Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 27th, 2015
BluRay released: April 20th, 2015 (UK), May 12th, 2015 (USA)
Approximate running times: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR (USA) / 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono French, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English (LPCM Mono French), English SDH (LPCM Mono English)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region Free / Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
Synopsis: Guests gather for the engagement party of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Miss Fanny Osborne. And what should have been celebration quickly takes a turn for the worse, when one guests turns up dead. Fearing the maniac who killed a young girl earlier in the evening might be in their midst. From there this leads to everyone panicking as they frantically search for the killer who continues to claim more lives!
Walerian Borowczyk is one of cinema’s true auteurs. He was a very hands on filmmaker who infused his ideas into every facet of the filmmaking process. No detail was ever too small and everything that appeared in his cinematic frame was given the utmost attention and care.
So it should not come as surprise that when was given a chance to make a film about Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, that the end result was an adaption that like anything that he created could have only come from his imagination. And though the remnants of Stevenson’s novella that have survived and made it into The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Miss Osbourne. The most potent content in the film is the stuff that was inspired by novella. Most notably was the creation of the fiancée character Miss Osbourne. This type of character would not emerge until a later adaption of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Content wise, this film not only has all the ingredients that one would want and expect from Walerian Borowczyk film. He also revisits several themes that he has explored in previous films and takes said themes to their artistic apex. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this film is the way is its depiction of sex and violence, a lot of which appears off screen. With the aftermath of these events more than spell out what has just happened.
From a production stand point there is not an area of this film that does not excel. The film’s striking visuals which border somewhere between dreams and nightmares are a feast for the eyes. With the film’s opening sequence where Mr. Hyde stalks and kills a young girl being a prime example of a scene that perfectly sets the tone for what is yet to come. Of course this film’s standout moment visually is the transformation sequences, Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde and Miss Osbourne into her unnamed alter ego. Another striking moment visually is a scene where the generally character narrowly escapes death at the hands of Mr. Hyde, who is sexually ravishing his daughter while he is restrained and to top this moment off she flaunts her pleasure in her father’s face. And not to be overlooked is this film’s final act which brings everything that had been building up to a boiling point. This includes Mr. Hyde and Miss Osbourne killing off any remaining guests and burning down their home.
Performance wise the entire cast are exceptional in their respective roles, with this film’s standout performance coming from Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Blood for Dracula) in the role of Dr. Henry Jekyll. He provides the Jekyll character with just the right amount of balance so that when The Hyde character arrives there is little if anything connecting the two characters. Also this film goes against the grain by having another actor Gérard Zalcberg portray Hyde. Instead of the more customary way of having one actor portray the dual roles. The character of Mr. Hyde is man of few words and more of psychical presence. And in this regard Zalcberg turns in a pitch perfect performance.
Other standout performances include Marina Pierro (L’innocente, The Living Dead Girl) in the role of Miss Fanny Osbourne and Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange) in the role of military general. Pierro delivers a mesmerizing performance that at times comes very close to overshadowing Keir equally outstanding performance. There is a scene in the film, where Magee’s character is bound and attacked. If this moment gives you an odd feeling of Déjà vu, it is because he has a very similar moment in the film A Clockwork Orange. Also fans of Euro-Cult cinema are sure to recognize one more face and that is Jess Franco regular Howard Vernon (Alphaville, The Diabolical Dr. Z) in the role of Dr. Lanyon, a colleague of Dr. Jekyll.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Miss Osbourne comes on a 50 GB dual layer (45.4 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The original camera was used to make this brand new 2k transfer which was created exclusively for this release. And thousands of instances of dirt, debris and light scratches were removed for this film’s restoration. For a film that has been near impossible to see on home video it is hard to imagine that it could ever look better than it does for this release. This film has a very distinct look and this transfer does a remarkable job preserving it. Contrast and black levels look rock solid, grain remains intact and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in French and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound clean, clear, balanced and robust when they need too. Range and depth wise things far exceeded my expectations. With this film unsettling score and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack being well represented. Also then it comes to the two subtitle tracks included with this release the English subtitles are a direct translation, while the English SDH subtitles are a direct translation of the English audio mix.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (1 minute 14 second), two short films, the first tone titled ‘Happy Toy’ (2 minutes 27 seconds) and the second short film is titled ‘Himorogi’ (16 minutes 57 seconds) and four interviews, the first one with actor Udo Kier (11 minute 19 seconds), the second interview with actress Marina Pierro (20 minutes 17 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), the third interview is with filmmaker Alessio Pierro (10 minutes 36 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles) and the fourth interview with Sarah Mallinson (10 minutes).
