Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had already been made into several movies, a couple of them are brilliant horror masterpieces so Hammer had their work cut out for them. They had already tackled the subject matter a couple of years earlier with the crime comedy The Ugly Duckling (1959). To change things up director Terence Fisher decided on making Mr. Hyde handsome and the good doctor bland and kind of ugly. Paul Massie was hired to play both roles and he does Dr. Jekyll under make-up and a beard and plays Hyde as himself, suave, handsome and strangely beardless.
Dr. Jekyll is a brilliant scientist trying to explore the depths of the mind and free his “inner man”. Jekyll is married to the lovely Kitty (Dawn Addams) but Kitty is having an affair with Jekyll’s deadbeat friend Paul Allen (Christopher Lee) who is always asking Jekyll for money. Jekyll’s friend Dr. Ernst Litauer (David Kossoff) warns him not to mess around but Jekyll invents a potion that turns him from an old bearded man to a young handsome and beardless Hyde. Where the beard goes nobody knows but I guess it no worse than turning into a hairy ape like creature.
Hyde is free from Jekyll’s moral conscience and starts indulging into all sorts of debauchery. He befriends Paul and the two go out on the town. Soon Hyde is bored and has fallen in lust with Kitty. Kitty rejects him because she’s in love with Paul. Then Hyde starts to plot.
This is a strange take on the Jekyll and Hyde formula because while Hyde is evil, he’s certainly no monster like he was portrayed in earlier movies. Christopher Lee would play a version of Jekyll and Hyde for rival studio Amicus productions in 1971 in the movie I, Monster. And this wasn’t Hammer’s last attempt at Jekyll and Hyde. In 1971 they too would try again with Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, this time Jekyll turns into a beautiful woman while looking for a way to immortality. They managed to work in grave robbers Burke and Hare and Jack Ripper murders into the mix for decent if different take on the story. Neither version is very true to the book, but they are entertaining.