Tag Archives: jekyll and hyde

Bad, bad, bad, bad girls, they make me feel so … uncomfortable?

After watching Mary Reilly, I’d planned to stop watching Jekyll and Hyde-related material unless I go ahead with a film reference book on them. Anything I watch now I’d have to rewatch when I write the book and a lot of films such as Horror High, barely bear watching once. However when I discovered the Tubi streaming service, which I get free through Amazon Prime, has Fantasy Island, I succumbed to the temptation to watch a couple of Stevenson-based episodes (though one is very much an edge case).

Fantasy Island was an anthology show starring Ricardo Montalban as Roark, the enigmatic owner of a fabulous Pacific island vacation resort, with Hervé Villechaize as his right hand, Tattoo. In addition to every possible amenity — gambling casinos, sports, wilderness areas, pools to lounge around — Roark’s special service was catering to guest’s fantasies (my apologies if y’all already know all this). These range from the mundane (a guy wants to live in a version of Three’s Company, rooming with two beautiful women for a week) to the unconventional (a woman wants to fake her death and attend her own funeral) to the paranormal, as in the two here. Various episodes revealed Roark himself is centuries old and possesses considerable supernatural power.

In the first episode (each episode included two plots, but I won’t bother with the other one here), prim, uptight psychologist Dr. Griffin (Rosemary Forsyth) arrives on the island with her sister Jennifer (Maureen McCormack). Griffin works at a halfway house and can’t understand why the girls keep returning to their old, self-destructive lives and bad, dangerous boyfriends. She has the same problem with her sister, whose petty-crook boyfriend Ross (Don Stroud) has made the trip with them.

Roark reveals that Jekyll and Hyde was based on a real case involving Stevenson’s friend Dr. Lanyon (a supporting character in the book) and that he has Lanyon’s formula here. Drinking it turns Griffin into sexy, wild Lila — no makeup as in the Fredric March version, just letting her hair down and putting on a slinky dress.

Lila easily seduces Ross but instead of dumping Ross, Jennifer wants to imitate the bad girl to keep her man. Then it turns out Ross taped his night with Griffin and he threatens to show it to Jennifer, making her realize who Lila really is. Griffin slips into her Lila dress but lacks the oomph her other self put into it; when she tells Ross about the potion he makes her take a much larger dose than safe, resulting in her turning into an ugly harridan who tries to kill him.

Roark intervenes before Griffin becomes a killer. He then tells her her actions sprang from hating men; she admits that her first husband was an abusive brute leading her to reject love and become an emotionally cold figure. Now she realizes the key to dealing with her patients is caring about them; she applies the same warmth to Jennifer and they leave on a happy note.

If the producers thought of Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate as a Jekyll/Hyde story I doubt they’d have run it a few episodes later (presumably they saw it as an Evil Ventriloquist’s Dummy story, something films have been doing since 1945’s Dead of Night). However it does feel like it deserves a mention.

Annette Funicello plays Mary Ann, “the world’s most famous ventriloquist” thanks to her puppet Valerie, a shameless gold-digging sexpot (“You don’t marry men for money, silly, you divorce them for money.”). Her fiancé George (Don Galloway) wants to marry her, but as she tells Roark, she’s afraid the Valerie side of her personality is clouding her judgment. For one weekend she wants to expel that part of her personality so that she can, as she sees it, think clearly about what she wants. Roark tells Mary Ann that to do that he’ll have to bring her puppet to life. When he does, Valerie (Maren Jensen) reveals she has zero interest in being repressed again once the weekend ends.

Mary Ann’s initial happiness at being free ends when Valerie bangs her knee on a table and Mary Ann feels it (because Valerie is part of her). Valerie takes great glee in hurting herself, then seduces George (it’s implied he’s reacting to her, unconsciously, as part of his fiancee), forcing Mary Ann to feel every second of it (she and George have not slept together). Valerie puts on a ventriloquist show in an empty room with Mary Ann as her submissive puppet; Roark appears and encourages Mary Ann to fight back. The Good Girl fights the Bad Girl and turns her back into a dummy, then burns it. Free of her dark side, she tells Tattoo she’s marrying George and apparently giving up show business.

