The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Miss Osbourne
Hyde and seek
Release Date: OUT NOW!
1981 | 18 | Dual- format Blu- ray/ DVD Director: Walerian Borowczyk Cast: Udo Kier, Marina Pierro, Patrick Magee, Howard Vernon, Clement Harari
Of all the
adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Walerian Borowczyk’s little- seen take is the most outré, with the Polish director adding the attributes he brought to films like bestiality fantasy The Beast – such as a terrifyingly proportioned erect penis.
In the book, about the worst that happens is a little girl being trampled underfoot. Here, we’re treated to close- ups of a raped woman’s bloodied crotch and queasy chat about damaged labia.
It’s a film with an improvisatory feel, which despite its provocative content has some dull stretches. As Jekyll celebrates engagement to the titular Miss Osbourne, his alter ego viciously murders representatives of the establishment like Patrick Magee’s grotesque General. Their baffling inability to break out of the building means the film feels frustratingly claustrophobic, and the dinner- table dialogue is dreadfully pretentious.
It sparks into life when Udo Kier’s Jekyll transforms into Gérard Zalcberg ’s Hyde; Zalcberg ’s cruel, androgynous features are striking, and he has great presence. And the transformation itself, which involves much thrashing about in a bath, is a well- executed conjuring trick.
A commentary pieced together from eight interviews; featurettes on Bernard Parmegiani, composer of the avant- garde score ( 10 minutes) and Borowczyk’s love of early cinema ( seven minutes); interviews with Udo Kier ( 11 minutes) and Marina Pierro ( 20 minutes); a “video essay” ( 15 minutes); a critical appreciation ( 33 minutes); two shorts, with accompanying intro/ interview; trailer; booklet. Ian Berriman Miss Osbourne shares her name with Stevenson’s wife, Fanny, whose critique of his original manuscript led him to burn it.
A week later his eyebrows turned up behind the sofa.