Friday night at the home drive-in: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)

I’ve seen a lot of versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde over the years – including the notorious play (Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: A Love Story) that bombed right across Canada in 1996 – but until last Friday I’d never seen this Hammer take on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story.

My favourite version has always been the 1931 film adaptation by Rouben Mamoulian, starring Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have an interest in Pre-Code Hollywood movies – and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is about as Pre-Code as Pre-Code gets. Put simply, it is very open about the sexual nature of this story. Movies that came out later, in the 1940s and ’50s, were much more restrained (under the watchful eyes of Will Hays, Joseph Breen, and the rest of the merry bunch of censors at the Production Code Administration. I spent a few years writing a three hour musical about all of this (which unfortunately never saw the light of day), so I won’t write any more about it now. If you want to learn more about Pre-Code Hollywood, Wikipedia is a good place to start.

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll AKA Jekyll’s Inferno (1960) by Terence Fisher feels like a return to the Pre-Code spirit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). Sex is a big part of Jekyll’s Inferno, and one of Mr. Hyde’s main motivators. The movie is quite explicit for 1960, and a nice change from some of the more “respectable” versions of the story. It features a love triangle between Dr. Jekyll, his wife, his friend, and Mr. Hyde (okay, it’s a love square) that must be seen to be believed.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is probably still my favourite version of his story. But in light of how much I enjoyed The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll AKA Jekyll’s Inferno (1960), I just may have to add it to the always growing playlist of #NotQuiteClassicCinema.