Cinema Sunday: I, Monster (1971)
Title: I, Monster
Distributor: Amicus Productions/British Lion Films/Canon Group
Writer: Milton Subotsky (screenplay)
Director: Steven Weeks
Producers: John Dark, Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky
Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mike Raven, Richard Hurndall
Released: November 1971
To cap off the two Amicus films I promised to review, I give you the adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from 1971. Now, this film was supposed to be filmed in a newer, more experimental 3-D way, but the money ran out half way before completion, and it was abandoned. Honestly though, the performances still shine through, and with this cast, you kind of knew it had a chance.
When you say Cushing and Lee together, the names carry a weight that cannot be denied. Both men (even back then) had extensive careers, and proven credentials, especially in the horror/sci-fi genres. They carry this film, no doubt about it. Lets get right down to the movie!
The film opens with a man, Dr. Charles Marlowe (Christopher Lee), working in his lab. He has all sorts of animals for his experiments, and a brilliant mind. We next see a club, and a few socialites, one of them being a friend of Marlowe’s, Frederick Utterson (Peter Cushing). The men are discussing the inner-workings of the mind, and how human behavior is either influenced or as it is from birth. Marlowe believes that people’s minds house both good and evil persona’s, and aren’t really influenced. Utterson and the other chaps believe that influence makes men evil. Marlowe is working on a serum that can separate the good and evil persona’s, but is keeping his results to himself, for now.
Later that evening, Marlowe returns home, and decides to use the serum on his pet cat (after contemplating trying it on himself). The animal goes berserk, and even attacks him! He uses the poker from the fireplace to kill the cat, and does show a huge amount of remorse. Just as this is concluding, a woman shows up at the door. It’s one of his patients, a Miss Diane Thomas (Susan Jameson – image below), looking for some guidance. Marlowe tries to talk to her, but she cannot bring herself to tell him what’s on her mind. She begs him to try something new, and he persuades her to let him use the serum on her (not being 100% honest about what it might do to her).
After Marlowe administers the drug, Miss Thomas loses all her inhibitions, and attempts to sexually seduce Marlowe. He goes to his lab to retrieve some sort of antidote, and when he returns, she’s completely naked. He apparently controls his urge, and administers the antidote. She’s shocked to find out how she acted, but Marlowe tells her that it’s part of her mind, and just normal to have these thoughts. Later on, back at the club, two other colleagues talk about the behavioral acts of people once again. One man, Enfield (Mike Raven – middle of image below), asks if Marlowe has had any success with his experiments. Marlowe admits to trying the drug on his lab animals, and one of his patients. His lawyer, Utterson, advises him to use legal precaution.
The following day, another patient shows up, and demands to get some sort of results out of his sessions with Marlowe. At this point, Marlowe convinces him to let him use the serum on him, and he does. We see that this man was beaten as a youth, and that his anger now stems from those incidents. It’s at this point, that Marlowe decides to use it on himself. We see an immediate change in his attitude. Instead of being stuffy, he acts more wildly and carefree. He decides to cut the head from one of the lab rats, but the chimes of the wall clock throw him off. He then takes the antidote, and calms down. He visits one of his friends from the club, and gets some advice from him.
The next evening, Marlowe uses the drug once again, and it drives him even more mad. He heads out for a walk, and intentionally bumps into a young man. As the man confronts him, he pulls out a scalpel, and threatens the man. He then walks by a window of a shop, and sees a cane he wants to have. Instead of buying it the following day, he smashes the window and steals it. He visits a boarding house, and rents a room. He then bumps into the same man that he threatened earlier, but this time, the other man has a razor. The two fight, and Marlowe almost kills the man, but doesn’t, because for now, the thrill of almost killing a man is enough to satiate his curiosity.
Eventually, Utterson, Enfield, and the others begin to figure out that there’s a connection between a mysterious, new fiend named Edward Blake, and their friend, Marlowe. Will they find out the real secret their friend is hiding, before he goes completely over the edge?
OK, here are my thoughts:
This film is one I saw for the first time about a decade ago. For some reason, I didn’t make the Jekyll/Hyde connection right away, but eventually found out through other sources. The quality of the film overall is less than desirable, but Cushing and Lee pull the film to a better than average standing. The supporting cast wasn’t anything to write home about, but Cushing and Lee definitely helped out a ton.
The sets were sub-par, and certainly were something the budget wasn’t aimed to help out with at all. Again, it isn’t a deal breaker or anything, but you can notice the low quality with that aspect of the movie. The music (Carl Davis), actually elevated a few scenes. The filming is kind of odd at a few parts where the 3-D was supposed to be, and that does stick out a bit.
If you get the chance to view this one, don’t hesitate. Cushing and Lee do more than enough to entertain for an hour and a half. You know they will always put forth their best effort!