Mary Reilly (1996)


Notes: TriStar Pictures, 108 minutes.
Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Hyde: John Malkovich
Mary Reilly: Julia Roberts
Mary’s Father: Michael Gambon
Mrs. Farraday: Glenn Close
Poole: George Cole
Bradshaw: Michael Sheen

Directed: Stephen Frears
Produced: Ned Tanen et al.
Screenplay: Christopher Hampton
Novel: Valerie Martin
Music: George Fenton

Summary: Mary Reilly is scrubbing a stoop early in the morning when a cane and a pair of feet appear, and Dr. Henry Jekyll assures her, “I’m not going to bite you.” “I’m sorry, Sir, you gave me a fright.” Jekyll notices her arm and neck scars that seem like teeth marks. Later, Mary, in tidying up, finds a bloody cloth under Jekyll’s matress. In the kitchen, she witnesses a bloody eel slaying and skinning. She catches the occasional glimpse of Jekyll and is told that until last year he gave weekly public lectures; now he works in his lab. Another female servant wonders why it’s so much work “taking care of one man.” Mary is better invested in her employment: “I feel safe here, is all.” But she is awakened by screams coming from the lab.

The next morning she serves Jekyll breakfast and tells him he came back only a few hours before. Jekyll has had some kind of breakthrough: “Last night all the barriers fell before me.” He also had noticed Mary glancing at a book in his study and hadn’t known she could read; he invites her to borrow any books she likes, but she doesn’t want the other staff thinking she’s above them. Jekyll can’t eat the breakfast. The issue of the scars comes up again, but finally Jekyll wants his mirror moved. Mary is in trouble with the butler Poole, but Jekyll covers for her when she says they were discussing Jekyll’s plans for some garden patches. Jekyll wants the entire staff gathered at 6:00 for an announcement. He tells them that he has an assistant, a “young man” named Mr. Edward Hyde, who is to have run of the house: “There really is no cause for concern.”

Other servants gossip that there has never been a “lady friend” show up, and that perhaps Jekyll visits “houses.” Privately, Mary thanks Jekyll for covering for her and allows him to observe her scars. They were a “punishment.” She recounts beatings from her drunken father and the time he locked her up under a staircase. She recalls his distinctive footsteps. He threw a bag containing a rat into her confined space to terrorize her. When her mother come home from work she took Mary away into service and Mary has never seen her father again. Jekyll thanks her for her candor and must go to the lab.

Jekyll has gotten no sleep and has been thinking about Mary’s confession. “Surely he was a monster.” Mary does not. “You think it was only the drink?” Mary agrees that the drink turned him into another man. “Or set him free,” suggests Jekyll. “Haven’t you ever wished for a completely new life?” Mary says she does not believe in actions without consequences. Jekyll gives her a letter to deliver to a Mrs. Farraday, a sneering madame in a whorehouse who scoffs at Jekyll as a “Good Samaritan.” While there, Mary brushes by Sir Danvers Carew, of the House of Commons. Farraday tells Mary to report to Jekyll that his assistant can move in but it’ll take a couple weeks to prepare his room.

Mary gardens. She sees a face at a window looking at her. Jekyll as Hyde moves funny, not limping but more shuffling, like she described her father’s gait. She dreams of her father. Jekyll brutally stomps on a child and is witnessed doing so. Mary catches a glimpse of Hyde returning and leaving again, after he noted “Blood Money” as the reason for a cheque. Mary goes through the lab and over a suspended walkway, and views below the pay-off for the trampled child. Hyde returns and Mary flees, hiding under a desk. Hyde stomps on the desk, but remarks that there has been “enough excitement for one night.” Hyde leaves.

Jekyll has sprained his ankle, and Poole lectures Mary about overstepping. Jekyll wonders why Mary refuses to hate her father. He knows she’s afraid of rats. What else? Herself? Yes. He thought so.

Jekyll wakes Mary up in the middle of a rainy night. She must go to Mrs. Farraday again. Hyde was there and one room is soaked in blood — even on the ceiling. Farraday will obey his instructions but sends him back a bloody cloth, which Jekyll burns. Mary sees horrific and crude sketches in Jekyll’s anatomy book. Hyde shows up and knows about Mary’s father, saying that “men chatter.” He offers much innuendo about Mary and her father.

