As I noted a short while earlier, there have been a great many adaptations of the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This one was a made-for-TV movie, which would normally dissuade me from checking it out, but I decided to give it a chance anyway due to the actor cast in the title role, Michael Caine, who is usually worth watching. And indeed Caine turned in a very solid performance in the movie… unfortunately it seems he was also slumming it a bit, as the movie itself rather let him down in some ways.
It’s not the fault of his co-stars. All of them likewise gave worthy performances in their roles. Cheryl Ladd, probably best known from the original Charlie’s Angels, plays Sara Crawford, Jekyll’s sister-in-law and love interest. In this variation of the story, Jekyll is a widower, having lost his wife to pneumonia. Sara, the other daughter of Jekyll’s father-in-law and scientific rival Dr. Lanyon (Joss Ackland), is a married woman but her husband is off in Singapore, and she feels no love for him; she has always loved Jekyll. Lanyon blames Jekyll for the death of his daughter, and suspects adultery between Sara and Henry (he’s wrong, initially.)
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anybody else, Jekyll has been carrying out his infamous experiment. While he later states he had hoped to engage a positive transformation, what he gets is Hyde. (Why he keeps using the formula afterward is never excused or explained.) Hyde is, of course, a brute and commits numerous crimes about town. Various tragedies occur; it’s a Jekyll & Hyde story, you know the drill. There are some unusual elements to this telling, such as the inclusion of Dr. Jekyll’s parents and the newspaper reporter Edward Snape (David Schofield) who is pursuing Jekyll for the society page in hopes of uncovering a scandal. But on the whole, it’s a fairly unremarkable version of the story.
The special effects for the transition to Hyde are done well on a technical level, but I think were a poor idea on the aesthetic level. Hyde is hideous (though I have to say not as hard to look at as Miriam Karlin’s overly-made-up Mrs. Hackett), and therein lies the trouble. He’s not only too obviously deformed, but the prosthetic face means that we can’t see Michael Caine’s face. Given the limited screen time Mr. Hyde gets in this picture, it’s a great hindrance to the performance.
At one point, a cop with a sketch spots Hyde and asks his fellow officer if he thinks that’s him. No, it’s some other grotesque monstrosity walking about. There’s a convention in town, didn’t you know?
With the actors and actresses involved, this could have been a good film. But it’s hard to be engaged in a Jekyll and Hyde movie when most of Hyde’s scenes involve him running down the street doing little of consequence, and when the actor playing him has very few lines as Hyde. The bulk of this movie is the social scandal aspect, which is done reasonably well, but it can’t carry the movie. This Jekyll & Hyde is one that is ultimately skippable.
Oh, and there’s an eye-rolling twist at the end.