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Film Review: The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Osbourne (1981)

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SYNOPSIS:

The film takes place before, during and immediately after the engagement party of Dr.Henry Jekyll and Miss Fanny Osborne, attended by numerous highly respectable guests (a general, a doctor, a priest, a lawyer), the last of which informs the company that a child has been murdered in the street outside. While the others watch a young dancer perform, Dr.Jekyll instructs the lawyer to alter his will, leaving everything to a certain Mr.Hyde. Shortly afterwards, the dancer is found murdered, and the guests realise that one of their number must be a maniac with a prodigious sexual appetite…

REVIEW:

There are some directors who’s distinct style is instantly recognizable no matter what kind of film he/she is involved in. John Water’s instantly springs to mind, his old style sleaze comedies ( Mondo Trasho , Female Trouble , Desperate Living ) , are linked hand in hand with his later attempts to deliver more mainstream fair ( Hairspray , Crybaby , Serial Mom ) , no matter what you know its a John Water’s film.

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It’s heartwarming to me as a true lover of trash cinema that we have these directors who’s style we can depend on , just like the mainstream has it’s Spielberg’s and Eastwood’s , we have our own brand of eccentrics willing to generate quality smut that is instantly recognizable to us fans. One such director who automatically stands head ans shoulders above the heard is none other than smut peddler and trash provocateur Walerian Borowczyk. Mr. Borowczyk is responsible for some of the most defining pieces of filth in my early development as a lover of esoteric cinema ; The Beast ( 1975 ) , Borowczyk’s odd love letter to beastiality still ranks up there as one of my all time fav films to throw on when guests are over; Immoral Women ( 1979) , still one of the most fluidly erotic films ever made and visually sumptuous to boot; and of course Mr. Borowczyk’s grand opus of prime filth and debauchery The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne ( Dr. Jekyll and His Women ).

Dr. Henry Jekyll ( Udo Kier ) is scheduled to be married to the ravishing Miss Fanny Osbourne ( Marina Pierro ) , it is at once decided that they shall put on a lavish dinner party in honor of the event . The guests are the upper crust of elegant high society and include various socialites as well as dignitaries and officials. After a lavish course is severed , the good doctor is called away to his laboraory , to fetch his will so that he may look over the document. The doctor returns as a loud scream is heard shattering the serenity of the party , one of the guests is found brutally raped and savagely murdered. Everyone is understandably shook up by these events and proceed to discuss what may have happened to the poor woman. The good doctor , Henry Jekyll , transforms into his vicious counterpart after taking a bath in his newest chemical compound. This evil alter ego has none of the restrictions of morality that plague everyday society and he runs amok proceeding to breakdown the society one by one , member by member , until only the gorgeous Fanny Osbourne remains. Fanny herself is sick of living in such a stuffy and constricted society and she too wants to live a life free of any restriction and morality. Fanny eventually is witness herself to one of Henry’s lavish transformations and leaps into the chemical bath with him , becoming an much freer and more liberated albeit menacing version of herself. Fanny and Henry jump into a carriage and ride off into the sunset as they begin a grotesque escapade of violent sexual charisma that culminates in a beautiful blood frenzy, once and for all and together, they are truly free from the restrictions of society.

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Mr. Borowczyk has created a lavish and grotesque beauty with this film , it can be seen as a comment on the sexual liberation of that era or a down an dirty sexually depraved horror romp. However you decide to view The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is solely up to the individual, but there is no doubt that it is a true and literate trash classic. Borowczyk uses his lens as a provocative voyeur slowly moving over lush lumps of flesh that are eventually penetrated by large phallic objects and splattered with large goblets of crimson ,its most assuredly perverse and gorgeous to watch at the same time. Each and every film that Borowczyk created was like a perverse moving painting , art house style P*rnography with splashes of true depravity thrown in for good measure. This is the kind of film that deserves to be preserved and marveled at in all its lurid fantastic glory , a parable for the uptight era of sexuality that aims to breakdown that very moral fabric.

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Udo Kier of course brings his A game to everything his is in and here is no exception, he creates a character that is repugnant to watch but so visually sensual that its impossible to turn away for a moment when he is on screen. Marina Pierro has always been a ravishing beauty , she has worked with Borowczyk on many other features and continues to be tantalizing to watch both in and out of dress, perfection. All of the minor characters are fine and make perfect fodder once the the good doctor has begun his gory rampage with is gigantic phallus ( that’s one surprise I wish to leave somewhat in tact for unsuspecting viewers ).

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is sleaze but it’s gorgeous sleaze that can be viewed on it’s own merits or read into as a parable for the sexual constraints of that era. For all you lovers out there of sleazy filthy trash cinema her is a film that doesn’t hide what it is but is so well made that it transcends the boundaries of pure gutter and enters the realm of fluid art house. Enjoy, and use your mind ,or whatever organ you see fit.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

 

  • Brand new 2K restoration, scanned from the original camera negative and supervised by cinematographer Noël Véry
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the film, released on both formats for the first time anywhere in the world
  • English and French soundtracks in LPCM 1.0
  • Optional English and English SDH subtitles
  • Introduction by critic and long-term Borowczyk fan Michael Brooke
  • Audio commentary featuring archival interviews with Walerian Borowczyk, Udo Kier, Marina Pierro and producer Robert Kuperberg, and new interviews with cinematographer Noël Véry, editor Khadicha Bariha, assistant Michael Levy and filmmaker Noël Simsolo, moderated by Daniel Bird
  • Interview with Marina Pierro
  • Himorogi (2012), a short film by Marina and Alessio Pierro, made in homage to Borowczyk
  • Interview with artist and filmmaker Alessio Pierro
  • Video essay by Adrian Martin and Cristina Alvarez Lopez
  • Eyes That Listen, a featurette on Borowczyk’s collaborations with electro-acoustic composer Bernard Parmegiani
  • Jouet Jouyeux (1979), a short film by Borowczyk based on Charles-Émile Reynaud’s praxinoscope
  • Interview with Sarah Mallinson, former assistant to Borowczyk and fellow animator Peter Foldes
  • Returning to Méliès: Borowczyk and Early Cinema, a featurette by Daniel Bird
  • Theatrical trailer with optional commentary by editor Khadicha Bariha
  • Reversible sleeve with artwork based on Borowczyk’s own poster design
  • illustrated booklet with new writing on the film by Daniel Bird and archive pieces by Walerian Borowczyk and Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Osbourne is now available on bluray per Arrow Films

 

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