Dr. Henry Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) is a surgeon in Victorian London who is experimenting with cocaine in an attempt to come up with a new painkiller. As a result of an accident in his laboratory, some spilt chemicals get mixed-in with a quantity of the drug. The resulting fumes cause Jekyll to transform into Jack Hyde: a wanton libertine who is the living embodiment of the sexual neurosis Jekyll suffered as a boy after he observed a couple making love in a hay loft. They forced him to join in and sexually humiliated him; but the memories had been suppressed by years of Victorian rectitude ... until now! Though still impotent, Hyde takes to the streets, indulging in an orgy of sexual violence which results in a series of grisly Slasher murders being inflicted upon the prostitutes of White Chapel!
A predictably irate review on IMDb dismissed this Harry Alan Towers produced movie as: "just an excuse for wall-to-wall filth, sleaze and pornography". So naturally I immediately snapped up a copy at the first available opportunity! My hopes were raised by the fact that director Gérard Kikoine's resume appeared to consist of nothing but soft porn movies before he made this film. Unfortunately, despite a few nice touches, this attempt to mix the Jack the Ripper and Jekyll & Hyde stories falls very flat -- and after relying on another cliched, "I'm-a-bit-weird" performance from Anthony Perkins, some glossy T&A, and several gallons of blood, it soon runs out of steam and ideas.
This is another low budget effort which wants to look like a high-gloss, big budget blockbuster. To this end, Victorian London is transformed into a picturesque and spotlessly clean tourist attraction full of old-world charm; in fact, the film was shot in Hungary and is lit like an early- eighties Ultravox video! By night, 19th Century London looks more like the set of a tacky West End musical than the overcrowded slum history tells us it was -- and its prostitutes are all jolly dolly birds whose fashion sense I would describe as early New Romantic! In this utterly wonky portrayal of the era, the streets are full of pimps who look like Marc Almond and dress like Steve Strange, and landlords who keep doves which flutter about the rooftops as though on loan from an early-eighties Spandau Ballet video. This sort of thing 'aint right folks!
Admittedly, the film comes up with a few interesting new wrinkles on a well-worn tale, and looks like it might develope them in an interesting way before it finally gives up the ghost and dissolves into a series of lazy, by-the-numbers slasher scenarios. Usually, the Jekyll and Hyde characters are fairly well defined as separate entities in these film adaptations, despite representing different sides of the same person. But, of course, when you have Anthony Perkins playing the lead role this becomes quite difficult, because here is one actor who simply can't help coming off as a bit of a fruit loop no matter what he does! So, Perkins' portrayal of Jekyll relies on the actor's usual collection of facial ticks and his weirdly stilted physicality; the main difference between Perkins as Jekyll and Perkins as Hyde is that his Jekyll has a pronounced limp which forces him to walk with a cain (the usual visual metaphor for impotence of course) while his alter-ego, Hyde is able to walk unaided and sports a druggy, Goth look (its that early-eighties thing again!) -- all pale skin and black mascara around red eyes. Interestingly, there is very little difference in personality between the two and, rather than having Hyde take over (as is usually the case) as the film progresses, the line between the two becomes more blurred instead, until, finally, Jekyll is being just as devious in his attempts to cover up his duel life as you'd expect Hyde to be! The impression you get is that the drug simply unleashes a killer whose potential is only just being held back from expression by strict Victorian moral codes. Another new twist to the story comes when Hyde starts introducing others to the drug and we're presented with the prospect of the personality deforming addiction spreading. Unfortunately, this idea is then promptly forgotten about -- or at least never developed sufficiently.
Perkins does what you expect him to do in roles like this, and by this point in his career you can be fairly sure he knew how to do it well. The supporting cast do little to distinguish themselves but to be honest they're given precious little to work with: David Lodge may be a British veteran of stage and screen but he has nothing much to do here, and Glynis Barber (an actress who will be familiar to fans of British cult sci-fi series "Blake's 7") as Jekyll's wife Elizabeth, can only waft around in ludicrously frilly dresses and nightgowns until it's her turn to get sliced & diced!
The only really noteworthy feature of the production is the sex & gore: there are some very nasty throat slashings and they are usually combined with enough light nudity and slightly kinky S&M scenarios to make this offering at least worth a rental if nothing else! MGM give us the fully uncut version on this DVD, after the film was re-rated in 2002 and all previous cuts reinstated. Both widescreen anamorphic and "standard" (ie. full screen) versions are included on a double-sided disc. A bit of a waste really, as I'm sure MGM could have found another below par Jekyll & Hyde adaptation to pair this up with and at least make it worth the money. The only extra is an overblown theatrical trailer which shamelessly plays on Perkins' Psycho past. ("Mother's gone, now meet brother!") Strictly for a very rainy day.