Right up there with Dracula and Frankenstein, Robert Lewis Stevenson’s classic 1886 novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has begat a mass of celluloid children. With a short film version as far back as 1908 the twin characters have been played by actors as diverse as John Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, Paul Naschy, John Malkovitch, Tony Todd and that CGI monstrosity in VAN HELSING. So, it should come as no surprise that yet another version of everyone’s favorite split personality tale is making its way onto DVD shelves.
Dougray Scott (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2) starts as the two halves of one doctor whose quest to expand the horizons of medicine cause a rift that creates a soulless madman intent on living out the most primal and vicious elements of human nature. Desperate to stop his internal maniac from killing more innocent victims, Jekyll hires a lawyer and turns himself into the police—confessing to the crimes. But, against his wishes his lawyer (Krista Bridges—LAND OF THE DEAD), tries desperately to save a man she believes is innocent.
Turning Stevenson’s drama about the dual nature of man into a Tuesday night version of Law & Order is hardly the way to win over audiences looking for visceral thrills. Still, unlike the fearsome elements of Dracula or Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde have always been better suited for Drama—and of course misguided comedy editions like 2005’s JACQUELINE HYDE. The major problem that exists with this version of the film is that Director Paolo Barzman and writer Paul Margolis have made the production, so antiseptic (there’s virtually no blood or violence for that matter on screen) and so dull that it threatens at every minor twist to put the viewer into a coma. The presentation of the court case—which is the denouement of the film—could have been cribbed from any given primetime drama, as teams of lawyers present the facts and surprise clues cause oohs and ahhs a plenty—before the lawyers themselves go traversing through the crime scenes to locate lost evidence.
In the end, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE simply fails to entertain. Dougray Scott is dull and uninspired as the put-upon doctor—only perking up for brief moments when the veins in his forehead are about to explode. Still, the fault is hardly his alone. True, he plays his character as a bore, but supporting turns from Bridges and Tom Skerritt (who must have had little else to do that week) hardly pick up the slack. Ultimately the film fails because like its main character, its intentions may have been good—to create a revisionist version of a classic literary story—but they unexpectedly cause so much more pain and horror—only this time to the viewing audience.