Blackly comic gender-bending reworking on Robert Louis Stevenson’s oft-filmed classic; this was Hammer’s third variation on the tale after The Ugly Duckling and The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll.
It is camp, irredeemably silly and hugely entertaining, but the witty script written by Brian Clemens (longtime writer and producer of The Avengers TV series) never ventures into sexploitation and the excellent cast led by Ralph Bates and cult-queen Martine Beswick manage to keep straight faces.
Set in Victorian London, good Dr Henry Jekyll (Bates), is experimenting with ways to prolong life, using female hormones he is harvesting from bodies in the morgue with the help of necrophile attendant Byker (Philip Madoc).
Jekyll tries the drug himself and is briefly transformed into a beautiful woman (Beswick) but persists in his experiments nevertheless.
When bodies become in short supply, Byker recommends the help of body snatchers Burke (Ivor Dean) and Hare (Tony Calvin) who supply Jekyll with women of easy virtue (snuffed out by unnatural causes) until the pair meets their own historic fate – whereupon Jekyll must begin to obtain bodies himself through murder, stirring up a panic about a homicidal maniac stalking prostitutes in Whitechapel.
When his neighbours, including smitten young Susan Spencer (Susan Brodrick) see Jekyll’s female form, he invents a sister, the widowed Mrs Hyde, who soon takes on a life of her own as she goes out to continue harvesting hormones by killing East End prostitutes who – terrified of “Jack the Ripper” – believe they have nothing to fear from a woman (and all the while the police are searching for a man).
When Susan’s brother Howard (Lewis Fiander) falls in lust with Mrs Hyde, she decides to rid herself of Jekyll altogether and stalks Susan as the next unwilling hormone donor.
Dr Henry Jekyll
Roy Ward Baker