When Mary brings breakfast to Jekyll, dismayed that her “confidences” were breached, he explains that Hyde read Jekyll’s private notebook: “He likes you very much.” Jekyll hopes Mary will agree to accompany Hyde on a “scientific errand.” The two go to a meat market where buckets of blood splash. Then to a hospital that shares a gutter with the slaughterhouse. Hyde collects organs and tells Mary about Jekyll: “He’s too old for you.” Young servant Bradshaw sneers about Hyde and Mary and wonders why Hyde receives such privilege from Jekyll. Perhaps it’s a case of blackmail, or that Hyde is a “souvenir” from Jekyll’s student days, “a grown-up wild oat.”

Farraday shows up at Jekyll’s and is taken to the lab. Clearly she intends blackmailing Jekyll. Mary goes to water her flower patches. When she returns to the lab, no one seems to be there, but Hyde has decapitated Farraday.

Hyde on a couch apologizes to Mary for saying some offensive things. He is increasingly agitated; perhaps it’s the strain of trying to be decent. He crushes a teacup in his hand and wipes a bit of blood on Mary’s face before leaving with a final “Don’t you know who I am?”

Mary has a dream of Hyde. She falsely confesses to Poole that she broke the cup. Mary receives notice of her mother’s death. She visits the body in a crude closet and insists on paying for a decent funeral. On the way back in the fog, Hyde pursues her. His sleeve is bloody. He disappears in a doorway after saying, “I suppose you’ll never see me again,” and kissing Mary. The police are in the dining room when Mary gets back, asking questions about Hyde: he has murdered Sir Danvers Carew, and a bloody chunk of Jekyll’s cane is on the table. Jekyll appears to answer questions.

Later, Jekyll wonders about Mary’s willingness to lie about Hyde — making her an accessory to murder. She asks about Hyde’s victims: he had said “there were others.” Jekyll says Hyde has gone, though “Edward Hyde has liberated me.” Jekyll gets agitated, and his hand is bloody. He has a handkerchief with the initials EH on it.

Mary’s father shows up at the graveyard after her mother’s funeral. She refuses his bit of money for expenses and she rejects him. When she comes to serve Jekyll breakfast, Hyde is in his bed: “I am your master.” He speaks of his uncontrolled emotions. “Where does it come from, Sir, this rage?” It “comes in like the tide.” She runs out of the room, but Hyde catches her on the staircase and recount Jekyll’s experiments and transformations; lately, Hyde has the power to emerge without the injections, perhaps because he’s stronger. Mary tells off Poole and fetches something from Jekyll’s lab. Jekyll comes to Poole panicked about an impurity in the original compound he was using — an element no longer in the more recent shipments. He is desperate for reconstituting the substance as it was. Jekyll confirms Hyde’s explanations to Mary later. He needs a bed in his lab now.

Poole reports chemical failure and Jekyll’s lab mess. Mary hears sobbing in the lab. She packs to go, but visits the lab a last time. On the suspended walkway, Hyde grabs her. Despite the violence, Hyde seems to gain some degree of self-possession. He holds a knife to Mary’s neck, but she stares him in the eyes. “What stops me from killing you?” She soothes him with her hand to his face. “I always knew you’d be the death of us.” He injects himself in the neck, and the transformation to Jekyll involves the other self actually growing inside the body until it takes over — all very bone-crunching. Jekyll sees Mary, horrified, but she says, “He took pity on me.” “On me as well,” says Jekyll, informing her that Hyde mixed some kind of poison with the antidote, “to set you free.” Jekyll is convinced of the inevitability of all this. He wanted “to be the knife as well as the wound.” He asks if Mary would have ever forgiven him. She comforts him, and he dies. She weeps and says that he didn’t care what the world thought of him, “nor will I.” She lays a blanket over him, and lies down beside him.

Some time later, Mary looks at Jekyll’s open-eyed corpse. She turns and goes — into the light? No. The fog.


Jekyll and Hyde Films