Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" has stood at the forefront of tales about man's battle against his own inner demons. It's also been adapted, copied, and diluted so many times, any real effectiveness it might have has since become null and void. At first glance, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde feels like a gimmicky attempt to beat this particular dead horse once again. To an extent, it is a somewhat campy and lurid addition to the famous Hammer Horror line, though it's not to be dismissed so fast. From its gender-bending subtexts to its pitch perfect atmosphere, there's much ado about this film that makes it a strange and unexpected treat.
Our story begins just as you'd expect. Dr. Jekyll (Ralph Bates) is a bright young scientist dedicated to coming up with an antivirus to eradicate all known diseases. When he realizes this lofty goal will never be achieved in his lifetime, the good doctor sets his sights on the ultimate objective: creating a life-extending elixir. To do so requires certain glands from the corpses of young women (gotta love movie science), and when his supply runs dry, Dr. Jekyll reluctantly becomes a nighttime slasher in order to get what he needs. But the worst is yet to come, for Jekyll's concoction transforms him into Mrs. Hyde (Martine Beswick), a stunning beauty with an appetite for blood. Now that she's been brought to life, Hyde is willing to resort to murderous lengths to maintain control of Jekyll's body, a fate that the doctor finds increasingly difficult to avoid.
With the train wreck of a comedy that was Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde lingering in the annals of my psyche, I had my fears that Sister Hyde would be a slightly bloodier version of the same botched concept. To my surprise, however, not only was the experience relatively painless, the film itself was actually quite good. Sister Hyde came about at the end of Hammer's legacy of thrills and chills, after the well ran dry following the umpteenth Dracula sequel. It was probably meant to be a last resort, one final grab at some cash before the studio's curtain fell, but instead, its creators stumbled upon something much more intriguing than they ever expected. The film simultaneously embraces the usual mad scientist trappings and injects a healthy dose of gender politics into the proceedings.