Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jack Palance is great in dual role

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968)
Starring: Jack Palance, Denholm Elliott, Leo Genn, Billie Whitelaw, Oskar Homolka, Gillie Fenwick, and Jeanette Landis
Director: Charles Jarrott
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

After the scientific establishment laughs at his theories that he can eliminate man's baser instincts with a medical treatment, Dr. Jykell (Palance) tests his concoction on himself and is transformed body and mind into the vicious Mr. Hyde (also Palance).

This 1968 made-for-TV movie is perhaps the best screen adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale. It is more faithful in tone and spirit than actual content--as I suspect a completely faithful adaptation would be a little boring.

That said, this Dan Curtis-produced film is swathed in London fog (via Canadian sound stages) and is drenched with gothic horror atmosphere. It wastes no time in getting going, and within the first 20 minutes, Dr. Jekyll has unleashed Mr. Hyde, and he's racing down the road to personal destruction and murder.

The film is driven more by excellent dialogue than actual action, but what action there is as thrilling as it is chilling... because Jack Palance is at the top of his game in this film.

Palance is absolutely bone-chilling as Mr. Hyde, showing him as every bit the wild and impulsive figure of Victorian repression unleashed... not to mention pure evil; the scenes where he takes on a group of thugs and later when he torments a woman just because he can are some of the most powerful and dark moments Palance ever had on screen. He also, however, manages to invoke a mixture of sympathy, pity, and occasional disgust, in the viewer with his portrayal of Dr. Jykell, an arrogant and foolish man who lets his dark side run wild just because he can. Jykell's ultimate weakness of character is exposed as the film reaches its climax, and Palance builds it up perfectly with his performance.

This is a must-see for fans of gothic horror, Jack Palance, and just well-made films.


  1. I saw this waaaay back in the 70's on a late night repeat - it was awesome to me even then! I'd love to see it again!

  2. I think you'll find it holds up nicely!

  3. Jack Palance did an impressive job as both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Mr.Hyde doesnt look like a monster but he behaves like a monster. Mr. Hyde is the evil repressed side of Dr. Jekyll unleashed by a chemical potion. When he is Mr. Hyde he is a one man destructive machine. He enjoys inflicting violence, carnage, and chaos. Mr. Hyde is pure evil but he also represents the id or the animal side of man. He is like an ape in his behavior and apes are violent and cruel. He is also selfish and self centered as he throws everyone outside a carriage so he can have it for himself and then proceeds to beat Dr. Lanyon to death with a cane. In this movie his cane also doubles as a sword. Jack Palance is remarkably fast and athletic in this movie as he runs and climbs tall fences. Mr. Hyde doesnt possess superhuman strength. He is just average in strength and yet look at the carnage he inflicts. This version of Mr. Hyde looks alot like TV newsman Sam Donaldson. Dr. Jekyll enjoys being Mr. Hyde or enjoys reveling in violence and hanging out at sleazy bars with prostitutes. As Mr. Hyde he can do the things that Dr. Jekyll wouldnt do or couldnt do. His dangerous and immoral lifestyle has consequences however. Mr. Hyde is shot to death by Devlin. Its a foolish and destructive experiment and nothing good came out of it.