Watching the two stories confirms my thinking that where male Hydes are sometimes monsters and usually brutes, female Hydes tend to be sexy. Given the amount of discomfort our society has with female sexuality, that makes a certain amount of sense — a lot of women have to repress their urges and conform — but it also feels like a male fantasy (under every prim librarian there’s a sex volcano ready to burn its way out!). Women repress anger too, but I haven’t seen that as much — though of course, there aren’t that many female Hydes to study.

Both these stories seems uncomfortable with the idea Mary Ann or Griffin might have a bad-girl sexual self lurking inside them. There’s no suggestion Griffin enjoys her Lila persona the way Jekyll enjoyed becoming Hyde; despite what Mary Ann says, she shows no sign of being tempted to walk on the wild side or marry someone with more money than George. The logical ending, to me, would be Mary Ann embracing and attaining balance with her wild side, the way Kirk does with his counterpart in Star Trek: The Enemy Within. Instead, the implication is she’s purged her Valerie side completely and is better off for it. I didn’t think that worked when I first saw it and my view hasn’t changed.

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Jekyll’s maidservant in print and in film, plus pirates!

MARY REILLY by Valerie Martin nominally tells the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the POV of Dr. Jekyll’s eponymous housemaid (not a character from the novel), a child of abuse who finds her master’s new friend Edward Hyde unpleasantly like her father. While Martin writes well, this didn’t work for me at all, being 70-80 percent the story of an ordinary Victorian housemaid with Stevenson’s story only gradually playing a role. I also have trouble with her being such a happy domestic, one who can’t think of any life more desirable than being in domestic service.

MARY REILLY (1996) works much better as Jekyll and Hyde (Jon Malkovich) play a larger role in the story. As in Martin’s book, we start with Jekyll taking an interest in those bruises on his maid’s arm, then she notices strange goings-on late at night, then she meets Mr. Hyde and find herself both uneasy and oddly intrigued. The supporting cast includes Michael Gambon as Mary’s father and Glenn Close as a madam (“My answer is always yes.”).

My friend Ross argues that Mary and the madam provide the same good girl/bad girl dichotomy I’ve seen in multiple adaptations; it’s an interesting thought though I’m not sure I entirely agree (if I pitch the Jekyll and Hyde book and forge ahead, I’ll have to think about it more). Overall enjoyable, though not classic; Roberts’ accent fluctuates and Malkovich seems much stronger as Hyde than Jekyll. “He came out of the night like he was a part of it.”

THE BLACK SWAN (1942) adapts Rafael Sabatini’s novel of a swaggering pirate (Tyrone Power) who helps Henry Morgan (Laird Creegar) hunt down George Sanders for refusing to go legit, while Powers also aggressively pursues elegant lady Maureen O’Hara. I’d always heard good things about this and it is fun — Creegar has a great role as Morgan — but Power’s American accent is distracting (nobody else has one) and his pursuit of O’Hara is way too aggressive (“When a woman in Tortuga slaps a man’s face, she wants him to grab her and smother her with kisses.”) by today’s standards. “You’ll be a dead man if you’re fooling me and a rich man if you ain’t.”

Stock footage from that film padded out ANNE OF THE INDIES (1951) starring Jean Peters as a Blackbeard protege who recruits French privateer Louis Jourdan to her crew for reasons more to do with his pretty face than his naval skills. Then she discovers he’s not only an undercover agent working to take her down, he’s already married (Debra Paget). Peters isn’t right for this cutthroat role; more annoyingly, while I can accept her going soft and sparing the lovers at the climax, I can’t swallow Anne sacrificing herself and her crew to save their lives (The Bad Girl Dies was a trope long before Bury Your Gays). “I am his wife — think on that and let it eat into your soul, if you have one.

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A heaping helping of Hyde

Along with my recent viewing of Jekyll and Hyde movies, I’ve also been doing some reading, starting with, of course, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson.By modern standards, this reads very oddly (as do those other seminal horror texts, Dracula and Frankenstein). As Leonard Wollf’s annotated version points out (I only glanced at a few footnotes, as I’ve read it before), two of the three times we see Hyde before the finish are second hand accounts rather than real time. It doesn’t scare me the way it did as a kid — I couldn’t finish it — but it’s still entertaining. Things I’d forgotten when I wrote Questionable Minds are that Jekyll isn’t just comfortable, he’s seriously rich — the luxurious mansion in the 1931 version (from which I took that Miriam Hopkins/Fredric March scene above) is about right. Another is that for all Jekyll talks about the two natures of man, he comes off as having only one, venal and preening — he doesn’t want to be good as much as be seen as a good man. It’s the hypocrisy as well as the horror that has made the book last.

