In the age of Prozac, a new vision of Stevenson's visionary story about the use of chemicals to alter personality and the dangers inherent therein might be a nice idea. Unfortunately, such rich possibilities completely eluded London Weekend Television's David Wickes, in whose hands the
classic text is mutated into a Hyde-like distortion.
Dr. Jekyll (Michael Caine) is a brave, caring healer who saves the life of a little girl his alter-ego has viciously tossed under a carriage moments before. His philosophical opponent in applied chemistry, Dr Lanyon (Joss Ackland), is transformed in this version into Hyde's father-in-law, whose
daughter perished under Jekyll's care. Sara Crawford (Cheryl Ladd) is Jekyll's sister-in-law, who waits patiently for her husband to return from serving Queen and country in the Southeast while secretly nursing a yen for her dead sister's husband. While police search for the mysterious killer
Hyde, a sleazy reporter named Snapes seeks tabloid-style gossip about Jekyll, leading Lanyon to cast Crawford out of his house, calling her a wonton harlot. Jekyll and Crawford revel in their mutual adoration, which arouses deeper, messier feelings in Hyde. Despite being brutally raped by a
hulking stranger in Jekyll's home, Crawford decides to move in with her paramour, flaunting Victorian convention and inviting personal ruin.
Jekyll attempts to break his Hyde jones cold turkey, but fails when the transformations begin to occur spontaneously, resulting in the death of Jekyll's father (Lionel Jeffries) when Hyde assaults him with a wine rack. In desperation, he begs Lanyon for help in re-synthesising the antidote, but to
no avail. In a silly final twist, the executor of Jekyll's estate finds Crawford has borne a child, who bears an uncomfortable likeness to Hyde.
Of all the many flaws in this poorly conceived and executed exercise, including lighting that washes everything a pale yellow and sets that still have the UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS labels on them, Wickes' script is the greatest offender. With nothing intelligent to say to or with this story, he has
instead reduced it to a boddice-ripping Gothic romance, robbing it not only of power, but of life. Jekyll's laughable transformation scenes, which seem to have been lifted intact from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, miss the point of Stevenson's story entirely.
Caine is hopelessly miscast as the good doctor, and frequently seems to be having difficulty moving, let alone acting, under the Frankenstein pullover and blobs of cranial latex. On the whole, his Hyde rather resembles Elmer Fudd after a bad haircut. Even the usually reliable Ackland and
delightful Jeffries fail to invest the utterly boring script with energy, and the supporting cast of third-rate British TV veterans doggedly plod through their imbecilic roles. The rewrite is such a hopeless hash that the plot must be held together by constant references to stories in the day's
newspaper (of which there appears to be only one in all of London). Ignore this limp, damp rag and take home the amazing, Oscar-winning 1932 version with Fredric March. Some things work better without expensive special effects.(Violence, adult situations.)
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