Hooptober 9.0 – The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)

Being Film #8 for Hooptober 2022

A quick rundown of The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, Hammer’s take on the Robert Louis Stevenson tale. As enjoyable as it may be, there are distracting elements that kept me from the velvety praise I typically heap on a Hammer production. One, it features Oliver Reed in a uncredited role as a bouncer, and he’s so delicious I couldn’t take my eyes off him, knowing that just a year later he’d be starring in The Curse of the Werewolf for both Hammer and Terence Fisher. Two, the introduction of Jekyll is its own distraction we’ll get into below. But still this had its moments and was another enjoyable excursion into the Hammer universe.

THE QUICK SUMMARY: Dr. Jekyll is devoted to his research and experiments to understand the duality of man: the Man Who Could Be, and the Man Who Would be. He does this to the exclusion of his wife Kitty who falls in love with the rascal Paul, although who can blame her when Paul is played to a sinner’s perfection by Christopher Lee? Well, pretty soon Jekyll starts injecting himself and the results are…a suprise, even for a film based on the Stevenson novel. Hijinks, snakes, and evil ensues. In the end we have to wonder: how great would this have been if Oliver Reed was Jekyll instead of his uncredited bouncer?

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I really enjoyed the script flip of Jekyll being an uptight and cold jerk when it comes to his wife and his work, and that when he does transform into Hyde, it’s as a much more handsome, devilish man. The problem is when we first meet the bearded and drained Jekyll, the makeup Massie is wearing is so…weird. It definitely looks like something is wrong with him already. When he biomes Hyde and we see the regular, ridiculously handsome Massie it makes sense, but it doesn’t help that disconcerted feeling when we first meet him.

It also doesn’t help that he’s ostensibly up against Christopher Lee as Paul Allen, the heel and love interest of Jekyll’s cheating wife. Lee is once again wonderful, and if you’ve ever wanted a scene where he lies in an opium induced haze or attacked by a snake, well spoiler: you get both here. Massie does well, especially when he’s Hyde – there’s a great moment where he savagely beats Oliver Reed with a candlestick in a club and the absolute glee on his face is hilarious and creepy all at once. He’s almost the match of Lee, but almost doesn’t cut it and I think The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll suffers for it.

But it’s Hammer, so I forgive it these small problems. Fisher once again helms the production, this time shooting in 2:35:1 and despite the obvious age of the film it looks fantastic. And he shoots a whopper of an ending, where an inner battle shows Jekyll come out on top just as he’s surrounded by the police. The makeup, now aged considerably to show the toll on Jekyll to break free from the control of Hyde is superb, and a fitting close to this film.

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