HYDE by Craig Russell is a Name Only riff in which Edinburgh detective Edward Hyde investigates a sinister pagan Celtic cult despite these terrifying blackouts in which he has no idea what he might have done or to whom …This was a competent horror thriller but as it had nothing to do with Stevenson (Hyde isn’t a split personality and doesn’t have the dark side he fears) I’m thumbing it down anyway, because “competent horror thriller” isn’t what I was looking for.

HYDE by Daniel Levine has a great concept, telling the story from the POV of Edward Hyde.  Unfortunately Levine’s idea of a big reveal is that Hyde was always there (a childhood dissociative personaltiy spawned from abuse) and the drug just brought him out. That doesn’t work for me at all, nor does the idea Hyde isn’t really a villain (the idea Jekyll is is implict in Stevenson and so hardly shocking). I’m also annoyed by the afterword in which he claims Jekyll’s motives for unleashing Hyde are one of the questions he sought to answer when Stevenson spelled them out in the book. I put this one down unfinished.

MARY REILLY by Valerie Martin nominally tells the story from the POV of Jekyll’s housemaid but it focuses much more on the everyday life of a British servant, which as with the Russell book isn’t what I picked this  up for. I find Mary implausibly happy in her domestic role too — she reminds me of the happy black cooks and maids in so many comedies and TV shows of 60-80 years ago.

THE DIABOLICAL MISS HYDE: An Electric Empire Novel by Viola Carr is the first in the trilogy that ended with The Dastardly Miss Lizzie (though I don’t recall thinking it was the endpoint when I finished it). Jekyll’s daughter Eliza is a forensic investigator and MD in a steampunk alt.Victorian world (the turning point is that an immortal Isaac Newton has been manipulating science and politics for his own ends), here investigating a pattern killer (chops off a ballerina’s legs and other professional body parts). Lizzie’s investigation is undercut by a Royal Society agent and her dark side, Lizzie Hyde. The transformations, fueled by stress, make them rather Banner/Hulk like, but the two quasi-sisters are quite close and protective of each other.

This was less fun than the later book because even in a steampunk world, serial killers don’t interest me (the big reveal of what they’re planning is, but not anything leading up to that) — and there’s even a second one, an imprisoned Hannibal Lecter type playing mentor to Eliza’s Clarice. And as with the later volume, I can’t figure out the dating: it appears to be early 20th century but Newton refers to Origin of Species as a new book. Would stating the date be that hard? Still, this was the most fun of any of the books here.

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What makes a Jekyll and Hyde movie, exactly?

When writing my movie books one of the first requirements is to figure out the scope of the project and the boundaries of the topic.

When I wrote Now and Then We Time Travel, for instance, I ruled out covering A Christmas Carol. Although Scrooge does witness his past, he doesn’t interact with it so I decided it was equivalent to visions of the future — I didn’t cover those either— rather than physically traveling across time. As a practical point, films of the Dickens classic have been well-covered elsewhere and approaching them as time-travel films wouldn’t bring any new perspective to them. The exception was Chasing Christmas, a variation which does work in time travel.

On the other hand, Premonition (2007) got in despite the title. The film has Sandra Bullock bouncing back and forth through time after her husband’s death rather than merely foreseeing it.

I face the same problem with my possible Jekyll and Hyde film book, as witness two films and a TV episode I caught this past week.

The TV one is a second season Outer Limits episode “Expanding Human.” A series of mysterious crimes leads cop James Doohan to a scientist experimenting with consciousness expanding drugs. The drugs have given the guy a second personality, superhuman and evil; he plans to create more of his homo superior kind and killing everyone who isn’t fit to survive.

Would it qualify? It does have a super-scientific drug transform an ordinary scientist into an evil second personality but unlike Hyde, the new being doesn’t appear to be drawn from the scientist’s buried dark side. He’s simply a monster. Is that enough?

Similarly there’s the movie HORROR HIGH (1973). A forgettable low-budget film, it’s teen protagonist is picked on by both bullies and teachers. The kid’s experimenting in science class on turning a guinea pig into a monster; when the teen gets an accidental dose of the experimental formula he becomes a brutal man-beast who kills one of his tormentors. After that, he starts using it intentionally.

