Friday, October 17, 2008

I, MONSTER (1971)

In London at the turn of the century, a psychologist (Christopher Lee), an early follower of that Freud fellow, believes that good and evil can be separated in humans and he's come up with a serum to do just that. When he gives it to his gentle cat, it goes wild and he has to kill it. He gives it to a young female patient to help her shed her inhibitions and she indeed does that, as well as shed her clothes. Soon he decides to restrict experimentation to himself; at first, the serum gives him a silly grin and makes his smash a beaker (and he thinks about slicing off a mouse's head). Later he grows big teeth and strolls around town committing petty crimes. At first, he always returns to normal, but soon his bestial self begins to take control; after he kills a whore, he vows not to continue the injections, but his transformations happen anyway, and his looks get uglier and more primitive. His friend (Peter Cushing) soon figures what's happening, leading to the predictable climax. Not quite "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," produced not quite by Hammer but by their chief rival in British horror, Amicus. Actually, as most critics point out, this version, which gives the main characters the names of Marlowe and Blake rather than Jekyll and Hyde, is more faithful to the Stevenson story than most other film adaptations. The Freud connection is interesting, and Lee is OK, but otherwise the film is unremarkable, looking quite B-ish in execution and visually unexciting. Search out the excellent 1931 version with Fredric March which has not been equaled (and since it's on a disc with the lesser 1941 Spencer Tracy film, you might as well watch that one, too.) [DVD]

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