Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde first edition
First edition

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Novella, 1886
approx. 24,500 words
Jekyll & Hyde scene

Michael Caine is the two-faced lead and Cheryl Ladd his love interest in the 1990 TV movie, Jekyll & Hyde.

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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Movies: 1920, 1931, 1941, 1960, 1990, 1996, 2001, 2008

Mr. Hyde takes his lumps

Jekyll & Hyde (1990): Director and writer David Wickes; featuring Michael Caine, Cheryl Ladd, Joss Ackland, Ronald Pickup

By 1990 it must have seemed time for a classy production of Robert Louis Stevenson's horror tale to hit the small screen. The American made-for-TV film, Jekyll & Hyde uses distinguished UK actors led by Michael Caine, with one notable exception that we'll get to in a minute.

Despite being intended for television and despite its colloquialized title, this is one of the better produced and most sumptous adaptations of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde—especially for its time, when the home screen really was small and acting for it was considered a lesser art.

Michael Caine as Jekyll and Hyde

Michael Caine is both Dr. Jekyll and a lumpy, bald Mr. Hyde.

But movie star Michael Caine is well served by this production and responds with a terrific dramatic turn.

His transformation scene is one of the best, accomplished quickly, dramatically and believably.

The creature he turns into though is an odd choice by the makeup department—a sort of baldheaded old man with bulges cropping out all over his body. Hard to see any trace of the suave Jekyll/Caine under the prosthetics.

Like most adaptations of the slight story dealing with the scientist who discovers an elixir to turn himself into a hedonistic, sadistic villain, this film pads the narrative extensively. It adds a whole subplot—not so sub actually—about a Dr. Lanyon (Joss Ackland) who blames Jekyll for a daughter's death while his other daughter, Sara, defends Jekyll.

The other daughter is played by US actor Cheryl Ladd, of television's Charlies Angels fame. She is derided by some for supposedly being out of her depth among the British acting veterans. But this is just snobbery. Looking something like Michelle Pfeiffer, Ladd is quite effective in the role as the love interest for Jekyll and sexual assault victim of Hyde.

It's also nice to see though that Stevenson's original narrator is retained—somewhat—in this take on the story. Ronald Pickup almost steals the picture as pesky reporter Jefferson Utterson. (Gabriel John Utterson was a lawyer in the book.)

The transformation scene in the Jekyll & Hyde adaptation of 1990.

Good acting, high production values and an emphasis on the theme of science and technology changing humanity make this one of the best and most interesting of thr Jekyll and Hyde flicks, even if it does wander from Stevenson's original story.

— Eric

THE NOVELLA | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

Movies: 1920, 1931, 1941, 1960, 1990, 1996, 2001, 2008