I don’t think I’d count this one but the opening scenes make a big thing of the kid’s English class studying Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which makes it clear they do see this as a variation on Stevenson. So if I go ahead with the book yes, it’ll be in there.DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971) clearly belongs but rewatching it I was struck by how little it has in common with Stevenson. Stevenson’s book (which I’ll be blogging about soon) deals with hypocrisy: Jekyll wants to sin without besmirching his pious reputation so he transforms himself into the less inhibited and physically dissimilar Hyde, freeing him to sin without restraint. The film’s Dr. Jekyll (Ralph Bates) is driven purely by mad science: he wants to cure all disease but doing that will require centuries, so he starts researching eternal youth instead. He gets it by paying Burke and Hare to provide him with women’s corpses so he can extract chemicals from their female organs. The effect of the drug is to turn him into a woman, Mrs. Hyde (Martine Beswick), supposedly his widowed sister (it helps that Beswick and Bates look very much alike). When Burke and Hare are lynched by an angry mob, Jekyll begins murdering women himself; when things get too hot for a man, he turns into Mrs. Hyde to kill and kill again. But before long, Hyde has an itching to be the only one in their body …

If the film, like I, Monster, dispensed with the names of Stevenson’s characters, would I count it? I’m not sure. That’s the sort of questions I’ll have to resolve if I go ahead with a pitch to McFarland.

For the record, the movie’s a lot of fun. Great character actors in supporting roles, solid turns by the stunningly sexy Beswick and Bates and a great story that brings together not only Jekyll, Hyde, Burke, and Hare but Jack the Ripper. It’s well worth the time. Though I don’t quite buy the relationship between Jekyll and the pretty girl upstairs; Ralph Bates is good-looking but he lacks the sexuality or charm that makes me believe some actors can trigger love at first sight.

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Bureaucrats in despair and Dr. Jekyll’s children: movies

LIVING (2022) stars Bill Nighy as a British bureaucratic drone in 1955 London, forced to reassess his life when he learns it only has months left. This leads to a half-hearted stab at hedonism to finding a connection with a pretty girl from his office (which everyone assumes, incorrectly, is more hedonism) to helping a band of housewives push plans for a new city park past the bureaucratic obstacles in their path. Solid performances by the entire cast and great period detail make this worth seeing. “It’s quite a bore, really.”

Living is a remake of IKIRU (1952), an Akira Kurasowa film that is, if anything, even more tragic. Nighy’s bureaucrat has a dignity granted by his stiff upper lip; Kurasowa’s protagonist is beaten and bent down from living a life that simply doesn’t matter. Kurasowa’s film is also longer so the various incidents get more time to play out. It’s the better film but only by degrees. “I can’t remember a thing I’ve done in this office for the last thirty years.”

GOOD TIMES, WONDERFUL TIMES (1966) is an anti-war film that contrasts the supposedly clever insights about war of people at a swinging London party with scenes from Stalingrad, Hiroshima, Nazi rallies and WW I enlistment to suggest that the cleverness is a delusion. For anyone my age, the tone is familiar and the contrast between life back home and the reality of the front lines goes back to All Quiet on the Western Front. If not groundbreaking, good. “If you bring 15,000 people together to march, it’s an act of war — and they’re against war.”

Bill Warren’s book Keep Watching the Skies says Jack Pollexfen and his cowriter came up with THE SON OF DR. JEKYLL as the silliest possible movie title, then proceeded to write and sell a script. While many silly titles have been attached to hit films (e.g., I Married a Monster From Outer Space), this one’s a clunker. Louis Hayward plays the eponymous protagonist, determined to duplicate his father’s formula, thereby proving he wasn’t a deranged madman but a scientific visionary — but is he unleashing his own Mr. Hyde?

As Warren says, this amounts to Jekyll and Hyde without Hyde: there’s one scene where Hayward changes and it might be a hallucination. There are repeated references to Hyde the Monster being some sort of myth tacked on to a more mundane reality, but it’s unclear whether that means Jekyll was a split personality or — well, I’m not sure Pollexfen thought through the options himself. “Burning witches has always been a popular sport, hasn’t it?”

Pollexfen then reworked the same idea into 1957’s DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL (which, like the Fredric March version, pronounces it JEE-kel) with Gloria Talbot the hapless adoptee who learns her true identity, then keeps waking up at night with blood on her clothes and hearing stories of another murder in the neighborhood — oh, no, could it be … This one does give us a monster but it’s a werewolf with very bad makeup and it turns out not only is he framing Talbot, he framed her father too! The amazingly talentless John Agar plays Talbot’s fiancee. “If I’m to keep my word to your father, a word I gave before you were born, you must hear this alone.”

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It’s a shame I cannot work full-time on fiction and pay the bills

Because as my one of my main nonfiction clients (I’m not counting McFarland) has wrapped up its project (I suspect they’ll be back with something else eventually) and the other hasn’t contacted me in a while, I’ve been doing mostly fiction. I’m enjoying it. When I’m too tired for fiction, I work on submitting shorts or paying taxes.

It can’t last though because I need to make money on top of my Social Security, and make it more regularly than occasional short story sales and McFarland royalties. Though speaking of sales, I sold another copy of Questionable Minds recently, so thank you unknown purchaser.

So I’m applying for various other freelance gigs. I’ll let you know if any work out.

But this week, at least, I got to make fiction a priority. I rewrote Mage’s Masquerade and while it’s not finished, I think I’ve licked the problems with both the mystery plot and the protagonist’s love relationship, building them up so they make sense. I rewrote Paying the Ferryman (I have got to think of a better title) and much improved it. However I think it’s as good as I can get it without feedback so I’ll read it to the writing group soon. I also worked on a couple of short stories that are still in the Oh God, This Will Never Work phase. If I keep working on them hopefully they’ll be in better shape soon; one I think is close, the other … may be a waste of time. We’ll see.

I got some more writing done on Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s going well, though that has me pessimistically waiting for when I discover I’ve plotted myself into a dead end. But you never know, maybe I haven’t.

I also started work on putting together my Magic in History anthology (which will have a better name soon). I know the stories I want to include and I’ve begun the editing.

I also began thinking about my next film book, though I’m not pitching McFarland right away. Out of three possibilities, I’m inclined to go with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde b0ok. It’s a small enough number of movies that it won’t consume as much time and effort as Aliens Are Here did. However I will have to answer several questions before I propose it, mostly about boundaries. For instance, where is the line between Jekyll and Hyde and split personalities in general? Or a film such as The Nutty Professor which is very much a Jekyll and Hyde variation even though it’s different characters? Stay tuned.

Satisfactory all in all though it is sometimes hard maintaining a high creative level. As I mentioned in a previous post it would help to get up and take breaks but it’s hard sometimes to break away, especially with dogs in my lap.

Speaking of which, here’s Trixie hoping I’ll play with her favorite toy, the rubik’s cube on the floor.#SFWApro. cover by Samantha Collins, rights are mine.

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The Three Faces of Dr. Jekyll: Movies

My novel Questionable Minds makes big use of Jekyll and Hyde, as I discuss in this blog-tour post. When I recently bought the 1931 DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE on Blu-Ray, I decided to follow-up with two other adaptations, the 1941 remake with Spencer Tracy and 1960’s THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL.The 1931 version opens with Dr. Jekyll’s POV — his elegant house, his hands on the piano, his servants — after which the good doctor (Fredric March) lectures to a crowd of fascinated students and disgruntled old farts about how science will someday separate the human and the animal that intermingle with us, creating a superior person free of base instinct, able to rise to the heights of intellect and virtue. It’s a common Victorian view and expresses director Robert Mamoulian’s concept of Hyde as an evolutionary throwback, hence his brutish appearance in the still below with Miriam Hopkins.Jekyll isn’t all about the science though: he’s passionately in love with his fiancee Muriel (Rose Hobart) which is the root of all his troubles. He’s clearly ready to get it on with her but that’s not acceptable for an upper-class Victorian couple and her stuffy, overbearing father won’t allow them to speed up all rites, rituals and waiting periods that precede a Victorian marriage. When he meets sex worker/music-hall entertainer Ivy (Hopkins) she’s obviously up for relieving his sexual tension but though he likes the idea, he’s too good to stray from Muriel. But if he were to liberate the lower half of his nature, take on a persona that doesn’t care for convention, that couldn’t be recognized … And so Hyde is born.

Initially almost childlike — there’s a great scene where Hyde feels rain on his face for the first time and delights in it — Hyde stakes out his claim to Ivy fast. She’s intrigued to have a wealthy man to keep her, turned on some by his swagger … but before long the darker side of our buried self emerges. Hyde becomes an abusive gaslighter (if that sort of thing is at all triggering, neither this nor the 1941 film is the movie for you) and it’s obvious Ivy’s taking a long walk on a short pier. As for Jekyll, he’s ready to return to Muriel but Hyde is now too strong to restrain …

While this isn’t a faithful adaptation (which is good: Stevenson’s book is not cinematic), it captures the essential element that Jekyll wants to be Hyde; cutting free from respectability liberates him, though some of what gets free he’d prefer to keep caged. March, a Broadway leading man in light comic roles, wasn’t Paramount’s first choice for the role — they wanted John Barrymore, who played it in a 1920s version — but he’s marvelous, snagging the only Oscar acting award for horror until Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins is also very good as the tragic Ivy and the rest of the cast does solid work. Being a pre-code film, it’s also highly suggestive; this Blu-Ray restores several cuts made to please the censors on re-release, and also to trim it for length. “Do you want your eyes and your soul to be blasted by a sight that would stagger the devil himself?”

 

When Spencer Tracy took the role (according to the 1931 Blu-Ray’s commentary track) he wanted to play Jekyll as an ordinary man who succumbs to drink or drugs and starts living a wild life; that was too raw for MGM so they bought the rights to remake the 1931 version instead, then kept the earlier film from re-release for decades to avoid competition. The 1941 take is better than I remembered but still inferior to the March. The opening comes off almost like an attempt to refute its predecessor: rather than Spencer Tracy’s Jekyll giving a lecture, we have a clergyman (C. Aubrey Smith) celebrating Queen Victoria and how she’s helped England triumph over “gross sensuality.” Society’s prudery isn’t the problem, it’s Jekyll giving in to that gross sensuality that destroyed him.

This reflects the Production Code being in play but also MGM’s house style, which requires everything be classier and glossier than at other studios: where Ivy is a low-class woman in a low-class music hall, Ivy (Ingrid Bergman) here is a barmaid in a much more elegant venue. In any case, Jekyll’s initial issue is less sex than classic mad science complaints: nobody approves or supports his research into the boundaries between good and evil in our soul — the very fact he thinks science can tackle the soul is an outrage! His prospective father-in-law is an old-fashioned chap, shocked by the PDAs between Jekyll and his fiancee (Lana Turner, bland as usual), but he’s one of the good guys, not the stuffy, overbearing marplot of the first film. However, when Jekyll grows frustrated it occurs to him there’s one way he could become friends with Ivy without anyone knowing …

Unlike the first film, there’s no makeup change between Jekyll’s two identities. This is effective at times, such as Tracy’s facial expressions after his initial transformation, but the complete incredulity the two men are one and the same becomes baffling. However Tracy does deliver on a creepy, less overt abuser, constantly talking in a whisper when he’s Hyde but intimidating nonetheless. Bergman’s Ivy mostly doesn’t work: she can’t quite pull off the fun-loving working girl (her more tormented party girl in Notorious works better) and her accent is way off. However she’s amazing in the later scenes when a friend’s suggestion they go out for some fun is met by terror: what if Hyde sees me? What if he disapproves of what I’m doing? It conveys “abuse” without anything overt. Overall, though, not a patch on the 1931. “Your ideas are different than mine — it will be a charming experience to change them.”

Hammer took a shot at the story with THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960), starring Paul Massie as a Jekyll so obsessed with his research into human behavior he’s neglecting his wife Kitty (Dawn Addams) who’s consoling herself with Jekyll’s spendthrift friend, Allen (Christopher Lee), who has no qualms with banging Jekyll’s wife while also begging Jekyll to cover Allen’s gambling losses. In the best traditions of mad science, Jekyll tests his personality altering drug on himself and becomes Hyde (his beard disappears, then reappears when he turns back). A smirking, self-indulgent prick, Hyde flirts with Kitty and becomes a friend to Allen, who initiates him into the wild side of London life. However Jekyll’s smoldering resentment when he realizes Allen is cuckolding him soon becomes Hyde’s plan for revenge …

Wolf Mankowicz wanted to write this as an indictment of Victorian hypocrisy (which he assumed was a new take on the material) but the director wanted a different take and the disagreement (according to the book The Hammer Story) tanked the film. Backstage conflicts aside, I think that having made the love triangle the core of the film, they don’t explore that angle: what if Hyde makes a serious play for Kitty? Was Kitty always a bad girl or did she hook up with Allen due to Jekyll’s neglect? Instead the triangle just makes a distraction from the story rather than enhancing it. “That’s what your kind of woman wants in a man, Kitty — complete and utter freedom from shame.”

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Questionable Minds: Nowhere to Hyde

Last week’s sample section of Questionable Minds gave the beginning of the novel. It’s the one I opted to use for the blog tour. The second section is from the middle of the book: Jack the Ripper has Sir Simon’s daughter Ann hostage and has offered to trade her for either Dr. Jekyll or Edward Hyde. Simon’s convinced he can use Jekyll lure Jack into a trap; Jekyll declines, so Simon drags him to Simon’s home by force.

I think the scene is effective though for obvious reasons I don’t think it’s as shocking for us as for Simon because we know about the true relationship of Jekyll and Hyde already. Excerpt comes after Samantha Collins’ cover.“Dr. Jekyll’s eyes fluttered open, then snapped wide. He scrambled up from the sitting room divan, eyes fixed on Simon, barring the path to the door. Simon forced himself to meet Jekyll’s eyes. “I’m sorry it’s come to this, doctor. But I must insist you join me for dinner.”

“You cannot begin to comprehend what you ask.”

“It’s only ninety minutes to wait—and every precaution has been taken.” Simon slid his life-preserver into his hand as Jekyll took a step towards him. “You won’t grass me again, doctor. I’m sorry, but my daughter’s life—”

“I don’t give a damn about your daughter.”

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life hunted by Jack the Ripper? Hyde was willing to chance my plan; are you less brave than he?”

“How dare you?” Jekyll’s fists clenched. “Hyde, courageous? You mistake the savagery of an ignoble brute for bravery!”

“Be that as it may—”

“Or is that why you stick up for him?” Jekyll’s eyes narrowed. “Because you envy that savagery?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Don’t waste your time lying, Taggart, there’s not a man alive doesn’t wish to be Hyde in the back of his mind.” Jekyll hunched over, watching Simon like—he couldn’t say what. “Free of responsibility, acknowledging no law, no restriction, no duty.”

“What the devil are you talking about? Control yourself, Jekyll.”

“Control, ha!” Jekyll threw back his head and laughed. “Self-control is nothing but a measure of how greatly we fear our own desires. Look at me, always so pious around my little gaggle of whores—”

“Doctor, please!”

“Never admitting how much I wanted to squeeze those jiggling titties, feel their skilled, eager hands on my—”

“Good god man, I know you’re afraid—” Simon grabbed Jekyll by the shoulders and shook him hard “—but spouting balderdash won’t—”

Simon didn’t even see the blow that smashed into his jaw and sent him sprawling. He started to regain his feet, only to witness a sight that froze him on his knees. Jekyll’s delicately boned face was swelling into heavy, bestial features; his eyes seemed to sink back into his head. Hair and eyes darkening, skin coarsening, body shrinking even as Jekyll’s muscles grew hard and corded under his clothes.

It—isn’t—possible! A mesmeric illusion, or— Even as he thought the words, Simon knew them for a lie.

“Hello, Taggart.” Hyde bowed mockingly from within Jekyll’s coat. “I’d say it’s a pleasure to see you—but under the circumstances, I’d be lying, wouldn’t I?” Simon could only watch, mute and amazed, as Hyde rolled up the jacket sleeves. “Damn him. I bought a whole new wardrobe, and he disposed of it, so convinced he was he’d seen the last of me.

“Well, aren’t you going to club me unconscious? Or try? To save your poor, poor daughter?”

“You’re a murderer, a rapist, a blackmailer.” Simon backed away, out of Hyde’s reach. “Whatever Jack has in mind, it’s only what you deserve.”

“This may surprise you, but I don’t find that much of an argument.” Calmly, Hyde began on his trouser legs. “I bear you no ill-will for the effort, mark you—I’d do the same in your place—but I place too high price on my own skin to cooperate.”

“Ann is only a child. A girl.”

“That matters not a whit to me.” His eyes met Simon’s, and the shock, the impossibility of what had just happened, hit Simon once again. “Utterson and Poole looked much the same when they learned the truth—now, if you’ll excuse me—”

“I don’t think so.” Simon slid his gun into his hand. ‘”You won’t get very far if I put a couple of bullets into you.”

“And if I scream aloud to Jack that it’s a trap?”

“You’d have to be conscious for that. You won’t be.”

