THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960)
This is a really frustrating movie because it comes really close to working and it has a load of juicy themes to deal with plus Christopher Lee as a real cad. But surface level shortcomings end up short circuiting the thing.
The film opens in the standard manner with the bearded Dr. Jekyll (Paul Massie) telling an elder colleague about his goals to unlock the unbridled will in man. In this version, Jekyll is married to Kitty (Dawn Addams) who he doesn't spend any time or attention on and is clearly lonely and bored with him. So lonely that she's having an affair with Jekyll's "friend" Paul Allen (Christopher Lee) who is constantly borrowing money from Jekyll to pay off his gambling debts and, in a commented upon irony, to take Kitty out to nightclubs.
After Kitty leaves her husband alone to go out with Paul, Jekyll transforms into Hyde, also played by Massie. But, in a novel twist, Hyde isn't an ugly brute but a handsome gentlemen who's evil is in his smile, eyes, and actions. Hyde's a real degenerate, experiencing all the pleasures that Jekyll has denied himself. During the course of those revels he comes across Paul and Kitty and discovers their affair.
Hyde has a couple of agendas in mind. He uses Paul to feed his appetite for sin. Along the way he seduces the exotic dancer Maria (Norma Marla) who performs a very interesting dance with a python and not much for clothes. Hyde also tries to seduce Kitty, but in an irony he repels her. After that's unsuccessful, he hatches a revenge plot to destroy Paul, satisfy his appetites with Kitty, and destroy Jekyll.
There's a lot here that's pretty interesting. This is one of the first Fisher films to not really have a hero character at all, the story and title clearly indicts Jekyll as a whole. There's plenty of duality surrounding Jekyll/Hyde with Kitty as the wife/mistress and Paul as the two faced "friend". Massie is pretty good, particularly as Hyde. Lee's in very good form. Fisher's common themes are present. The handsome Hyde idea works well. And it looks good.
Unfortunately, the film is way overwritten. Wolf Mankowitz was a novelist/playwright who wrote the screenplay and about the only idea that's not voiced in the script is Maria's serpent as a phallic symbol. Frankly, I think that was all Fisher's idea. While that may work on the page or stage, on the screen with Fisher supplying a bunch of the story through his visuals it's just too much. Jekyll questioning over and over and over "Who am I?" stands out as particularly bad. This is a very talky film which handcuffs Fisher who normally could bring out these ideas in his direction while the plot proceeds at a good clip, but instead all of this talking frequently stops the movie dead. To top it off, the script has Jekyll and Hyde engage in conversations, coming out of the same mouth with different voices, and the device doesn't work at all. Massie going all bug eyed as a visual signal of transformation is well overdone and that's on Fisher and Massie. The score is awful, being loud and crass underlining every emotion.
As I said, it's too bad because there's a lot the film gets right. Certainly not the worst of Hammer, although certainly among Fisher's worst, it's an interesting failure.