DOCTOR JEKYLL (2023). Review by Steve Kirkham



3 stars
Hammer. Digital Download. 11th March

When is a Hammer film not a Hammer film? When it is produced by others and then scooped up to be put out by the newest incarnation of that famous entity as their first release. I have to say it was kind of odd, when watching my review copy, to see Anderson Entertainment as the main producers – though I understand the actual version, when it is available, will feature a new logo for Hammer.

They have history with Robert Louis Stevenson’s much adapted gothic novella – see TWO FACES OF DR JEKYLL (1960), DR JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE (1971) and not forgetting the little seen comedic take THE UGLY DUCKLING (1959).

Rob (Scott Chambers) is aimlessly flicking through tv channels, lounging on the sofa – he lands on PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE… as Vampira leers out of the screen the titles start. Behind the credits various headlines about trans CEO and pharmaceutical billionaire Nina Jekyll (Eddie Izzard) flash across the screen setting up the story that she has gone into hiding.

Much to Rob’s surprise his brother has set up a possible job for him – he dutifully turns up at the remote house of Jekyll for the interview. He needs the work as he has a sick daughter (you know this will be important later) and is out on parole.

Much to his surprise Jekyll warms to him and he gets the job – over the objections of snooty housekeeper Sandra (Lindsay Duncan) with whom his new boss seems to have a slightly contentious relationship. The post is a live-in one and part of his duties are to administer Nina’s drugs. This being a Jekyll/Hyde story you know that may not be a good thing!

Of course before long Rob starts to realise there might be something not quite right with his employer. Now what could that possibly be? The fact that the young man is a bit inept doesn’t help and draws an angry response from Jekyll (or is it?). There is something more going on than what appears on the surface…

Judging by some of the comments I have seen online I quite expected this to be an unmitigated disaster – it isn’t. Is it a classic Hammer outing (whatever that means) – no not really, after all it has a big legacy to live up to. It is however a compellingly told and modern take on the story of duality – I suspect much of the vitriol is because of the starring role given to Izzard. He is however excellent in the lead and plays the subtle character changes without going way over the top (and without disappearing behind the sofa to turn into some kind of grotesque monster). You are never quite sure which personality you are dealing with. Scott Chambers as Ben, captures the naivety of his character well.

It is a bit slow to start with, however it does have some nice comedic touches (crunchy nut cornflakes anyone?) and builds to a suitably bonkers ending. So overall not as bad as expected but perhaps not as good as one would have hoped.

Steve Kirkham