Edge of Sanity (1988)


Notes: 91 minutes.
Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Hyde: Anthony Perkins
Elisabeth Jekyll: Glynis Barber
Susannah: Sarah Maur Thorp

Directed: Gérard Kikoïne
Produced: Edward Simons & Harry Alan Towers
Written: J.P. Félix & Ron Raley
Music: Frederic Talgorn

Summary: A boy in a hayloft watches a sexual encounter until he falls, hanging upside-down by a rope as the man slaps his bare bottom and th woman laughs. Suddenly she is covered with blood, and Henry Jekyll wakes up in a sweat next to his wife Elisabeth. Was this just a dream or a memory? He gets up and limps, with his cane. He is developing an anaesthetic powder that promises to revolutionize medicine; it can numb the eye of a patient so well that Jekyll is able to perform surgery on the open eye. Jekyll’s wife has sent to the hospital a “charity case” — a prostitute whose back has been whipped raw. Rope burns are also found.

In Jekyll’s lab is a caged monkey named Charly (I hope an allusion to the Cliff Robertson 1968 film based on “Flowers for Algernon”). Jekyll feeds him some powder and the monkey goes a little wild, knocking a bottle of some chemical into the powder outside his cage. Jekyll breathes in the sizzling fumes and coughs, turning all Goth and menacing. Avoiding his calling wife, he runs into the streets. Solicited by whores and pimps for a “good time,” he responds, “I’m having a marvelous time” already. Johnny takes him to Madam Flora’s where he gives his name as Jack Hyde and sees a scene of religious perversion before running away. He sees that “charity case” and throws a client away from her. He goes off with another prostitute, pulling a knife and initially enjoying “looking” at her until “I can’t … I’m bad.” He slaps her, then begs her to “make me pray.” “Love me,” he begs. But he slits her throat with a scalpel.

He wakes up as if hungover, his wife insisting they had committed to a picnic today. Later, Jekyll speaks with lawyer friend Gabriel: a hypothetical case of entering a maze and a secret and danger. Gabriel says much depends on how valuable the prospect, how great the risks.

An autopsy on the prostitute stresses the precision and cleanness of the “rips”; the murderer must have a “hand as steady as steel” and knows anatomy. A vacancy on the hospital board looks promising for Jekyll, but regarding his miracle drug, “there may be some side-effects,” he admits, worriedly. Jekyll plays chess with himself as his wife plans their conference trip to Vienna (I suppose chosen for the hope of psychological help afforded there by Sigmund). Jekyll smokes more powder and visits a music-hall where he picks up a whore. He lures her to a roof and sees a voyeur watching them. He uses his cane somewhat phallically until the voyeur leaves the window, at which point he turns violent and soon slits the whore’s throat.

The Star‘s headline reads, “Second East End Slaughter.” At dinner the women are worried about “this ripper.” Jekyll challenges those at the table with questions about actual freedom from agreed-upon human laws, an ignoring of all proprieties, taking what one wants. Later Elisabeth says he’s distant and working too hard. His excuse for leaving at night is that a patient has a sleeping sickness. Later he turns into Hyde, scribbling at his lab table. Then it’s out into the night, and back to Madam Flora’s this time to see Susannah, the charity case. When she hears his name she says, “Should I be Miss Seek?” In their room, Hyde says, “Show me.” Susannah rants about her childhood with her obviously abusive step-dad. She smokes Hyde’s concoction; and Hyde gets Johnny involved, Hyde then becoming the voyeur. He runs away soon, and kills a streetwalker.

Jekyll is losing it at the hospital. At the church serving as a haven where Elisabeth does her charity work, a pregnant prostitute suddenly needs emergency medical help. Elisabeth discovers that her husband never works at the hospital at night after all. Hyde goes to Flora’s for Susannah again, but she’s busy. He pitches a fit and allows a woman in a cab, Margo, to pick him up. Hyde asks lewdly if her driver Frank takes orders well. But this is really a mugging, and Hyde attacks the woman, merely wounding Frank, who runs off.

Jekyll washes his bloody face. His wife reveals that she knows he has not been to the hospital at nights, but he insists there really is a Mr. Hyde whose life depends on him. Scotland Yard is looking for a gentleman with the strength of a wild beast. “Jack” seems to be a trained surgeon. Elisabeth attends the opera with another couple but no Henry. Jekyll is freaking out in his lab. He is waiting for her as Jekyll when she returns, and at first she is cold, but soon she beckons him to bed, at which point he has visions in a mirror and spontaneously transforms to Hyde. He runs into the rain and slashes a woman while his wife sees the evidence of hisfreak-out in his lab.

Gabriel tells Elisabeth of Henry’s new will, making Hyde the beneficiary. When she goes to the police to report him a missing person, she sees a tell-tale scarf. She asks the church whores if any of them know Mr. Hyde and is sent to a loft much like the one in the dream at the start of this movie. Susannah is drugged up and laughing with the upside-down strung-up Johhny, bloody but alive. Elisabeth then sees Henry as Hyde and insists “It’s the drug.” But Hyde is deliriously pleased with the replication of that dream scene. Johnny is unroped and attacks Elisabeth. At first Hyde is delighted, but enough Jekyll in him pulls Johnny off his wife.

Elisabeth staggers home to the bedroom. She hears Henry come home and bash around. Then she hears a shot, rushes to the lab, and finds Henry, apparently having committed suicide. But Hyde arises. “You didn’t think I was dead, did you?” She pleads with him, but Hyde slashes her.

The detective commiserates with Jekyll about the murder of his wife and the trashing of his lab, promising to catch the madman, “if he’s out there.” The last tableau is of Jekyll looking outside from behind the curtains of his window.

Commentary: Although the blur of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde with Jack the Ripper is a questionable chiché, this film’s playing out of the abnormal psychology is, for pop psych, pretty sophisticated and, fortunately, not ruined with verbal explanation. The presence of horse noise in Jekyll’s flashbacks probably alludes to the influence of Equus. In any case, this is easily one of the best Jekyll/Hyde films.

Jekyll and Hyde Films