When it comes to surreal and bizarre films, they just don’t get much more so than THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE. I’d never heard of this film prior to getting the press release, but it’s a cult classic from what I understand. Granted, it will not appeal to everyone…but if you’re in the mood for something ‘trippy’, that will both shock and entertain you, then this is the film to see.
If you are not familiar with THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of MVD Entertainment:
It’s the engagement party for brilliant young Dr Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier) and his fiancé, the beautiful Fanny Osbourne (Marina Pierro), attended by various pillars of Victorian society, including the astonishing Patrick Magee in one of his final roles. But when people are found raped and murdered outside and ultimately inside the house, it becomes clear that a madman has broken in to disrupt the festivities – but who is he? And why does Dr Jekyll keep sneaking off to his laboratory? We know the answer, of course, but Walerian Borowczyk’s visually stunning adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s much-filmed tale is crammed with wildly imaginative and outrageously perverse touches characteristic of the man who scandalized audiences with Immoral Tales and The Beast, not least the explicitly sexualized nature of Mr Hyde’s primal urges.
Cinema is full of interpretations and adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark classic, however I will wager you’ve never seen one like this. On the other hand, fans of director Walerian Borowczyk will quickly recognize his distinct style and themes.
THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE is shot well and visually resembles a fever-dream of epic proportions. The picture purposely has a slight haze around the edges in some scenes, which gives the viewer the feeling of watching a dream. This is a clever way of creating atmosphere for the film, and it forces the audience to engage with the story.
The acting is very good, with Udo Kier playing the lead and Marina Pierro portraying his fiancé. The pair have a natural chemistry onscreen, which makes the occasion being celebrated in the film more believable. Likewise, Gerard Zalcberg does an amazing (albeit disturbing) job as Mr. Hyde; I had no problem believing he was the sexually-voracious alter-ego of Kier’s Jekyll.
But the story and the bizarre things that occur around it are the big winners here. So much is going on within the house, it’s sometimes difficult to take it all in. One of my particular favorite pieces of weirdness occurs when the General looks out the window to try and track down the elusive Mr. Hyde, but winds up shooting the carriage driver by accident. The General turns to the coach’s owner and simply says, “Misfortune follows misfortune. Madame, I have murdered your chauffeur. My humblest apologies.” He then moves on like nothing ever happened! This type of craziness is aloof throughout the film, and it makes for a very interesting 90 minutes.
Although it’s not traditional horror, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE is still a big win for me. I plan on watching it again soon, simply to see if I missed anything. This Blu-ray release features a slew of extras that include:
* Brand new 2K restoration, scanned from the original camera negative and supervised by cinematographer Noel Very
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the film, released on both formats for the first time ever
* English and French soundtracks in LPCM 1.0
* Optional English and English SDH subtitles
* Introduction by critic and long-term Borowczyk fan 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 writer / director Noël
* 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
* Returning to Melies: Borowczyk and Early Cinema, a featurette by Daniel Bird
* Reversible sleeve with artwork based on Borowczyk’s own poster design
* Booklet with new writing on the film by Daniel Bird and archive materials, illustrated with rare stills
The film released last week, so check it out!