Actors: Udo Kier, Marina Pierro, Patrick Magee
Director: Walerian Borowczyk
Format: Blu-ray, NTSC
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Arrow Video
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Run Time: 90 minutes
As familiar as the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde may be, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is far from traditional in its narrative. Written and directed by Walerian Borowcyzk, who was known for his sensational and sexually explicit filmmaking, this version seems to have been inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s first attempt at the narrative. Stevenson was engaged to a woman named Fanny Osbourne, who was said to have been so horrified by this early draft that the writer destroyed it before starting over to create the narrative we now know. Borowcyzk uses his imagination in creating a perverse adaptation that is easy to imagine would have been shocking enough for destruction.
Taking place all in one evening, the film mostly revolves around the engagement party of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier) and his fiancée, Miss Fanny Osbourne (Marina Pierro). As a group of respectable guests gather for the celebration, a young girl is being beaten by a vicious man in the streets of
. The news arrives at the party as
little more than a conversation piece, until the youngest guest is also
violently attacked within the walls of the home. Soon it becomes all too clear
that the attacker is roaming the estate, threatening the safety of all
attending the private affair. London
There are a few elements which make this version of Stevenson’s story additionally shocking, including Borowcyzk’s signature eroticism. While we are accustomed to Mr. Hyde’s atrocious behavior, both violent and sexual, it is the combination of the two which make this particular monster so horrifying. There is evidence that he rapes many of his victims before their death, but even more shocking is the revelation that his unusually long and pointed sexual organ has the ability to pierce flesh, aiding in the ultimate demise of his victims. Even more potential for offense comes in Borowcyzk’s willingness to show us what this murder weapon looks like in close-up shots. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne tends to be more sexually explicit than violent a film, however demented the finale may be.
Gorgeously shot and magnificently restored for the Blu-ray release, this is a film which benefits greatly from the high definition presentation. Also included on the disc are a number of extras, including an audio commentary comprised of archival interviews with Borowcyzk, along with new interviews with cinematographer Noel Very, editor Khadichi Bariha, assistant Michael Levy, and filmmaker Noel Simsolo, moderated by Daniel Bird. Additional interviews in the extras include one with Udo Keir, Marino Pierro, and Sarah Mallinson talking about Borowcyzk. There are also two short films, including a 1979 one from Borowcyzk called “Happy Toy.” Then there is a 30-minute appreciation by Michael Brooke and various other extras. I know modern blockbusters with fewer special features on their Blu-ray release.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 6.5/10