Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Thoughts on Hammer's TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL

Paul Massie as Hyde.
Paul Massie as Jekyll.
I may be alone in this, but I admire THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (which I just watched as part of Indicator's forthcoming HAMMER VOLUME 4: FACES OF FEAR box set - a beautiful presentation) and consider it one of the most interesting interpretations of the tale. People have problems with it because it’s not a horror film and Jekyll doesn’t become a “monster” in the literal sense. The movie’s one insurmountable problem has always been Jekyll’s beard - where does it go when he becomes the clean-shaven Hyde? Director Terence Fisher must have been aware of this; I don’t know if it was specified in Wolf Mankowitz’s script, but it got past any number of possible objections before it reached the screen, so it must have a reasonable explanation. 

Watching the movie again, the thought came to me that people see in other people what they want to see (think of those young infatuated women who attended Ted Bundy’s trial); they also see in themselves what they want to see, whether they are being narcissistic or hyper-critical. So it’s becoming my interpretation that the film is subjective rather than objective, or at least an objectively presented story tainted with subjectivity; that it’s Jekyll’s own deluded dream of what happens, the account as he (or Hyde) writes it down in his notebook. For all we know, it could be Jekyll’s own belief in Hyde that persuades others that he is two different people. I shared these thoughts with my Facebook friends, some of whom pointed out that it is just a movie, and that the detail of Jekyll's vanishing/reappearing beard shouldn't be any harder to accept than his ability to change his sex back and forth in DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971).

At the bottom line, this is a story - a fantastic story at that - I can accept as being told in a symbolic way. Indeed, after seeing this film ten times or more over the years, I’m beginning to wonder if Jekyll’s wife Kitty and the snake dancer are really two different women, as a big part of Hyde’s scheme is putting the two of them in each other’s beds - that is, reconciling them (and thus himself, in relation to them) in both his mind and libido. At any rate, this study in anarchy juggles more interesting ideas and issues than most other Hammer films combined, so it’s always been a favorite.

(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.