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EDGE OF SANITY (1988)

"Jekyll, are you sure it's - safe?"

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Director: Gerard Kikoine

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Glynis Barber, Sarah Maur-Thorp, David Lodge, Ben Cole

Screenplay: J.P. Felix and Ron Raley, based (uncredited) upon a story by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Synopsis: In 19th century England, a boy is traumatised when, after being discovered watching a couple have sex, he is beaten by the man while the woman laughs at him. As a man, Dr Henry Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) works at a London hospital and conducts research in his laboratory at home. Dr Jekyll has developed a new drug which he hopes will revolutionise anaesthesia. He is testing the drug on a monkey, but also begins taking it himself. One day in the laboratory, the monkey spills a chemical solution on the drug, making it give off fumes which are inhaled by Jekyll. As a result, Jekyll develops a new personality whom he calls Jack Hyde. Hyde begins frequenting a brothel, becoming obsessed with a prostitute called Susanna (Sarah Maur-Thorp), who reminds him of the woman he saw having sex when he was a child. Hyde also begins picking up prostitutes off the street, butchering them with his scalpel. During one of the killings, Hyde loses some of the drug which he has continued to take. This leads the police to Jekyll, of whom they become suspicious. Meanwhile, Mrs Jekyll (Glynis Barber) is increasingly disturbed by her husband's behaviour. He tells her that he is working late at the hospital with a patient called Hyde. However, when she calls at the hospital one night, Mrs Jekyll discovers that this is a lie. Convinced that her husband is in danger, she sets out to track down the mysterious Hyde.

Comments: There are so many things wrong with this movie, it's hard to know where to start. No, I take that back. I do know: Anthony Perkins. Oh, dear, oh, dear. In a role all too obviously meant to be Norman Bates cross-pollinated with his manic preacher from Crimes Of Passion (1984), Perkins positively chews the scenery, mugging and face-pulling and twitching so badly it's a wonder he can hold his scalpel steady.

All this is bad enough, but what's worse is, he's cursed with a make-up job that makes him look bizarrely like Herman Munster. Yet all his victims go off with him without a second's hesitation. Darwinism in action, I guess.

In the awful characterisation stakes, Perkins is run a close second by Glynis Barber as Elizabeth Jekyll, although to be fair it's more a dreadful role than purely bad acting. For the first half of the film she does little but bleat "Henry! Henry!", while in the second her behaviour is so stupid that it's a relief when Hyde takes his scalpel to her.

Around these two is a scenario awash with sleazy sex and violence, as the camera lingers on a seemingly endless array of prostitutes. And what a plump, prosperous, well-groomed bunch of Victorian prostitutes we have here, too, whose biggest worry in life, until Jack shows up, is that they're forced to dress like rejects from a late-eighties Madonna music video. So healthy and well-kept are these girls that it is impossible to imagine why any of them would even think of going near the very obviously psychotic Hyde.

A number of Jack the Ripper-related films were released in the anniversary year of 1988, but few if any were as awful or as cynical as this one, where the Jekyll/Hyde storyline seems to have been tacked on for no other purpose than padding out the running time. The whole thing is so very bad that you can't help wondering whether it was intended to be funny - and on that subject, I defy any viewer to keep a straight face through the final freeze-frame of Anthony Perkins - but there's just too much pure nastiness involved. The only thing I can think of to praise is the production design, which is consistently imaginative. However, it only serves to underline the hollowness of what's being enacted in front of it.

Check out all the details of this movie on the IMDB