The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, also known as Jekyll’s Inferno or House of Fright, and based upon Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella is a story known to most. An upstanding young doctor thinks he knows it all and cannot wait to test his serum properly, injects himself and becomes the monster inside, a case of good and evil and the duality that resides within us all. The story has been remade many times over, by many studios into almost every medium there is, whether on screen or in print and while some differ wildly from others, in 1960, Hammer decided they would give the tale their own spin. So with Terence Fisher at the helm directing and an esteemed cast to work with, it would be released into the wilds of the world and perform only mildly compared to their Frankenstein and Dracula franchises.
What was most interesting about this film was the direction that Fisher and the studio went when portraying the man and the monster, for a monster is exactly what Mr. Hyde is. Both Jekyll and Hyde would be played by star Paul Massie who did a wonderful job in the roles, altering his voice when playing each character, as well as makeup and giving each their own distinctive personalities and manners. The strangest thing was, unlike most portrayals, Jekyll would look the rough, almost uncouth person while Hyde would be, instead of the normally monstrous representation, a handsome and dignified young man. It was quite different to see the monster as such compared to the 1931 version with Frederic March or even the 1941 version with Spencer Tracy. Out of the three though, this one seemed more realistic as it gave the man an air of unassuming evil instead of being completely apparent. It was, by all accounts, a stroke of genius having our villain look this way.
As Mr. Hyde makes his way through the film, he does have that air of dignity about him, and those he meets have no idea just who and what it is they are talking to. That in itself is scary and starts the film off on its path to horror. Hyde goes on to worm his way into the good graces of those around him, particularly Paul Allen, the lover of his wife, Kitty. Manipulation would be the main source of Hyde’s wrongdoing, but soon enough, that simple manipulation would not be enough for the villain and he would move on to rape and murder. The film documents this steady decline into depravity with a sureness and steady hand thanks to Terence Fisher and it also helped that Wolf Mankowitz provided such a great script to work from.
Starring opposite Massie in the film would be Dawn Addams as his cheating spouse, David Kossoff as Dr. Littauer and the ever-present Christopher Lee as Kitty’s paramour, Paul Allen. There is even a small cameo from the incredibly dynamic Oliver Reed as a bouncer which was quite interesting as he looked so young. Addams was terrific as Dr. Jekyll’s unfaithful wife, and she would play her husband like a fiddle in the film, jerking him here and there until she would finally think herself free of him until it was too late. Christopher Lee would star as playboy Paul Allen and even saying playboy is funny as it is hard to picture the man who has played so many villains as a carefree gambler and ladies’ man. Yet Lee does a fantastic job as usual, not realizing that he put his trust in the wrong man.
This version of Jekyll and Hyde was in the end, highly entertaining. The unconventional portrayal of the hero and villain was at first quite strange, but ultimately one of the best things about the movie. The lush score that accompanied the film worked well, especially as it let you know when Jekyll was about to change for the first time or when someone was about to meet their fateful end. But despite everything, the film belonged to Paul Massie and his extremely charismatic performance as two different men who just happened to inhabit the same body. March was good, Tracy better, but Massie holds his own against the two and is even quite possibly, the best of the bunch. The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll is a very slick and polished horror-thriller from Hammer that will delight any fan of the genre.