|David's ink of Martine Beswick as Sister Hyde|
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde is a very interesting film because it takes the tale of a doctor whose experimentation releases his dark side in a different direction. In this version, Dr. Jekyll (Ralph Bates) is trying to create an elixir of life. He discovers that female hormones may be the secret ingredient needed for elixir. Jekyll hires grave robbers Burke and Hare (Ivor Dean and Tony Calvin) to provide him with newly deceased young women so he has enough hormones for his experiments. He succeeds in extending the life of a male housefly and shares his discovery with his friend Professor Robertson (Gerald Sim). Robertson is not impressed because he says the fly is female and the life span is not exceptional for a female. Jekyll insists he started with a male fly. However, there are eggs in the fly's jar indicating that the fly is now female.
|Jekyll records his findings|
Jekyll decides that he needs a human subject. Therefore, he decides to inject himself with his magic mixture. After injecting himself, Jekyll is transformed into a sexy woman (Martine Beswick). Now, Jekyll realizes he needs to do more work and research. Meanwhile, he is attracting the attention of his upstairs neighbors, the Spencers. Mrs. Spencer (Dorothy Alison) and her son Howard (Lewis Fiander) are somewhat suspicious of Jekyll's odd behavior. However, Mrs. Spencer's daughter Susan (Susan Brodrick) is attracted to Jekyll and convinced he is a good man.
|Sister Hyde emerges|
The good doctor is determined to continue his research but has to deal with some major issues. First, he needs to explain why a woman is in his apartment. Jekyll decides to call his alter ego, Mrs. Hyde. She is his widowed sister who is temporarily living with him. In addition, Mrs. Hyde and Howard have developed a mutual attraction. This leads to Mrs. Hyde's desire to emerge more often.
|Howard and Hyde share a private moment together.|
A second issue arises when the people of London have figured out what Burke and Hare have been doing. They haven't just been robbing graves, they have been murdering women too. A lynch mob blinds Burke and hangs Hare. This means Jekyll will need a new source for recently deceased young women. Therefore, Jekyll decides that he will provide his own "fresh" supply of young females. He does not view his killing as "murder" since it is in the name of science.
|Susan Spencer, the woman who loves Jekyll|
The third issue involves Jekyll's own feelings for Susan. He has never let anyone get very close to him. However, Jekyll is attracted to Susan's kindness as well as her beauty. This potential relationship angers Mrs. Hyde. She wants to be the dominate personality and create a life with her lover, Howard. Just as in other versions of the story, the Hyde character is willing to do anything to survive. In fact, Mrs. Hyde begins to do the killing for Jekyll in order to procure more hormones for the elixir that helps her live.
|Sister Hyde on the prowl|
I found this film to be interesting for reasons other than the gender twist. The fact that plot works the real life killers Burke and Hare into the story is quite clever. After all, Jekyll would go to the best source for "recently deceased." In addition, when Jekyll and Hyde begin their murder spree, it is in the Whitechapel section of London. Hence, the film proposes that Jack the Ripper was in fact Jekyll/Hyde.
I think the striking resemblance between Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick helps make the plot plausible. It does seem reasonable that Bates could evolve into Beswick as a woman. I also like how Jekyll is portrayed here. Jekyll is not as noble as he is in previous versions. Jekyll consciously chooses to commit murder while he is Jekyll in order to continue his work. His disregard for human life while the "good" personality is pretty shocking. I think Ralph Bates is very effective in depicting Jekyll as amoral. In this version, it is hard to truly condone his actions. This version and Bates' portrayal make it clear that Jekyll is self absorbed and ultimately should be held responsible for all the tragedy that occurs.
However, it is Martine Beswick who truly impressed me in this film. She has less screen time than Bates, but she makes the most of it. Much of her acting is nonverbal. Beswick is not given a great deal of dialogue so her demeanor is key to her performance. She radiates confidence with her sly grin. Martine said in a Q & A session at Monster Bash in June, 2012 that she was proud of her work in this film. I wholeheartedly agree. If you have not seen Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, why not take a look this Halloween?