The Film (5/5)
It has taken many years, and a good few attempts, but with this viewing of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Osbourne I find myself finally connecting with the cinema of Walerian Borowczyk's. I have seen a number of his film's from his nun-sploitation film Behind Convent Walls, to his sexually transgressive The Beast. With prior viewings something in his film's has left me cold, however, with this film I feel like I am not only coming to terms with how Borowczyk films worked artistically, and have begun to emotionally and intellectually absorb them.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Osbourne begins with a variation on one of the scenes from Robert Louis Stevenson's iconic horror novel. The murder by Jekyll's alternate persona Edward Hyde of a young girl by clubbing. While in the novel it was a particular vicious act, and rather straight forward in it's approach, Borowczyk adds elements of sexual perversity to Hyde's attack making him a near-child molester as well as a vicious killer. It as this moment, set up by establishing shots of beautifully rendered Victorian London streets that we as viewers are clued in to the fact that this is not the story we are familiar with, and that the world Borowczyk will depict will remain to us unknown through the film's runtime.
Whereas the novel took place over a long period of time. The Borowczyk film follows the template set by his earlier the Beast, and takes place across one evening. The film follows the events of the engagement party of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier, Blood of Dracula) and his lovely bride to be be Fanny Osbourne (Marina Pierro, Immoral Women). The guests at this party appear to be the cream of the crop of the London bourgeoisie, and of course, Jekyll could care less, as he appears to be spending much of dinner defending his book on transcendental medicine (as in using chemicals to reach a transcendental state) or in his lab's bathroom bathing in the chemical that would turn the seemingly mild Dr. Jekyll into the violent, sadistic, and almost most importantly perverse Hyde, who scours the house and party for guests to violate and kill.
Apparently, before the film went into production Borowczyk claimed to have laid his hands on the original written manuscript for Stevenson's novel. This was later admitted to be false, but was used as a springboard for the director to go off in his own direction, and that he did. The film is as typical for Borowczyk more concerned with stylized visuals, which truly do excel here, than offering a standard plot. It also truly offers a balance between the two leads, making Fanny Osbourne more of a strong protagonist that determines her own fate that a victim of the monstrous Hyde.
Though the film is based around Borowczyk's wonderful visual style the film does have some fantastic performances from Kier, Pierro, and the late Patrick Magee in one his last roles. Borowczyk's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll, exemplifies my favorite elements of EuroCult cinema from a wonderful atmosphere to an almost anything goes approach to the contents of the film. There is a certain feeling throughout that anything can happen in the film, and does.
Arrow Video are becoming one of my most trusted labels with releases such as this one and their recent Blood and Black Lace Blu-ray. The film is presented in a stunning 1080p AVC encoded 1:66:1 transfer that preserves the original aspect ratio. There is excellent fine detail, black levels are solid, colors are rendered beautifully, and there is nice organic feel to the the grain structure.
The audio is presented in a pair of LPCM 1.0 tracks one in English the other French. Both tracks are quite serviceable with dialogue and score coming through clearly, and only a few minor bits of cracking to make note of.
Arrow Video have packed their Blu-ray release of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne, so much so that I doubt anyone will be left wanting after this. The Blu kicks off with an introduction by film critic Michael Brooke, we also get a commentary track edited together from interviews with the cast and crew (including Boro), there are multiple interviews with the cast and crew of the film including Pierro and Kier. A few short films, trailers, and so much more.
I am happy to say that I finally have caught Borowczyk's cinematic wavelength after watching the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne, and look forward to taking a deep dive into his filmography soon (Arrow, please consider releasing that box set stateside). The Blu-ray has wonderful A/V, and is packed with extras. HIGHL Y RECOMMENDED