some sort of waking nightmare.
One again, though, Udo Kier is what elevates this film from mediocrity. His mere presence in a film can do so much, despite having someone voice him in a manner that renders Kier a weakened character. You'd expect Kier and Jekyll or Hyde to speak with a resonant, authoritative tone, but it's a bland persona cast by the looped dialogue. It's terrible for everyone involved – Dr. Jekyll & Miss Osborne might as well be a cartoon for all of the squeaky, goofy emoting going on here – but Kier, as the protagonist and antagonist both, needs a bit of strength. Thankfully, his steely gaze can make for a discomforting means of communicating his intent.
Also helpful in deciphering Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne are the myriad supplemental materials on this disc. Michael Brooke's introduction to the films of Borowczyk provides an excellent overview of the man's work, and places this film nicely within an interesting pantheon of experimental and exploitation film. The interviews with the film's stars are lovely reminisces, but as per usual with this sort of thing, provide more cute stories than actual filmic insight.
We recommend watching this with subtitles, as the dubbing is atrocious and, as the film looks amazing, any excuse to soak up more of Arrow's excellent new 2K transfer should be welcomed. There's hours of content here, and even if you're not the sort to look into Polish-directed, French-language adaptations of classic English literature, this is an excellent opportunity to start.
Special Features: Audio commentary / Six featurettes / Interviews / Two short films / Booklet
INFO: CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: WALERIAN BOROWCZYK / SCREENPLAY: WALERIAN BOROWCZYK / STARRING: UDO KIER, MARINA PIERRO, PATRICK MAGEE/ RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW