This ingenious 1971 Hammer film, long unavailable on DVD in the States, acts as a kind of HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN Victorian era all-star murderer cast, with the implication that the Jack the Ripper got started when Burke and Hare were lynched by an angry London mob, thus depriving Dr. Jekyll of fresh girl glands for his experiments in prolonging life, so somehow... naturally, he switches gender. Directed swiftly and smartly by Roy Ward Barker, it stars Ralph Bates as the Jekyll side, who reasons that in order to prolong his life, so he has time to cure all diseases in the world, it's okay to murder prostitutes for their glands, cutting them up so it's not easily apparent what organ he was after, Ripper-style. That's two of the London Victorian Age House of Horrors tableaux down right there!
Martine Beswick was one of my dad's favorite science fiction actresses growing up. She was the hot Neanderthal rival of Raquel Welch in 1000 YEARS BC (1967); She was a hot CIA agent working with Bond in THUNDERBALL (1965); she tore it up as a bitchy queen in PREHISTORIC WOMEN. She was everywhere sexy British cinema needed to be. Her sexuality was robust and uninterested in flattering or teasing weak men. And woe to her girl rivals! She is what I love best about imperious British (and Commonwealth) women, as seen today in Kate Beckinsale, Kate Winslet, and Judy Davis,
As Ms. Hyde, her astonishment at her awesome breasts during the first transformation is hilarious, reminiscent of Ellen Barkin's first scenes in SWITCH. And when s/he notices her hair's grown substantially longer in the few minutes of transformation you feel her conveying a slight comical mirth about the nature of fantasy, shrugging it off as the whims of her unseen director. Why bother explaining how one's hair can grow six inches in a matter of seconds? And be shiny, sexy, and well combed, make-up on perfectly? Drag queens who labour for hours to look pretty must be miffed at the ease with which pasty old Jekyll becomes this bombshell. Imagine just drinking your hair long and silky smooth!