Other extras include, a featurette titled ‘Eyes That Listen’ (10 minutes 2 seconds), three video essays, the first essay titled ‘Return to Méliès: Borowczyk and Early Cinema’ (6 minutes and 50 seconds), the second essay titled ‘Phantasmagoria of the Interior’ (10 minutes 2 seconds) and the third essay titled ‘Appreciation by Michael Brooke’ (32 minutes 57 seconds) and an audio commentary that contains an archival interview with director Walerian Borowczyk and new interviews with cinematographer Noel Very, editor Khadicha Bariha, assistant Michael Levy, and filmmaker Noel Simsolo, moderated by Daniel Bird.
There are three ways to watch the trailer. The first option is with music from the film. The second option is with an English language voice over that originates from this film UK release under the alternate title Bloodbath of Doctor Jekyll. And the third option is an audio commentary track with Editor Khadicha Bariha.
The short film The Toy was directed by Walerian Borowczyk in 1979, while the other short film Himorogi was directed by Marina and Alessio Pierro in 2012.
Topics discussed by Udo Keir include, his first meeting with Walerian Borowczyk and how he subsequently got cast in the role of Dr. Jekyll, the look of the film, his various working experiences with Borowczyk, locations and set décor, Marina Pierro and the film’s notorious bathtub transformation sequence.
Topics discussed by Marina Pierro include, her first encounter with Walerian Borowczyk and the five films of his that she appeared Behind Convent Walls, Immoral Women, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne, Art of Love and Love Rites, how Borowczyk always gave her freedom the create. In regards to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne she discusses the cast, the film’s score, key sequences from the film and her overall thoughts on the final product.
Topics discussed by Alessio Pierro include how this short film Himorogi is a homage to cinema of Walerian Borowczyk.
The featurette titled ‘Eyes That Listen’ is an in-depth look into Walerian Borowczyk’s collaborations with composer Bernard Parmegiani.
The essay titled ‘Phantasmagoria of the Interior’ is an in depth examination of the Vermeer painting that appears in the film.
Via a series of clips and text based comments the essay titled ‘Return to Méliès: Borowczyk and Early Cinema’ gives a well-rounded overview of Borowczyk’s career as an animator.
The third essay with Michael Brooke who discusses his first encounter with the cinema of Borowczyk and more specifically The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne, its cast, the unique visual look of the film and the difficulties this film has faced over the year son home video. He also gives a detailed overview of Borowczyk’s career as a filmmaker.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, the look of the film and how they changed cinematographer three days into filming, the evolution of Walerian Borowczyk visual style, the cast and their performances, retain the essence of Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing and how they achieved this despite making many changes to the source material, the difficulty producing adult themed films, editing the film and their thoughts on the film.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible covert art and forty page booklet that contains information about the cast and crew, contemporary reviews for the film, ‘An Introduction and Script Extract’ written by Walerian Borowczyk and two essays about the film, the first one titled ‘A Bath Full of Solicor’ written by Daniel Bird and the seconds essay titled ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Miss Osbourne’ written by Andre Pieyre de Mandiarggues. Other content is this booklet includes two more essays, this time one for each short film ‘Happy Toy’ and ‘Himorogi’ with both of these essays written by Daniel Bird and information about the restoration work done for this release.
Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Arrow Video rescues Walerian Borowczyk’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Miss Osbourne from obscurity by giving it an extraordinary release that firmly entrenches itself as one of their best releases to date, highly recommended.