In searching for the elixir of life, Dr. Jekyll’s (Ralph Bates) self-experimentation transforms him into Mrs. Hyde (Martine Beswick) in this Hammer Horror from 1971.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde might sound like a blaxploitation horror à la Blacula, but it’s a surprisingly thoughtful update that asks: what if the duality of man isn’t a question of good and evil, but of masculinity and femininity? In unleashing the female side of his personality, Jekyll sexually liberates himself; an interesting post-’60s twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic tale.
This sexuality is manifest in the film’s love triangle/square, in which the brother and sister (Lewis Fiander and Susan Brodrick) who live upstairs are attracted to him and her respectively. The casting is spot on, with both Bates and Beswick (who was in From Russia with Love and Thunderball, Bond fans) convincing as two sides of the same coin.
Laced with violence and black humour, the film is directed with smoggy Victorian flavour by Roy Ward Baker (Quatermass and the Pit) which includes Burke and Hare as characters along with references to Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd. The effect is fun, provocative and weirdly charming, making this a Jekyll and Hyde to seek.