The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960)

MARCH 13, 2009


You just can’t go wrong with the Christopher Lee/Terence Fisher combo. Even though Lee isn’t the title character in The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll, his role is pretty large, and a perfect fit for Lee. He’s not a villain, per se, but he’s a slimy asshole all the same. But you can feel OK liking him, because Hyde is far more despicable. Also, the movie’s just plain good, regardless of who is playing who.

It’s not faithful to the novel, but I like the approach they took here. Jekyll is sort of a schlub, and Hyde is a handsome and charming fellow. While you are deprived of a traditional “monster”, it opens up an interesting dynamic to the proceedings, particularly with regards to Lee’s character. Lee is fucking Jekyll’s wife, and mooching off him to boot. But Hyde becomes his best bro, and they go out drinking and being awesome together. This leads to a truly wonderful scene where a young Oliver Reed pops up and smarts off to Hyde and Lee’s character Paul. Hyde tells him in imitable British fashion to simply “go to hell”, and Reed, drunk as always, attacks him. Lee joins the fracas (which is sadly too brief), resulting in the only Reed v. Lee scene I can recall. What I wouldn’t give to have them in a Face/Off style movie!

Of course, this leads to a bit of a goofy plot hole - no one recognizes Hyde as Jekyll, when the only difference is Jekyll has a fake beard and unkempt hair. As I currently have a (real) beard and am about 8 months overdue for a haircut, I began to wonder that if I cleaned myself up tonight if anyone would recognize me (and if it would mean I could go out partying with Christopher Lee). I mean, I can buy the supporting characters not noticing, but Jekyll’s wife (who Hyde tries to nail)? The eyes didn’t give him away? Come on now.

And it drags a bit at times, particularly during two interminable dance numbers that always seem to find their way into 1960s horror movies. Also, with only three central characters, all of whom are jerks, the movie doesn’t really give us anyone to sympathize with. Exacerbating this is the fact that Lee and the wife are killed off with like 20 minutes to go, leaving most of the final act sort of uneventful, as the only people in danger are folks we don’t really know.

However, there is a scene where an annoyed Jekyll suddenly pushes down a little girl that looks like a female Larry Drake, so all is forgiven:

I haven’t seen a lot of the Jekyll films (there are something like fifty variations on the story), so I have to assume that this wasn’t the only one to take the “Hyde is more appealing” route. It’s an interesting way to go I think, and given the glut of traditional “Hyde as monster” ones, helps make the overall story more enjoyable to sit through again. You know how it will end up, but the different path taken to get there is much appreciated.

What say you?

And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the 6th in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)

1 comment:

  1. Actually, TWO FACES is the first version of the story to feature a handsome Hyde. The idea was reused in the early '80s for a PBS version starring David Hemmings.

    I, too, would have enjoyed seeing a Lee-Reed face. Dracula vs. the Werewolf, perhaps?


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