Wednesday, 10 June 2015

ARROW FILMS is becoming the GOLD STANDARD for the home entertainment packaging of Genre Pictures: THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE by Walerian Borowczyk - Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981)
Dir. Walerian Borowczyk
Starring: Udo Kier, Gérard Zalcberg,
Marina Pierro, Patrick Magee, Howard Vernon, Clément Harari

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This might not be the ultimate film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's literary masterpiece "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (that, for me, belongs to 1968's astounding Dan Curtis and Charles Jarrott shot-on-2-inch-video production for ABC-TV, starring Jack Palance in the dual role), but Walerian Borowczyk's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne deserves an oblation of the most emphatically laudatory kind for easily being the strangest, creepiest and most visually diverse version.

On the surface, it's a relatively straight-forward rendering of the alchemy-obsessed Dr. Jekyll and his discovery of a secret potion which allows the normally mild mannered scientist to conjure up his most base instincts and turn into a foul murderous psychopath. Where the adaptation parts company with most is on several levels.

First of all, Borowczyk has quite brilliantly chosen to split the acting duties of Jekyll and Hyde twixt two actors, Udo Kier and Gérard Zalcberg respectively. Kier adds a sexy, almost reptilian quality to the good doctor and quite capably evokes the more subtle qualities of Jekyll's obsessive "addiction" to both the potion and the brutal qualities of his alter-ego Mr. Hyde. Zalcberg resembles Kier in face and stature (albeit with a grotesquely deformed visage), but he takes the horrific Hyde to demented levels of psychopathy and sexual deviance not quite exploited as overtly as they are here.

Secondly, more emphasis is placed upon the love story between Jekyll and his fiancé. As such, the entire action of the film takes place over the course of one long, horrifying evening devoted to celebrating the couple's engagement. Delving into Mario Bava stalker territory of such works as Bay of Blood and providing a far more compelling precursor to the slasher movie craze of the period than those of the Friday the 13th ilk, Borowcxyk does not shy away from explicit perverse sexual activity and this, coupled with some truly sickening violence and humiliation, is what serves up a genuinely original take on the twisted tale.

Borowczyk's gorgeously skewed compositions, lighting and camera moves are a big treat in this respect as are his attention to numerous fetishistic lingerings over a variety of inanimate objects (and not to neglect his evocative mirror imagery), the movie is a dazzler to the eye. Enjoying Hyde decimate the assembled celebrants one by one is truly joyous. Coupled with a first rate cast (Patrick Magee as a prudish aristocrat forced to watch his comely daughter succumb to Hyde's huge and prodigious sword of manhood is especially engaging)

Throughout the film, one is both shocked and tantalized with how far Hyde goes during his evening of slaughter and general debauchery. Ultimately, it's a parade of delicious serial killings, but crafted with a great deal of artistry and vision. Throughout most of the movie, you'll be agog at its subversive nature. Your jaw will drop as regularly as Mr. Hyde's deadly, loutish knuckle dragging.

It's cause for celebration!

***** 5 Stars for both the film and Arrow's Special Edition

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is available in a sumptuous special edition on Arrow Video with the following special features: A new 2K restoration, scanned from the original camera negative and supervised by cinematographer Noël Véry, a High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD of the movie released on both formats for the first time anywhere in the world, English and French soundtracks, Optional English and English SDH subtitles, Introduction by critic Michael Brooke, Audio commentary featuring archival interviews with Walerian Borowczyk, Udo Kier, Marina Pierro and producer Robert Kuperberg, and new interviews with cinematographer Noël Véry, editor Khadicha Bariha, assistant Michael Levy and filmmaker Noël Simsolo, all moderated by Daniel Bird, Interview with Marina Pierro, Himorogi (2012), a short film by Marina and Alessio Pierro, made in homage to Borowczyk, Interview with artist and filmmaker Alessio Pierro, Video essay by Adrian Martin and Cristina Alvarez Lopez, Eyes That Listen, a featurette on Borowczyk’s collaborations with electro-acoustic composer Bernard Parmegiani, Jouet Jouyeux (1979), a short film by Borowczyk based on Charles-Émile Reynaud’s praxinoscope, Interview with Sarah Mallinson, former assistant to Borowczyk and fellow animator Peter Foldes, Returning to Méliès: Borowczyk and Early Cinema, a featurette by Daniel Bird, Theatrical trailer with optional commentary by editor Khadicha Bariha, Reversible sleeve with artwork based on Borowczyk’s own poster design, Illustrated booklet with new writing on the film by Daniel Bird and archive pieces by Walerian Borowczyk and Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues.

There's not a single item on this Special Edition that a Borowczyk fan, nor for that matter, any serious horror aficionado will not want to pore over. My personal favourites included Michael Brooke's wonderful video in which he tells the familiar tale of all grind house denizens - discovering the work of a great director in a delectable dive devoted to flat-rental specials on triple and quadruple bills, offering hours of entertainment for one low admission, as well as providing a safe haven for the homeless, the indigent and those seeking a nice spot to get a blow job from a hooker. Brooke's superbly spun tale of first viewing Borowczyk's Dr. Jekyll film in just such an establishment is replete with a detailed analysis of the filmmaker's style and career and the history of this astoundingly vile and quite brilliant film. Actress Marina Pierro's interview is full of illuminating observations on Borowczyk's working methods as well as her own erudite assessment of his work. I also loved the extra involving composer Bernard Parmegiani which provides great insight into the world of 70s/80s Euro-Trash electronic/acoustic scoring. Again, these are just personal favourites and, ultimately, I found the entire package eminently fascinating and beautifully produced. It was this package in particular that led me to decide that Arrow was indeed providing a Criterion Collection-styled Gold Standard to the packaging of genre films.