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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2003)

The soul has two faces.

Directed by:

Maurice Phillips

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 96 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

There are three old-school horror stories that have been done to death by film-makers over the years. One is Dracula, one is Frankenstein, and the other is Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. A quick scan of the web reveals that more than twenty different versions of the story have been inflicted on audiences in this past Century, with all manner of thesps from Michael Caine and Spencer Tracy to Boris Karloff and Ralph Bates trying their hand at playing popular fiction’s best-known schizoid.

In this ill-advised British attempt from 2002, it’s the turn of bushy-eyebrowed Scotsman John Hannah. It’s the latter half 19th Century, and he’s Dr Jekyll, an impulsive scientist whose favourite hypothesis is that we’ve all got a good personality and a bad personality battling away inside of us – a Tom Hanks side and a Bruno Brookes side, if you will. When he decides to prove this theory by injecting unidentified blue gunk into a living human guinea pig, he understandably has a bit of difficulty convincing anyone to volunteer. So a fellow mad old toff (David Warner) agrees to pull some strings at the local loony-bin and have them send him one of their mentalists to experiment on – but, when the subject snuffs it, Jekyll decides to inject the gunk into himself instead.

Of course, we all know what happens from here on in: Jeks chucks a wobbler, turns into a frothing madman, and goes on a murderous rampage through the streets of foggy old London. The difference in this particularly unimaginative re-telling is that, instead of undergoing the traditional hulk-out, the Doc’s changes here are strictly mental. So, with no obvious physical amendments to let us know when he’s having one of his sticky moments, we’re left with the unintentionally daft scenario of him demonstrating his newfound nastiness by emphasising his Scottish accent, donning a top hat and carrying a cane. It’s more Mr Peanut than Mr Hyde.

The whole thing’s massively ineffective, and you can’t help but wonder why an actor with a CV as reasonable as Hannah’s would bother taking part in a film that’s at best clichéd and at worst extremely silly. Director Maurice Phillips, who once directed Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in ‘Another You’ but has since confined himself mainly to small-screen work, seems out of his depth and constantly struggles to show us the story from its best angle. The story itself tries to be low-key in its handling of the old tale, but only comes across as restrictive. Why not make a bigger deal of Jekyll’s transformation? Why not show more of his amok-running? Why not alter his appearance? Here’s hoping the inevitable next attempt at bringing this well-known yarn to the screen makes a considerably better job of it.

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It's Got: A house with lots of human skulls on its shelves.

It Needs: The ‘Changing Rooms’ team.

DVD Extras Nothing here. DVD Extras Rating: 0/10

Alternatives:

Any of the countless other versions of this over-killed horror yarn.

Summary

Give this latest retelling of Stevenson’s classic a miss – there’ll no doubt be another one along in a year or so anyway.

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