Director: Stephen Weeks
Script: Milton Subotsky
Cast: Christopher lee, Peter Cushing, Mike Raven, Richard Hurnbill, George Merritt, Susan Jameson, Marjie Lawrence, Aimee Delamain
Running time: 81 minutes
Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), I, Monster is an Amicus production; Amicus being Hammer Films’ biggest rival during the late Sixties and early 70s. No one quite knows why writer and producer Milton Subotsky wanted to distance the film’s title from the source material’s title and why he also changed the main protagonist’s name from Jekyll/Hyde to Marlowe/Blake, but I’m sure he had his reasons. Perhaps he wanted the film to stand on its own two feet..? Who knows…What I do know, for sure, is that I’ve wanted to see this film for years (since the late Seventies, in fact) so was keen to review it. So, was it worth the wait, I hear you ask? Well, err, no… not really.
I, Monster suffers mostly from slow pacing – the camera movements are either static or ponderously slow and many of the scenes are very theatrical and rather staid; in fact this would probably have worked better as a stage play – and indeed it has done so in the past, under its true guise of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. However, it’s not all bad. For a start there are some good performances from the likes of Cushing and Lee, who seems to be really enjoying playing a schizophrenic role – much scenery is devoured, but in a good way. However, the less said about Mike Raven’s acting the better!
As to the story, well essentially Lee plays Dr Marlowe, a respected psychiatrist, who is struggling to get to grips with the brain and its’ different personality types, and is trying to isolate them using experimental drugs that he’s making in his back-room laboratory – every home should have one! Obviously, things quickly turn south and, ignoring the disastrous results with his pet cat (it went mad and he had to kill it), he injects himself and soon a different version of Marlowe comes to the fore, one without conscience or morals. This new Marlowe, now calling himself Blake, isn’t beyond killing people or even intimidating small animals and children with the least sincere smile you’ve ever seen! Cushing plays a friend, of sorts, who finally settles the ’monster’s’ hash, allowing Marlowe some final peace and dignity.
Many of I, Monster’s problems are probably due to the fact that Amicus originally envisaged it as a 3D film, using a special optical illusion technique, instead of glasses, which restricted camera movements and basically tied director Stephen Week’s hands to some extent. The resulting film is turgid in many ways as a result.
There’s still fun to be had in the solid plot and performances, and the costume and set design is all top-notch, nicely portraying the Victorian period in which the story is based. Plus, it’s always nice to see Cushing and Lee on screen together, including a nicely realised fight.
Powerhouse Films are distributing I, Monster on Blu-Ray. As per usual, Powerhouse Films has done a great job with the transfer and there are plenty of special features including:
Audio commentary with Stephen Weeks;
Audio commentary with Stephen Weeks and Sam Umland;
The BEHP interview with editor Peter Tanner – Part One (90 mins +) – Peter reveals how he first got into the business and talks about his early career. This is audio only, but quite interesting. We find out that his first film-related job, in the press department, earned him the princely sum of £1 a week!
Carl Davis, I, Maestro (18.08 mins) – Interesting interview where we find out that the composer and director had a good relationship on the film, and still do, and that the director now turns his scripts into novels. Sadly, the original film score is now probably lost.
Introduction by Stephen Laws (6 mins) – Super fan and author, Laws explains how to pronounce ‘Jekyll’ correctly – it’s ‘Je – cle’, not Jek – ul’, as more popularly pronounced.
Archival interview with Stephen Weeks (16 mins) – This was recorded during the 9th Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, in 1998, where they also screened ‘Ghost Story’. Director Weeks reveals that Lee was actually a very shy man.
Archival interview with Milton Subotsky (180 mins) – Recorded back in 1985, this represents the edited highlights of the full interview. The audio quality is variable, but still audible. Apparently Milton was annoyed with Hammer as his Tales of Frankenstein story was basically taken and turned into Curse of Frankenstein, which he didn’t like at all!
Kim Newman and David Flint Trailer Commentary (1.47 mins) – A short and sweet commentary during which Newman amusingly refers to DJ/actor Mike Raven as the ‘Tosser of Terror!’
UK Trailer (3 mins) – Much too long, with way too much shown;
US Trailer (1.47 mins) – Better; rated PG!
Image galleries – Promotional material (131 stills) & Behind the scenes (56 stills); we get to see a bit more female flesh in the stills used here and some cool retro posters.
* Please note – the stills used in this review are not indicative of the picture quality of the Blu-ray.