The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Miss Osborne (1981) (DVD/Blu-ray review).

May 17, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

Dredged up from the bowels of 1981, here we have a very strange French horror movie, ‘The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Miss Osborne’. Directed by Walerian Borowczyk and starring Udo Kier, Marina Pierro and Patrick Magee, it is a weird adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of ‘Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde’. It’s one of these movies which lacks a substantial script and relying on erratic visual images, it tries to conjure up an explosion of horror, bloodthirsty in nature and sexual imagery, which is designed to shock the viewer. All it actually does is convey a sense of amateurism and, regardless of what some people may think of the director, at the end of watching the movie, the opinion arises that you have been subjected to a piece of pretentious claptrap. It’s a movie which tries to show instead of tell, which is the right way to go, but in doing so it loses the plot and the viewer at the same time. When this movie was released over 30 years ago, it wasn’t successful and, not having improved with time, I don’t think it should have been rescued from the scrapheap.


The twist on the ‘Jekyll And Hyde’ story begins with a Victorian male character beating a female child to death with a stick. We then move to a house where Dr. Jekyll (actor Ydo Keir) is announcing his betrothal to Miss Osborne (actress Marina Pierro). It’s a rather nice house, quite ornate and affluent as times go and it’s all accessible, except for a laboratory which is out of bounds. Lots of guests arrive for dinner and overnight stay, including the general round of intelligentsia, the soldier, the clergy, the scientist, the physician, et cetera, plus some ladies of genteel persuasion. The discussion seems to be of a rarefied nature but in fact, when listened to closely, it is nonsensical. They are entertained by a young girl dancing, much to the delight of everyone, but there is a killer on the loose. It’s not long before the dancing girl is found dead on her bed, apparently by a sword entering her genitals, piercing through to her stomach.

In the house at night, there is no rest for anyone. It appears that Dr. Jekyll has turned into Mr. Hyde. Sexually explicit scenes in the realms of hard-core appear now and then, mixed up with other scenes of brutality and murder. It is not difficult to guess what’s happening. The movie contains no mysteries. What we do see is bad directing, bad acting by incompetent actors and a general mishmash of a movie. Basically, this is something which is badly done and in order to make it appealing to a certain sector of the market, a basket load of shocking scenes are thrown in to maintain interest. You wonder when Miss Osborne will get brutally murdered by her fiancé but do not worry, she ends up in the same bath as Dr. Jekyll and becomes a compatriot of Mr. Hyde. Together, they ride off into the sunset.

Concerning the director Walerian Borowczyk. Much has been said about his work regarding artistic content. Well liked by many and praised for his attitudes, it seems to be the case that he ended up ostensibly as a pornographer. Did he have talent? That’s rather questionable. Maybe he was just a bohemian but went off the rails towards the end.

There is a special edition available which contains lots of extras. Apparently, it’s available in English and French soundtracks with English sub-titles instead of the dubbed voices. There’s an introduction and several commentaries and interviews. Also included, a couple of small features centred on the director and a booklet.

Arrow Films have scraped the bottom of the barrel to get this one. I think Robert Louis Stevenson would turn in his grave if he could see this bastardisation of his great work. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the movie had been made in a competent way, which it was not, and the felony is only compounded by the sheer abysmal directing and acting thrown into the production. 34 years have passed away since it was made and really, this should never have seen the light of day again. Sorry, folks, but there’s absolutely nothing to recommend about this movie so I would forget it and confine it to the dustbin.

Rod MacDonald

May 2015

(region 2/B: pub: Arrow Films. 2 Blu-ray/DVD 91 minute film. Price: £17.75 (UK). ASIN: B00S8KIIJ4)

cast: Udo Kier, Marina Pierro and Patrick Magee

subtitles: English

subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English

Classification: 18

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Category: Films, Horror

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  1. Ian says:

    What gets me about this review is – “I think Robert Louis Stevenson would turn in his grave if he could see this bastardisation of his great work” – this ‘great work’ is the story of a rapist / murderer successfully hiding his crimes by (a) picking victims that the law-enforcers-at-the-time cared less about (gays, whores, and children), and (b) being the friend of a well-to-do doctor with connections to the upper classes. As with ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, the details are not made explicit (apart from kicking a young girl nearly to death, and beating an old man to death with a heavy cane), but the murderousness and sexual excesses of Hyde are not really in doubt. Borowczyk is probably being truer to the intent of the original work than many people allow. Even the ending isn’t far from the original where Jekyll finally _becomes_ Hyde and, in a less-than-convincing ending, manages to commit suicide _while he is Hyde_. There is a big question of whether Hyde (who Jekyll had become) would _allow_ himself to die or would instead manage to manipulate the situation to throw the blame onto the (now vanished) Jekyll. In the Daniel Massey / Christopher Lee version, I think Jekyll survives, having (as Hyde) murdered his wife for rejecting him, and throwing the blame onto her lover (Lee)

    PS Not that films have to make sense – in the ending of the original ‘The Fly’, the human brain manages to be _both_ in the fly’s head, and in the human head stuck in the web.

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