Movie Diary 8/6/2018

twofacesofdrjekyll

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (Terence Fisher, 1960). I can’t see that this one has much of a reputation in the Hammer horror canon, but it’s a cracker. It’s got a cast of outrageously louche actors, the design is incredible even by Hammer standards (the mono-monikered costume designer Mayo also did Children of Paradise and Land of the Pharoahs), and Wolf Mankowitz’s screenplay is quite literate. Paul Massie plays Henry Jekyll as a science-bearded nerd and Edward Hyde as a suave, if alarmingly bug-eyed, ladykiller. Mrs. Jekyll, played by the sly Dawn Addams, is bored with hubby and carrying on an affair with Jekyll’s ne’er-do-well friend, a compulsive gambler and sponger played by Christopher Lee (oozing charm and naughtiness in a non-monster role). Admittedly, there isn’t a lot of horror action, but Fisher’s direction is elegant, which contrasts nicely with the zones of depravity depicted here – the movie has a wonderfully blithe “oh by the way this is what grown-ups do” attitude about its brothels and opium dens and extended sequences of can-can dancers. Hyde has an affair with an artiste (Norma Marla, I think) who salaciously dances with a python (prompting the question, How else do you dance with a python?). Oliver Reed appears in one scene, as a pimp demanding that proprieties be observed. The color scheme is lysergic. Also known as House of Fear and Jekyll’s Inferno.

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