Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971)
Dr Jekyll is creating "the elixir of life" from the hormones of dead women. Initially he's assisted by the famed duo of Burke & Hare (somehow still alive in the late Victorian era, and for some reason now living in London). But before long he has to find his own victims, and takes to the smoggy streets with his top hat, swishing cloak and bag of sharp implements.
He also discovers that sampling his potion has a strange side effect, when he suddenly turns into a hot, sexy lady in full make-up. And he wastes no time in checking out his brand new boobs in front of the mirror. However this new female personality is stronger and darker than Dr Jekyll, and soon the two are battling for ultimate control.
Despite the comedy-sounding name, Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde actually takes itself very seriously. It has all the characteristic Victorian sets, costumes and dry ice machines that Hammer does so well. But this is a younger and more daring cousin to The Plague Of The Zombies which I reviewed recently. It has nudity. It has implied necrophilia. it takes a few liberties with history and hopes we won't notice. And it has sexuality.
Jekyll is played by Ralph Bates (from 80s sitcom 'Dear John') who gives his all while wearing a Pam Ayres wig and a stick-on beauty spot. But the real star of the show is Martine Beswick as Sister Hyde, who is impressively well cast. She's tall and striking, with an interesting face that seems both masculine and beautiful at the same time. She convincingly plays the character as sexually confident, yet emotionally cold. Striding through the late night smog in a scarlet dress and tall black hat, Sister Hyde is a formidable figure.
As well as Burke and Hare, there are references to Jack The Ripper. (I was half expecting Fagin or Bill Sikes to make an appearance too.) The first Jekyll-to-Hyde transformation scene is filmed as one take, and the effect is very cleverly done. Hammer adds an extra dimension to the original story with this gender switch, and it works well. My only criticism is that I found things dragged a bit in the middle. While it's not my favourite Hammer horror, it's still pretty decent. And it's certainly worth setting the Sky+ next time it's on late-night television.