“I’m not easy prey, Taggart.” Hyde’s expression managed to be savage and calculating at the same time. “If we struggle and you kill me, Bolt will gut Miss Taggart like a trout.”

“Why? What does Jack want with you?” Wait. The Greek god at the opera. “He wants your power. The secret that lets you change your face.” Then Simon shook his head. “Bolt leaves his victims mindless; how did you survive?” And if the change is physical, why did I see Bolt’s true face at the Dovecote?

Hyde shrugged. “I’m not as other mentalists, Taggart, surely you can see that. Why not put down the gun, and we can discuss it like rational men.”

“You? Rational?”

“Where my own self-interest is involved, completely.” Simon didn’t move. “It would be to our mutual advantage.”

“I disagree. But talk if you wish.”

“As you will. Tell me, did you happen to catch that dreadful play about me last year? Where ‘Mr. Hode’ turns into a sniveling coward once ‘Dr. Stevenson’ finally draws a gun and stands up to him?

Hyde moved so swiftly Simon didn’t realize he’d thrown a vase until it knocked his gun hand wide. Before he could recover, Hyde was there, fingers closing crushingly on both Simon’s wrists, shaking gun and life-preserver free. Simon hit the floor with Hyde on top of him. Hairy, powerful fingers wrapped around Simon’s throat. “I don’t think it was true to life, Taggart—do you?”

#SFWA pro. Questionable Minds available as an ebook or paperback, so why not order a copy today?

 

 

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Questionable Minds and characters out of context

As I’ve mentioned previously, Jekyll and Hyde play a large role in Questionable Minds. Henry Jekyll is a prominent reformer, dedicated to getting young women off the streets and into respectable working-class occupations. A number of his proteges are women with mentalist powers who for whatever reason became unemployable — alcoholics, violent temper, scandal in their past, etc. While there’s no “kill the muties” attitude toward mentalists, the upper classes feel very uneasy about the working class having powers, about women having powers. It doesn’t take much to turn a poor woman with powers into a pariah.Jekyll thinks he’s reburied Hyde and can live a life of virtue but guess what? Hyde resurfaces (I’m sure this isn’t a spoiler — would anyone be surprised?). Writing a post for a blog tour, it occurs to me Hyde comes off better in my book than he should.

He’s not a nice guy at all. He’s violent, hot-tempered and thoroughly self-interested (this becomes a major plot point). I refer in several spots to his crimes, including assault, theft, blackmail and rape. His crimes, though, happened in the past or offstage. On the printed page, he comes off closer to an antihero: cynical, mocking Jekyll’s hypocrisies, selfish but not monstrously so. And he’s up against Jack the Ripper, a far worse monster. Hyde would break a woman’s arm without thinking twice; Jack will slit a woman’s throat and he’ll think about what fun it is the whole time.

As far as I’m concerned, Hyde is a villain, but in the context of Questionable Minds he’s more sinned against than sinning. I think it works, and I don’t think any readers will assume I’m siding with Hyde (I sure hope not). It is an odd feeling though.

The same is true of Cohen and Dini, the FBI agents in Southern Discomfort. They’ve arrived in Pharisee GA to investigate the bombing that killed Aubric McAlister (an elf, though they don’t know that) and a rising black politician. The FBI director hopes to demonstrate J. Edgar Hoover’s old, racist FBI with its attacks on the civil rights movement is dead: the new, more liberal FBI is here! Cohen and Dini are very conscious that there are a lot of eyes on them and failure will not be graded on a curve.

Neither one is a racist but their politics are way to the right of mine. Dini still thinks the FBI’s war on communists and the anti-war movement was a good thing. Cohen, as she says in one scene, thinks the civil rights movement was wrong: even in a good cause, nothing excuses willfully breaking the law the way the protesters did.

In a different story, they could be — well, not villains but antagonists to good-guy leftwing protesters or activists. In Southern Discomfort they’re good guys whose goals nevertheless put them in opposition to Maria, my protagonist. As with Hyde, it’s unsettling to think that. A little more so as the FBI and its crimes are real and Edward Hyde isn’t. I don’t think it’s objectionable: I make their views and the ugly history of the FBI quite clear (sure hope so).

It’s up to the readers — Nov. 14 for Questionable Minds, some as yet unknown date for Southern Discomfort — to let me know if I handled things as well as I think I did.

#SFWApro. Cover by Sam Collins.

 

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